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By Mary Lynch

Often times we hear babies being described as “helpless” or as “sponges” “empty vessels ready to be filled.” Recent studies show quite the opposite. Babies are born wired to learn and ready to build connections. In fact in the first year alone the babies brain doubles in size.

So what does that mean to us as parents and caregivers? To me it means treating babies with the same respect we would any other human. It means viewing babies as capable. Capable of understanding language, capable of communicating their needs and desires. Capable of participation. It means slowing down and being present. It means doing things with a child rather than for a child and supporting them in being an active participant in our daily routines.

So often we hear adults telling babies “it’s okay, you’re okay” when they are crying. But the very nature of crying is often times the baby trying to communicate that something is not okay. Rather than communicating to the baby that what he or she is trying to say is not valued, how can we let them know that they are being heard? How can we offer our support?

As a new mother I often times found myself in a rush and it took me really looking at things from my baby’s perspective to slow down and support his participation. I began to think, how would it feel to have someone suddenly scoop me up and pick me up without warning? I began instead to look my son in the eyes and let him know that I was planning to pick him up and why. These small changes can help build trust between child and caregiver.

I would not argue with anyone who says that babies are “cute” but I challenge you to think beyond a babies cuteness. To view the youngest members of our society as competent learners.

“From the beginning, children demonstrate that they have a voice, know how to listen and want to be listened to by others.” -Carlina Rinaldi