'What Is My Baby Thinking?' All About Thought Development Up To A Year

Georgia Stone
Jan 29, 2024 By Georgia Stone
Originally Published on Mar 05, 2021
The study of baby thinking skills is known as cognitive development.
Age: 0-99
Read time: 7.2 Min

As you welcome your little human into the world, you may be wondering what exactly newborns think and how they start to develop thinking skills as they grow into curious young children.

Well, a lot happens in a newborn's early life as they begin to make sense of the world around them. In their first year they will start to learn language and take their first steps, and develop many skills we require as adults.

There's also plenty of things you can do to support your baby's play development, from toys to reading books. You might be thinking about what age to start reading to your little one, and the answer is it's never too early! Reading offers a great way to bond, and as a newborn, they will start to recognize your voice. As your little one develops their brain and becomes more communicative, they will identify familiar pictures and interact with the stories. Researchers extensively study the area of baby thinking development, it's known as cognitive development in infants.

Let's take a look at what happens at each stage of your baby's first year of life and how you can help them learn. If you are interested in child development, Don't miss our other features about newborns, behavior in babies, and parenting tips such as what to do with a 9-month-old baby not crawling or what a 10-month-old schedule should look like.

Newborn - 3 Months

From the moment your baby enters the world and the coming three months, it's needless to say a great deal happens with their early cognitive development. It may seem newborn babies spend a lot of time sleeping or crying, but research tells us there is much more going on within their brain. Newborns' brains are so busy processing the world around them. Your newborn baby can hear you and may follow you around with their eyes. To newborns, faces are a truly fascinating thing! They will also love looking at patterns and shapes with contrasting colors. To support newborn intellectual development, why not get a brightly colored mobile above their crib? This will also help support the understanding of movement and perception.

It's very common for parents and caregivers to wonder, "what is my baby thinking at a month old?" By this age, they will already know and respond to your voice. You can do a few things to help early infant development at this age, such as tummy time. For two to five minutes a day gently place your baby on their tummy while they are fully awake and always under your supervision. You can start this activity as soon as you bring your newborn baby home, perhaps by gently laying them over your lap and then slowly increase the time. Eventually, you can lay them on a soft play mat. Tummy time helps newborn babies grow a strong neck and the muscles required to begin crawling. It also prevents your baby from developing a flat spot on the back of their head.

Playtime is a massive part of a baby's cognitive development. Try holding up a soft toy to your child during tummy time. This helps support baby thinking skills as babies will slowly begin to recognize familiar faces and objects. Remember, around eight 12 inches is the range of vision for babies at this age, so be sure to get up close and face-to-face with them.

Another great idea to support newborn learning is always to talk and sing to your baby. As they start to develop, babies begin to distinguish voices and sounds around them.

3 - 6 Months

By now, babies are usually sleeping and eating more regularly when compared to newborns. They will also be responding more actively to caregivers. Between three to six months, you'll be learning all about your baby's preferences, how they like to sleep, eat and play. Your child will be learning to control their body and make eye contact, and you can support them by placing your baby in different positions to help develop new skills such as rolling and crawling.

By now babies will also learn how to use their hands and fingers, exploring the world and objects around them. At around 3-6 months, your baby's hand-eye coordination is also starting to emerge. Give them plenty of toys to explore. They will be making plenty of sounds and babbling, as well as lots of facial expressions. These cooing sounds and babbling are both the building blocks for language development. Watch and respond to your baby's signals. Your child will also be getting used to the world around them, so start to create routines when you can.

Most children begin to cut their first tooth around this age, so be sure to buy plenty of teething toys, and at around 5-6 months, babies get their first real taste of food. New research shows babies also start thinking and showing signs of memory and consciousness around this time (more specifically at five months of age). Good baby thinking toys for this age include activity gyms, as now your little one will be awake and show attention much better than before; it's an excellent time to learn how playmats and baby gyms work. Why not consider a Jumperoo to keep them busy, and not to mention it will give your arms a well-deserved break!

At around 6 months your baby may cut their first tooth and seek teething toys.

6 - 9 Months

At this age, your baby will grow their sense of perception and start to imitate you and your actions. When putting together a range of toys that support baby thinking growth, keep in mind the five senses. Admittedly smell and taste might be a little tricky to experience for babies, but there are so many toys for promoting seeing, hearing, and feeling. Mix and match between textures and colors and try to avoid buying a set with everything the same, so your child can explore a great variety of materials, and don't forget water play. Toys that rattle and jingle are brilliant for exploration and attention. Cloth books are also great for children at this age, as they can be pushed, pulled, washed, and withstand a fair amount of chewing!

Explore a range of textures and materials with sensory play.

9 - 12 Months

It's just incredible how much your baby has developed in nearly a year! By now, they may be feeding themselves and taking their first steps. One significant milestone which occurs within 12-month-old baby thinking skills is the concept of object permanence. Researchers have identified that this means your baby will start to believe something exists even after it is no longer in view. You can see if your baby has got this skill by hiding an object under a cup and seeing if they go to search for it.

At this age, babies also really love mirrors. Although researchers state babies won't recognize themselves until much later, it's still a super fun experience to stare at that infant in the mirror and wonder who it is!

By now, you may already have some first words as they begin to understand and respond to comments. Your baby may also be pointing at familiar objects, books, and people and start to connect animals with their sounds.  Play is essential for developing cognitive skills, as it is how your child will learn to make sense and experience the world. Some great toys for babies at this age include blocks, and if you are prepared for some extra fun,  get ready for some messy play!

Many people ask what language babies think in, but at this age, babies aren't really thinking in any language or neither do they have that 'inner voice' you might be familiar with as adults. Things are still pretty abstract for them as they grow and explore the world around them. Babies love cause and effect, which means a toy that gives a reaction (think pop-up toys) is always popular, or perhaps they are constantly dropping an object to see what happens! Whilst this habit may be tiresome for parents, thinking of it as a sign of infant intelligence and their ongoing intellectual development might make the 'game' a bit more enjoyable! You can also support baby mental development by reading plenty of books, as at this age, their brains will start to connect words with pictures.

If you found this article helpful, then why not take a look at our survival tips for the 12-month sleep regression or our rundown of 14-month-old milestones?

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Written by Georgia Stone

Bachelor of Arts specializing in French with Film Studies, Bachelor of Arts (Year Abroad) specializing in Literature, History, Language, Media, and Art

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Georgia StoneBachelor of Arts specializing in French with Film Studies, Bachelor of Arts (Year Abroad) specializing in Literature, History, Language, Media, and Art

Georgia is an experienced Content Manager with a degree in French and Film Studies from King's College London and Bachelors degree from Université Paris-Sorbonne. Her passion for exploring the world and experiencing different cultures was sparked during her childhood in Switzerland and her year abroad in Paris. In her spare time, Georgia enjoys using London's excellent travel connections to explore further afield.

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