Sitting up boosts learning skills in babies
The body position of babies while they learn plays a critical role in their cognitive development, according to new research.
The research out of North Dakota State University, Fargo, and Texas A ‘n’ M revealed that for babies, sitting up, either by themselves or with assistance, plays a significant role in how infants learn.
The research was co-authored by Rebecca J. Woods, assistant professor of human development and family science and doctoral psychology lecturer at North Dakota State University, and by psychology professor Teresa Wilcox of Texas A and M.
The study’s results showed that babies’ ability to sit up unsupported has a profound effect on their ability to learn about objects. The research also found that when babies who cannot sit up alone are given posture support from infant seats that help them sit up, they learn as well as babies who can already sit alone.
“An important part of human cognitive development is the ability to understand whether an object in view is the same or different from an object seen earlier,” said Dr. Woods.
Through two experiments, she confirmed that 5-and-a-half- and 6-and-a-half-month-olds don’t use patterns to differentiate objects on their own. However, 6-and-a-half-month-olds can be primed to use patterns, if they have the opportunity to look at, touch and mouth the objects before being tested.
“An advantage the 6-and-a-half-month-olds may have is the ability to sit unsupported, which makes it easier for babies to reach for, grasp and manipulate objects. If babies don’t have to focus on balancing, their attention can be on exploring the object,” said Woods.
In a third experiment, 5-and-a-half-month-olds were given full postural support while they explored objects. When they had posture support, they were able to use patterns to differentiate objects. The research study also suggests that delayed sitting may cause babies to miss learning experiences that affect other areas of development.
“Helping a baby sit up in a secure, well-supported manner during learning sessions may help them in a wide variety of learning situations, not just during object-feature learning. This knowledge can be advantageous, particularly to infants who have cognitive delays who truly need an optimal learning environment,” Woods said.
The finding was published in the journal Developmental Psychology.