Born with it

You swear your baby is a genius. According to a new study, you may be right.

Learning Stages

By Candace Lindemann

Children's Author & Education Consultant

Candace Lindemann is a published children’s writer and educational consultant. She holds a B.A. from Yale University and an M.Ed. from the Harvard Graduate School of Education. You can also find Candace blogging at While Candace’s degrees prepared her for a career in education, she’s found that the best preparation for parenting is on-the-job training.

I remember how proud I was of my daughter's first "joke." At just a few months old, she took her pacifier out of her mouth, pretended to put it in my mouth and giggled as if to say, "That's silly! Mommies don't use pacis!" Everyone else humored me, but I knew deep down inside that my little girl already had mastered the humor of incongruity.

And here is some support for the intuition of doting parents and grandparents everywhere. You swear your baby must be a genius—she seems to know so much already! According to a new study, you may be least about how clever babies are in general.

A new study at the University of Missouri reveals that babies come into the world with some pretty impressive cognitive abilities. Infants can not only compare amounts of objects but volumes, including cups of liquids.
"Since psychologists have begun studying infants with sensitive measures, we’ve revealed a lot of early competencies that people didn’t know were there. I think for parents, it should be exciting to know that there’s somebody in there that has some fundamental and basic knowledge of the world, and that knowledge is guiding their development and expectations,” Kristy vanMarle, an assistant professor in the Department of Psychological Sciences, said.

So what does this mean for parents eager to give their baby an "edge?" Not a whole lot. Researchers caution that programs designed for developing this innate potential are unproven, at best. So, this isn't our cue to bust out the flashcards.

As a parent with two young children and a baby on the way, though, I think it is a good reminder that learning is not a switch that suddenly turns "on" at a certain day and time. Our babies are learning, constantly, from day zero, possibly even before. Rather than discount their little flashes of intellect as "coincidences," I think we should embrace each spark and feed it with lots of attention and play.