Cause and Effect – Gaining a sense of control over the world

Children have always learned by watching what people do around them, they are born curious explorers. New studies show that even the youngest children’s brains are designed to learn from simply observing and playing in a remarkably sensitive manner. Your relentless researcher is intrigued by the cause and effect phenomenon and will thus learn most through play when he or she can cause things to happen or change.

Early in development, before babies are 2 years of age, their curiosity flourishes and they start to understand the world around them as they begin to have new interesting experiences with toys. They learn that if they shake a rattle, they will hear a sound. If they throw a ball on the floor, it might bounce back up. The simplest toys can activate a baby’s senses and become a learning tool. Babies realize that they can cause things or reactions to occur, comprehending the cause and effect relationship. Through simple observation they realize they can make predictions and figure out why things happen. They learn to initiate interactions with others to gain their attention and receive a certain stimulation; and they also learn they have the ability to discourage an interaction by looking away.

Types of cause and effect relationships:

  1. Social: Babies learn about their power to change their environment from the simple early interactions with mom and dad. They learn that if they cry, they will be held and comforted or fed– learning that the world is a safe place. They also learn that if they smile it will probably prompt you to smile back or lean down to kiss him or her. These basic forms of communication build and strengthen neural communications in a child’s brain that support the development of communication and social skills.
  1. Physical: Babies learn they can control aspects of the environment – the child’s environment is critical in nurturing mathematical and scientific reasoning skills as well as thinking processes. Many toys are designed to nurture a child’s development for understanding these interesting cause and effect relationships. Children gain a sense of control with these toys because they realize that they can make sounds or bounce an object. As babies learn that every action has a reaction, they strengthen their understanding of cause and effect, increasing their sense of control over the world.

What age are babies when they learn about cause and effect?

  • Around 3-6 months of age, babies learn that if they cry, they will be comforted by their caregiver. They realize that there is a response to a specific behavior. Babies also show cause and effect when they turn to hear a loud noise or when they kick their legs to make their mobile move. Although parents may think that babies placing toys in their mouth is an indicator of teething, it may be the case that babies are just exploring their environment through the senses – a key part of development.
  • At 8 months of age, your baby will begin to explore through sound – banging a drum or splashing his or her hands in the water to initiate an interaction with his or her caregiver. At this stage your baby may love to experiment with different instruments!
  • At 12 – 18 months of age, you will begin to realize that your baby loves dropping objects from his or her high chair. Your little sociologist is learning that if he or she drops something, you will pick the object back up. The more you respond by picking up the object, the more he or she will drop the object to watch you pick it up again. Your baby is establishing conclusions when the patterns repeat themselves. At this age, babies are training their capacity to perceive emotional reactions and they are also getting to know their parents better. Not only are they learning about their mom’s responses to their actions, but they are also discovering distance by listening to the sound that the object makes as soon as it touches the ground and learning by observing the object get smaller as it gets closer to the ground. Your baby’s brain begins to realize and understand complex world equations.


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