My Baby the Lab Rat

Ever wonder how scientists study child development? Me too. So I volunteered my 14-month-old son for a few experiments. The results will help researchers (and plenty of curious moms and dads) better understand how babies learn to walk, talk, and think.
baby in test beaker

Alexandra Grablewski/ istock

Your little one might seem totally clueless about the world around him, but he already knows more than you imagine. When they are born, babies can recognize their native language (they learn it in the womb!), and at 4 months they know their own name. By the time they turn 1, most crawlers seem to know what they can and can't safely do (even though their parents worry that they will take crazy risks). At infant-research labs across the country, scientists study babies as they listen to sounds, play with toys, or walk on special equipment. Their findings add to our knowledge of child development and help us make better parenting decisions.

I'm on baby #3 and even though I've been through this before (twice!), I'm constantly amazed by watching Andrew, my youngest, as he navigates his surroundings. I was curious to see what more I could learn, so I decided to offer my then 14-month-old son to the cause of infant science. We head-ed to New York University's Baby & Child Center, which has three labs that study how kids from birth to age 4 keep their balance, learn new motor skills, and acquire language. Although I won't find out the full results of the research he participated in any time soon, I came away with a new appreciation for the mysteries and marvels of babies.

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