How early in life do we begin to learn? New evidence points to the idea that our outlook and understanding of the world is already being shaped in the womb. Children are able to recognize and remember beats three months before they're born, starting with their mother's heartbeat. “It is truly the ‘prenatal to three’ timeframe that is the most ideal opportunity to enrich a child’s environment as it pertains to long-term development,” says pediatrician Liz Moore.
It's unclear whether babies can make out words and music prenatally, though we do know that newborns can already distinguish their parents voices from others', smiling in response. (Science writer Annie Murphy Paul, among others, believes that our first exposure to our native language does in fact occur in vitro.) We also know that kids consciously remember emotional events by age two, which is why your child might be afraid to see the doctor -- by this age, she's able to associate the doctor's office with the pain of getting a shot.
Today, we're looking at the science of child development. Diane Ravitch argues that our social responsibility to children begins well before they enter kindergarten: the years from 0-5 are considered some of the most developmentally important, with measurable impact continuing throughout one's entire adult life. Sandra Aamodt -- coauthor with Sam Wang of Welcome to Your Child's Brain -- launches a new six-week series on building self control, which, she says, is more significant a factor than intelligence. And Alfie Kohn writes on the importance of play.