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My Baby Can Learn Without Gold Stars and Other Petty Rewards

 how babies learn

Right from her birth till today, I’ve eagerly observed to understand how she learns – my baby, Sufiana. Actually, it was not just my own curiosity that made me take notice. It was a lot about the nature of her learning that made me marvel, wonder and gasp at her spirit. She’s been a very, very passionate, committed and tenacious learner. I’ve seen her stick around despite failing again and again. I’ve seen her cry and kick and yell – so she could take her tiny thumb in her mouth. Her desperate struggle at day 5, day 6, day 7 and many more days and months after her birth – to put that dear thumb in her mouth to suckle at, was heart breaking for me. Sometimes, I felt compelled to show her how to do it. Other times, I thought it apt that she should try and figure out herself. Who am I to steal from her her zeal, her purpose. How can I not allow her the joy that’s truly her own when she figures it out. All through, I was just dazed with wonder at her persistence.

Sufiana is climbing (actually crawling up) stairs these days to go explore the 1st floor of our home. She does this at least 10 times a day. This, when we’re watching her and stay behind her so she doesn’t slip. If we wouldn’t go after her and would leave her free to go up the steps whenever, she would be doing this almost all day. Yes, really! This – climbing up – is what she’s learning these days and nothing can stop her. Not just steps, she’s learning to climb whatever comes her way – the headboard of the bed, chairs, from chair all the way upto the dinner table. Phew!


She’s also learning and practicing to throw. She’ll throw anything and everything that comes her way. Sometimes, things are heavy and sadly, they fall on her own feet without following the trajectory that she intended. Ouch! And, she signals me to come and soothe her by pointing to the spot where it hurt. She even throws stuff from moving car. Quite a few pens (she’s so fond of them), empty bottles, caps have gone out the car window. So, throwing and catching a ball is what we play with her these days – often.

Before this, it was learning to walk that she was figuring out – all day and sometimes night. She would fall, get up, fall half way through the next step, make a ‘tired’ face but get going again. Her energy, eagerness and commitment to learn to walk was the most wondrous sight for all of us.


Her hard-earned learning

Everything that she did and does – grabbing her toes lying down, rolling, raising her neck while on the tummy, crawling, moving that strand of hair from her face, poking the fork into the water melon bite, scooping up curd from the bowl and managing to slurp some of it – every single accomplishment has been her hard-earned learning.

Without google searches…

There was no training, no hand-holding, no you-tube videos that she could follow, no google searches for her, no schoolish curriculum that would tell her what to learn and when, no FAQs that she could quickly read up to get a succinct understanding without having to experience real-time the trials and errors. The apps, the ‘baby genius’ products, she didn’t ask for any such consumerism.

Yet, my baby learned.

All babies learn.

They’re born to learn. They’re programmed naturally, by nature, to learn. They have the attitude to learn without the applause, the ‘progress reports’, the medals, the smiley stickers and gold stars and all such rewards and baits and artificial stimulations and distractions.

They don’t fear the mistakes.

Wait. They don’t know there are mistakes. It’s we who tell them they’re wrong, there’s another way – a better way. We sow the seeds of fear in their fearless minds. We show them how to measure themselves, compare with others, and feel better (or worse) by comparing…

Who needs the baits when learning is such an interesting thing in and by itself.

Baits and fears are what the grown-ups need – to drag their feet to offices every Monday to Friday. Baits are what the grown-ups invented – for children to be able to drag their feet every day to school, so they can sit there for six hours almost at a stretch. Every morning at 8 or 9.

Grown-ups invented these baits (and fears) and killed the natural curiosity and ability of babies and toddlers and children to learn.

John Holt had said,

“If we taught babies to talk as most skills are taught in school, they would memorize lists of sounds in a predetermined order and practice them alone in a closet.”

Alexandre Dumas, said,

“How is it that little children are so intelligent and men so stupid? It must be education that does it.” 

I need help sustaining this blog…

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Comments on this entry are closed.

  • Miquela January 9, 2015, 7:31 pm

    It breaks my heart when I see parents who think they have to “teach” their babies things, even the most basic. A recent example I heard was from a father who was concerned that his 5-wk-old son was not “smiling socially.” The father told me that he would sing to his son for at least 10 minutes to provoke a smile. :( And all the toys and gadgets the parents hang on and around the baby to “entertain” him really make me feel for the poor little being, whom I can only see as being smothered and over-stimulated.

    • Rashmie January 13, 2015, 11:18 pm

      Teaching babies to smile! Wow. But, yes, it’s true. I’ve known someone who did that too. I was flabbergasted, confused, angry. But, didn’t question them. May be i should have….

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