Your Brilliant Baby in Week 21: Matching Sound with Movement


Your child is not only paying attention to the sounds coming out of your mouth this week: He’s also paying attention to where you are in relation to him as you talk. Learn more about how Baby meshes sound and movement in week 21.

Your Baby’s Brain in Week 21

The slam of the front door, the plop! of his sippy cup as it hits the floor—right now Baby continues to associate things that move with the noises they make. As he does so, he is better equipped to manage, predict, and make sense of what’s going on in his little world at home and elsewhere.

What the Research Shows

Research couple Patricia Kuhl and Andrew Meltzoff showed five-month-olds two video screens, one with a face whose lips mouthed the vowel sound eee, the other ahhh. Then they played an audiotape of the sound eee or ahhh. Incredibly, the babies correctly looked at the faces with the lips making the matching sounds. (How satisfying for them—and the researchers looking on!)

Another illustration of babies’ ability to mesh sound with movement comes from Jeffery Pickens. He showed five-month-olds two films side by side: one showed a train moving away from the babies, the other a train coming toward them. Then out of a loudspeaker, he played engine sounds: one getting gradually louder (thus appearing to come closer) and another getting gradually fainter (thus appearing to be moving away). The babies looked longer at the film whose movement matched the engine sounds. They appeared to have an understanding of the link between the pattern of sound they heard with the pattern of movement they saw.

Week 21 Brain Booster

When you talk to your baby using parentese, know that she is not only paying attention to your voice but also your lips. Face-to-face interactions do more for her than talking to her from across the room, where she can’t quite see your features as clearly. (This is why children learn language best by watching lips move which match the words they hear, versus hearing an audio tape where no lips are involved—research shows that the former works, the latter doesn’t.)

Since Baby is busy meshing sounds with movement, give her opportunities to see your lips as you speak so that they’ll match your voice. (And think about it—don’t you prefer being talked to rather than talked at?)

Also realize that when you move toward your baby and then move away, he is paying attention. He’s learning how the sounds of your feet change given how close to or far from you he is. He also notices how other moving objects’ noises increase or decrease depending on their positioning to him. Reinforce these concepts by talking with your child about what he’s hearing: “The car is getting louder because it’s coming closer.” “Here comes daddy! Do you hear him coming?”

Learning these sound-movement patterns now will serve your child well as he strikes out into the world and learns how bicycles’, cars’, and trains’ respective noises become louder as they approach. In time he’ll learn to move his body accordingly for safety’s sake.


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