Your Brilliant Baby in Week 46: Combining Categorizing and Imitating


By week 46, your baby may amaze you with her ability to remember watching you brush your hair in the mirror, and then later pretend to brush her doll’s hair. Learn more about these imitation and categorization skills.

Baby’s Brain in Week 46

Let’s say your child has a jack-in-the-box, the kind with a crank. Grandma #1 turns it until Jack pops up, surprising Baby. One day, Grandma #2 brings a new, different-looking jack-in-the-box—it’s a Winnie-the-Pooh version. Your almost-one-year-old sits on the floor and tries to turn the handle to make Winnie-the-Pooh pop out.

Is he brilliant or what? Grandma #2 thinks so. Of course, this grandma doesn’t know that Baby has seen the other jack-in-the-box work many times, although he’s never had the opportunity to try it for himself.

This scenario touches on some super-important skills Baby had mastered separately, but now is combining on a daily basis:

  • Deferred imitation. Around week 39, your child became able to remember and then imitate actions, instructions, etc. (In this case, he mimicked Grandma #2 using the jack-in-the-box.)
  • Categorization. Something your child began to master just a few weeks ago, this ability means your child mentally slots the two boxes in the same category because each has a crank, a lid, and likely something inside (that he’s itching to discover!).

What the Research Shows

Researchers conducted the following experiment to test this skill in 12-month-old babies. For the first time ever, the babies watched an adult use a puppet by putting his hand in it and making it move about. The babies were not given the opportunity to play with the puppet themselves.

A day or so went by, and the researchers gave the children a puppet different from the one they had seen the researcher use previously. The babies knew exactly what to do with this puppet: Each put it on his little hand and moved it about. They remembered what they had seen the adult do with the first puppet and put the new object in the puppet category and used it appropriately.

Week 46 Brain Booster

You’ll soon see signs of deferred imitation coupled with categorizing as your child interacts with various toys and objects. (It’s a skill that will emerge in the next couple of months, but one he’ll use forever.) He’ll know that his new book should be added to the shelf with all the other books. A different-looking jacket will go in the closet with all the other coats.

Being able to remember, imitate, and then place new objects, events, and actions into already established categories makes learning so much more efficient—your child doesn’t need to think each time he sees a picture book, “I wonder what this is for?” Plus, this makes Baby so much more competent as he enters new and ever-expanding environments: friends’ and family members’ homes, playgrounds, libraries, children’s museums, and many more.


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