My baby the Lab Rat - Part 1

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.

Your little one might seem totally clueless about the world around him, but he already knows more than you imagine.


Researchers in the Action Lab watch babies walk, crawl, and climb to understand how they learn to navigate their physical and social environments. The experiment Walking in cloth versus disposable diapers. Since cloth diapers are bulky, they may interfere more with walking than the disposable kind do. Baby Andrew's challenge To walk down a 16-foot-long rubber mat at least six times - twice wearing a cloth diaper, twice wearing a disposable diaper, and twice naked. The mat is attached to a computer that tracks his walking speed, the distance between his steps, and how far apart his feet are. The session is videotaped so researchers can count how many times a baby trips or falls. In between trials, Andrew gets a ten-minute break so the researchers can observe whether the diaper affects how he moves around the room and plays. They record how many times he falls, how many steps he takes, and how much of the room he covers. How'd it go? Researchers told me most babies love this experiment. But Andrew was so fussy over having his diaper changed that he didn't even complete the study!

My baby the Lab Rat - Part 1

What Little Lab Rats Have Taught Us About Motor Skills

• Although boys are more active as fetuses and infants, they re not more daring or skillful than girls, says Karen Adolph, Ph.D., director of the Action Lab. In a study published in the Journal of Experimental Child Psychology, her team asked moms to estimate their 11-month-old babies' ability to crawl down steep and shallow slopes, then tested the infants. The girls' moms expected their babies to fail on the easiest slopes. and the boys' moms expected their babies to succeed on the most challenging ones - yet the girls' and boys' performance was the same. Be aware of your expectations because they may play a role in the developmental outcome of your child, says Dr. Adolph. You could prevent your daughter from caching her full Falling is part of learning to walk, says Dr. Adolph. At 14 months, the average baby takes 15.000 steps daily and falls 101 times a day. He rarely cries, though, and parents dont usually remember the incidents - which is probably why moms report that their babies fall only 1.2 times per month.

• You always knew it, but now a scientific study confirms it: Moms are more likely than dads to try to safeguard their kids. In a 2007 study published in Parenting: Science and Practice, moms and dads were separately asked to adjust a ramp three ways: 1. to the steepest slope they thought their infant could safely crawl down; 2. to the angle that they thought their baby would attempt to crawl down; and 3. to the level at which they'd aiiow their infant to crawl down alone. Dads were more likely than moms to encourage their babies to crawl down a slope beyond their child's ability. Moms and dads gave infants dramatically different levels of parental supervision, says Dr. Adolph. Couples need to talk about and agree on the best ways to keep their child safe.