Smart Baby! 6 Ways Babies are Smarter Than You Think

What a smart baby! Ever look into your baby’s eyes and wonder what’s going on upstairs? Well, it may be more than you think. Find out in this post.

Ever look into your baby’s eyes and wonder what’s going on upstairs? Well, it may be much more than you think. Here are 6 awesome examples of how smart babies really are.

Ever look into your baby’s eyes and wonder what’s going on upstairs? Well, it may be much more than you think.

Our babies’ brains develop at an amazing rate—they fully double in size from birth until one. And a baby’s brain has around 1,000 trillion synapses (or a quadrillion, for all you math majors), which is twice as many as a typical adult has.

Here are 6 awesome examples of just how smart baby really is.

1. They know when someone’s speaking a different language

How, exactly? From the look of the speaker’s face! A University of British Columbia study found that, at just four months, infants pick up on visual cues such as the shape of the speaker’s mouth and the movement of their face. Moreover, babies under six months old can differentiate sounds from different languages much better than adults can. But this only lasts for the first six months of life, suggesting that the ability to easily pick up multiple language is a case of “use it or lose it.”

2. They succumb to peer pressure

A study published in Cell Biology found that two-year-olds were more likely to imitate a behavior if three or more of her peers were doing it as opposed to just one. So if you want your smart baby or toddler to eat well, take naps, and be gentle and kind, surround him or her with good-eating, well-behaved friends.

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3. Your smart baby empathizes with others’ feelings

A study at Brigham Young University found that babies are able to detect changes in mood of Beethoven’s music. The same research lab found that babies can match angry dog barks and friendly dog sounds with corresponding photos of dogs displaying threatening or friendly body language. Smart baby!

4. They understand what words mean

Conventional wisdom holds that babies don’t make the link between objects and their names until the baby is at least a year old. But it turns out they begin to understand at about six months of age, long before they can speak. Researchers from the University of Pennsylvania showed babies images of body parts and had parents ask them questions such as, “Where are the eyes?” The babies looked at the forrest body part longer than any other, suggesting that they know the meaning of the word. More good reason to talk to your smart baby!

5. They’re intrinsically generous(!)

So much for the all the selfish cries of “mine!” A recent study found that, the more generous a baby is, the happier they are. Researchers gave babies a single cracker and asked them to give it to a puppet. Then they gave the child two crackers and asked them to give just one to a puppet. After measuring the child’s response, they found that the babies were happier when they gave the single cracker away as opposed to sharing crackers. In a press release, the research university suggested that this pleasure of helping others in need is innate human emotion.

6. Your smart baby knows what’s fair… and what isn’t

At just over a year old, babies can tell when someone’s getting the short end of the stick. Researchers at the University of Washington had toddlers watch videos of a group of people receiving milk and crackers – in equal and unequal measure. The toddlers were more attentive to the unequal distribution, suggesting that they were aware of and surprised by the discrepancy.
Interesting note: The children most attuned to this milk and cracker injustice were more likely to share their toys and make other unselfish displays in subsequent studies.

Looking for more proof of how smart baby is?

Pick up a copy of The Scientist in the Crib. A friend gave us this book before Griffin was born, and we breezed right through it. It’s an insightful look at how much babies know and learn – and how much we instinctually teach them. It’s also fascinating to see how scientists study very young babies. For example, they can test an infant’s interest in things by measuring how quickly or slowly they suck a pacifier.

How about you?

Has your smart baby ever surprised you with her budding braininess? Has he just “known” something without you teaching him? Share with us in the comments below!

Genevieve Howland

About the Author

Genevieve Howland is a doula and childbirth educator. She is the bestselling author of The Mama Natural Week-by-Week Guide to Pregnancy and Childbirth and creator of the Mama Natural Birth Course. A mother of three, graduate of the University of Colorado, and YouTuber with over 135,000,000 views, she helps mothers and moms-to-be lead healthier and more natural lives.


  1. I would Like to know What the youngest age for a baby to walk Is I was 11 months. How strong are they exactly. How are baby’s memory’s so good?

    • Our first daughter walked at 9 months. I never recovered. Hahahaha

  2. My baby girl is only a month an already pushes up try to hold her head balanced when on tummy time as well as when i say her name she says huh its a few more things that amazes me she is so smart an alert

  3. I love your article. Helps me appreciate my grandson more.

    My grandson was only 1 month old when I kissed him on the head one day as I was leaving, to tell him I was going home. His face creased into a frown and he burst into tears.Real tears. I tested it again a week later, and in consecutive weeks; the same thing happened. He understood “goodbye.” This time we videotaped it.
    Whenever I went over to babysit, we had a conversation. I always told him what I was doing and he would tilt his head, listen and chortle. He enjoyed being talked to. He also enjoyed when I sang. One day when he was 3 months old, his mom had to go back to work. Some days his dad babysat him but other days it was me. On Mom’s first day home from work, (you probably won’t believe this), he looked at his mom and let out a litany of sounds that sounded like he was scolding her. It was so cute we taped it.
    This kid is 2 now. He still doesn’t talk clearly but one can make out what he’s saying. His name is Quincy but when you ask him what his name is, he’ll say it’s ” Me Tootsie.”. He knows his colors, different animals, and can count. The other day he wanted to nap on the couch and wanted a pillow. I ran and got one from his mom’s bed. He looked at it, smelled it and said “yucky pillow.”. “What did you say,” I asked. He repeated and I burst into laughter before I got him a different pillow with a fresh pillowcase.
    One last incident where both his parents were too occupied chatting. Because he was being ignored he tugged at his mom’s hand. When she didn’t budge, he walked away sighing “stop talking.”
    I love your article and will look forward to reading more like it.

  4. My daughter is. One years old. When she has a wet diapper she will walk to the changing table and make the noise with her finger at point to the diapers.
    My daughter will stop touching the lamp looks at me after I say your not making the best choice possibly today. She looks at me and gives the face of Who ME? And days Hi

  5. My baby is 6,5 weeks old and whenever she takes a break when breastfeeding, and I think she’s done and attempt to pull her up for a burp, she actually pulls her head back toward the breast and throws her body weight into it too to show me she isn’t done. Lol! 2 days ago I tried to pull her up anyway as I sometimes do when I’m in a hurry, and this time she pressed her little arm flat against her body so I can’t fit my hand under it to pull her up..

    • Lol my daughter does the same thing, she is 5months old next week.

  6. My 15 mo was missing a sock. I said, “You’re missing a sock (again). You must have taken it off. Do you remember where you left it?” She thought for a moment, then got up, walked across the room, into the kitchen, crawled down two steps, and retrieved the sock she had taken off on her way up the stairs, then handed it to me to put on her.

  7. So cool! Also, I’m amazed at how smart they are in utero-they know instinctually how to turn upside down, get out the birth canal, then breath and find the breast and latch on to eat. Yes, there is learning and some situations babies can’t do what they want, but overall with some support they come into this world baby geniuses-miracles every single one.

  8. Victoria, my now 9 month old, has learned 7 colors and knows to sign for mom, dad and hungry. She learned to sign at four months old and she showed evidence of knowing some colors sinse she was 5 months. I feel like people think we are crazy when we say it and then they see it for themselves and can’t believe it! We have been very dedicated to educate as we play 🙂

  9. I tell new moms all the time that ALL babies are born smart and given the right amount of stimulation, not too much to overwhelm them, and not too little to make those synapse connections die off, their baby will show them how smart they are. The easiest way of course to “see” the proof of how much they understand is through baby sign language. Just as toddlers and preschoolers do not filter their thoughts and every thought is shared verbally, when a baby is thinking and has signs to express them, it is fascinating to see those wheels turning! In fact there was an article I read on Baby Center about gestures helps kids learn, which of course made me revert right back to why I teach baby sign language!

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