Babies learn better when sitting up: study

If you want your baby to reap the most reward from educational toys and videos, be sure your infant is sitting up, according to a new US study.

A joint study of 112 infants by researchers at North Dakota State University and Texas A&M says that sitting up -- either alone or assisted -- can play a critical role in a baby's cognitive development, and that being seated helps an infant learn about new objects.

"An important part of human cognitive development is the ability to understand whether an object in view is the same or different from an object seen earlier," says co-author Dr. Rebecca J. Woods.

In two experiments, researchers found that while infants aged five-and-a-half and six-and-a-half months don't use patterns to differentiate objects on their own, six-and-a-half-month-olds can learn to use patterns, that is, if they can look at, touch, and mouth the objects before being tested while sitting up.

"An advantage the six-and-a-half-month-olds may have is the ability to sit unsupported, which makes it easier for babies to reach for, grasp, and manipulate objects," says Woods. "If babies don't have to focus on balancing, their attention can be on exploring the object."

In a third experiment, five-and-a-half-month-olds were offered full postural support while they explored objects. The findings showed that babies seated in supported positions were able to learn as well as babies who can already sit on their own.

"Helping a baby sit up in a secure, well-supported manner during learning sessions may help them in a wide variety of learning situations, not just during object-feature learning," Woods says.

"This knowledge can be advantageous, particularly to infants who have cognitive delays who truly need an optimal learning environment," she adds.

The study, announced Wednesday, was published in the journal Developmental Psychology. Access: http://psycnet.apa.org/?&fa=main.doiLanding&doi=10.1037/a0030344

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