This Alison Gopnik’s TED Talk “What do Babies Think?” is a must-watch for anyone who is interested in how babies learn.

I first saw this video when I was pregnant and have had the privileged of observing Hailey’s behaviour through the lens of this presentation.

Alison Gopnik explains how babies use probability and statistics to learn. They test various hypotheses through playing. They are able to problem solve, sometimes better than adults because they aren’t limited by preconceived notions.

When I watch Hailey play, I’m not looking at her as if she is a silly baby just getting into everything. Instead, I’m watching her test her limits, interact with her toys in different ways, and I see her watching how Mommy responds when she touches or tries to eat various items around the house.

I’m attempting to use this to my advantage. Rather than trying to childproof my entire house or removing all unsafe objects I’m experimenting with this to teach her boundaries. This isn’t a new concept. I’m telling her “no” when she’s doing something dangerous or exploring something I don’t feel is appropriate for her to get into.

I felt guilty when I first started saying “no” to Hailey. It sounded harsh coming from my lips. I want her to believe that she can be, do, or have anything she wants in this life. Saying “no” seemed like the exact opposite of this desire I have for her. I didn’t want “no” to become a prevalent word during our interactions.

I have this hope that I won’t have to discipline her much, that instead she will make wise decisions for herself. It’s my role as a parent to teach her how to make appropriate choices. The word “no” felt confrontational rather than instructive at first.

Then I made it a game rather than using the word out of anger or for discipline. Instead, I was telling her “no” to things I didn’t want her to get into and redirecting her toward something more appropriate. It was more a game of redirection and to see how long it would take her to understand.

She likes electrical cords (I have actually hidden all of the ones I could but there are still some that are out), garbage, and opening drawers and cupboards. Each time I say “no” I explain why and suggest to her that her toys are much more fun and interesting.

She’s 9 months old but she has actually started to listen to me. Just yesterday when she opened the drawer to our TV stand I gave her a firm “no” from across the room and told her to play with her toys instead. Much to my surprise she listened! She left the drawer and crawled to her toys.

She has listened to me each time she’s approached that particular drawer since. She doesn’t go near the bathroom garbage anymore or the metal grate on our fireplace. And if she does she’ll change directions once I tell her that it’s not a good idea.

I can see her now looking at me when opening a drawer or approaching a garbage can. I can see her testing her hypothesis…Mommy will say “no” when I….

Don’t get me wrong, she doesn’t listen to me all of the time. But it’s fun to realize that she’s understanding more complex communication and she’s able to process what I”m saying and respond appropriately.

I just witnessed her playing with Daddy. He often plays Hide Hailey’s Sock and puts her sock on her head. She then has to find it. He’s been playing this game with her for weeks. Today, he put the sock on her head a few times and she found it. Then he put it behind his back and she reached for her head. She began reaching for her head every time she couldn’t find the sock.

It’s a fun game! When I look at her I don’t see an silly baby who can’t find her sock. Instead I see her using her logic…’when the sock is missing it’s usually on my head so I’ll check there first’.

She’s using the probability analysis in the Hide the Sock game that Alison Gopnik speaks of in her TED Talk!