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How Babies Learn To Ignore What Is Unimportant
As your baby is lying in her cot, how does she decide what’s important and what should get her attention?

Baby sitting up with Bear

Simply, if it moves or changes she’s interested in it. You’ll have noticed that she is particularly interested in people: she loves it when we’re moving around, talking to her or walking around with her in our arms. She will also be interested in her toys that move or make a noise, such as mobiles, baby gyms and mirrors that show moving reflections.

The technical name for this very basic type of learning is habituation. A classic example of this that you could relate to is a ticking clock: when you first go into a room you may be irritated by the loud ’tick tock’ of the clock and you cannot imagine that you’ll feel differently, but after we have been in the room for a while we are no longer conscious of the ticking.

This is important when it comes to encouraging your baby to play. Her attention is attracted by change so if we want her to concentrate on one thing we have to make sure the background is uninteresting to her. She will not play very productively if she is surrounded by a sea of toys and, particularly when she is amusing herself, it is important she only has one toy at a time that she can concentrate on.

When you are playing with her it is slightly different, as she will naturally look to you for guidance. If her toys are stored away and then you bring out something ’new’ it will look interesting to her and toys that are already there and not moving will drift into the background.