The real question is not, How Smart Is Your Baby? but How can you help your baby avoid losing his extraordiary powers as he grows up?  As the book of that name acknowledges, every normal baby is a born genius.  If you don't think so, take three years and try to become fluent in a foreign language.  Then remember that most babies can do that with ease.  For multiple languages.  Simultaneously.  And while learning the very concept of language itself.

Joseph and I try to take at least one walk each day.  Most of the time I'm the one doing the walking, and comes along passively in the stroller, because I don't get much exercise going at his pace, and that's half the point of the walk.  (The other half is giving his parents a break.)  Until recently, we'd go where I wanted to go.  But two days ago, Joseph started expressing his opinions in the matter.

He's usually pretty complacent and quiet as we trundle along, so I was shocked when he suddenly started fussing as we passed through an intersection on our way home.  I stopped, and he pointed in the cross direction, clearly indicating that he wanted to turn.  "Aha!"  I thought.  "I know where that road leads."

"Do you want to go see the goats?" I asked.  Joseph quickly signed, "Please."  I made the turn toward the dairy farm, and he was his happy self again.

I found that astonishing enough—that he was able to recognize the intersection.  But it was a straight line from that point on to the goats, and he'd been there many times before.

Then yesterday, when I had planned to walk to the nearby mall, Joseph once again fussed and pointed in another direction.  I decided to forgo shopping and give him his head.

At each intersection I stopped the stroller and asked, "Shall we go this way, or that way?" with appropriate gestures.  Even though I deliberately changed up the way I asked the question (so as not to give him any hints), he led me unerringly, without hesitation, and through many turns to one of his favorite places:  the swimming center, where there are also goats (chickens, peacocks, rabbits, etc.) to see.

But that's not where we stopped.  At the final turn, when I knew for certain that he knew where he was—because he could see the animals from the intersection—he chose to go left instead of right.  So left we went, and this time he led me—perfectly, and over a route that had changed recently due to constructionso he'd only been on it a few times—to the library.

I'd been that far before, but after the library I was in new territory.  I explored, following his directions, until we came to a main street, at which point he decided he didn't like that and asked to go turn around.  We explored a bit more, then I decided we'd had enough and headed back towards the library.  At that point Joseph fell asleep, so it's a good thing I knew how to get home.  But if we ever get lost, I'm asking him for directions.

My brother was like that as a child, though at an older age.  He might run off (as he did in Yellowstone National Park when he was six) but we could count on him to find his way back.  Unfortunately, he says, he lost much of that ability as he grew up.

So how can that loss be prevented?  Is such skill like a muscle that must be exercised regularly?  Use it or lose it?  It should be easy to devise "navigation games" and create increasingly difficult puzzles through the years, to keep the skill sharp.  But it would take a conscious effort to make that happen: no one seems to care about leaving no children behind navigationally.

Posted by sursumcorda on Saturday, January 28, 2012 at 5:09 pm | Edit
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Sounds like a challenge to his parents!

Posted by IrishOboe on Sunday, January 29, 2012 at 4:45 am
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