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Understanding what a baby can do, hear, and understand

Introduction to ‘What a baby can do, hear, and understand’

In this sprint you will develop the following knowledge: 

  • I understand the environmental factors that can influence a baby’s development. 
  • I can understand and explain that babies respond well to being involved in family life and interaction. 
  • I can understand and explain how baby’s communicate when they are overwhelmed. 

We’re going to look at the environment a baby needs to thrive and develop.

Using the link above, watch the video and learn about the different environment factors that can influence a baby’s development. 


Develop your understanding of ‘What a baby can do, hear, and understand’

Now you understand the environmental factors that can influence a babies development. Let’s explore some theoretical ideas connected to how children learn and develop. 

Anna Purdon

Read the article below and listen to the recorded lecture so that you can think about how babies might respond well to being involved in family life and interaction. The article introduces theoretical ideas, such as Vygotsky, Piaget and Rogoff. 


Sustained shared thinking is defined as ‘An episode in which two or more individuals ‘work together’ in an intellectual way to solve a problem, clarify a concept, evaluate activities, extend a narrative etc. Both parties must contribute to the thinking and it must develop and extend the understanding.’ (Siraj-Blatchford et al., 2002a:8) 

Think about these questions and in particular use page 2 to help you. 

  • How do children develop the skills of thinking? 
  • Is it possible to do things without thinking? 
  • What is the Zone of Proximal Development according to Vygotsky? 
  • What does Piaget say about self-initiated discovery? 
  • What does Piaget say about thinking coming before language? 
  • What does Rogoff say about ‘guided participation? 

Page 10 suggests that co-construction is important. 

“Strong links can be seen with co-construction as evidenced by comments such as ‘generating new ideas,’ ‘engaging with and alongside children to encourage a deeper level of understanding through shared research, questioning, active dialogue and participation,’ ‘by sharing suggestions,’ ‘by sharing ideas,’ and ‘making meaning, constructing understanding.’ This supports Siraj- Blatchford and Sylva (2004:720) in their premise that SST includes elements of co-construction in which both parties are ‘involved’ and the content is ‘instructive’.” 

  • How does the article describe co-construction? 
  • What are the benefits of co-construction? 

Further Reading about theoretical ideas. 

Gray, C. and MacBlain, S. (2015) Learning theories in childhood. Second edn. London: SAGE.

Read chapters, 4, 5, 6 and 7 of this book which you can access from our library using the link above.


Reflect upon ‘What a baby can do, hear, and understand’

Babies and young children communicate their needs in a range of ways. Children’s behaviour is a form of communication.

Action for Children

  • Use the link above to visit the webpage and learn more about:
    • The reasons why you might see certain behaviours in children 
    • The behaviours to look out for 
    • How to help the child process their emotions 
    • How to lead by example 
    • How to use consequences and explanations 
    • The type of language to use 
    • The use of rewards 
    • How to help children know it is ok to make mistakes 
    • Where to get support from.