This is a question that, as you might imagine, has been on my mind lately. Fortunately, this excellent TED talk by Alison Gopnik has largely answered the question for me. In short, babies are for learning–and by learning, she means what we call playing, or "getting into everything." This seems a very important point, given the way playtime is under attack in our culture, not only in school programs but in general (don't even get me started on the whole Leapfrog thing). Points covered in this talk include
– How babies are smarter than you.
– How childhood makes you not a chicken.
– Why, when we say young children "can't pay attention," what we really mean is that young children can't not pay attention.
– What being a baby is like ("being in love, in Paris, for the first time, after three double espressos").
I can't figure out how to embed the video easily, but you can watch it here: http://www.ted.com/talks/alison_gopnik_what_do_babies_think.html