There are lots of wheels turning inside little minds long before babies have the words to express themselves—just ask any parent who has watched their baby process something new.

Now a study published this month in the journal Science proves just how complicated the inner workings of babies’ brains can be. It goes against some long-held expert opinions that language and the abilities to reason are linked by demonstrating that babies as young as 12 months have a mature process of elimination skills.

For the study, authors from several European institutions performed a test with 48 babies aged 12 to 18 months to gauge their “disjunctive syllogism” abilities. This is a form of logical reasoning that enables them to accept “if only A or B can be true, and A is false, then B must be true.”


To do this, researchers had the babies watch animations featuring two distinct objects, such as a dinosaur and flower. Then the objects disappear behind a barrier before a cup scoops up one of them in plain sight. The barrier then disappears, which should reveal the other object, right? Well, to prove their the theory, the first object (that was scooped up by the cup) is sometimes still in its place.

The little smarty-pants weren’t fooled, as they indicated with their sight patterns that this wasn’t what they expected to happen.

“Our results indicate that the acquisition of logical vocabulary might not be the source of the most fundamental logical building blocks in the mind,” says lead study author Nicoló Cesana-Arlotti, a postdoctoral fellow in the Department Psychological and Brain Sciences at Johns Hopkins University.

In other words, just because your baby can't talk, it doesn't mean he can't be logical. Which is pretty amazing because, “To our knowledge, nobody has ever directly documented logical reasoning in 12-month-old infants before.”

In an accompanying analysis of the research for Science, Johns Hopkins psychologist and reason researcher Justin Halberda says the findings conflict some traditional wisdom.

“I think many people would say that most of their reasoning happens when they are silently talking to themselves in their heads,” says Halberda, who was not involved with the research. “What this new study reveals is that pre-verbal infants are also working through this same type of serial reasoning, and doing so before robust language abilities have been mastered.”

The findings have potentially significant implications for health experts who may be able to use them in determining intellectual delays among children sooner—and are therefore able to begin special education programs earlier.

This comes a few months after some amazing research that shows babies as young as 6 months old are already connecting related words, which lay the foundation for their own language skills.

For parents, this is all more proof that our babies can make significant logical connections long before they’re able to carry on conversations. So just be warned next time you try to pull one over on your little Einstein.

You may also like:

Back when my husband and I were creating our wedding registry, it was a fun, low-pressure opportunity to select some new dishes and linens. After all, I knew a thing or two about stocking my home and making the "wrong decision" with thread count was the only thing that posed any risk to my sleep at night.

Fast-forward a few years to when I created a baby registry before the birth of my first child—and I found the experience to have a much steeper learning curve. Unlike those sheets, it felt like a bad swaddle or bassinet selection would be catastrophic. Unsure of what to expect from motherhood or my baby, I leaned heavily on advice from friends who already ventured into parenthood. (Starting with their reminders to take deep breaths!)


Now a mom of three little ones under the age of four, I'm happy to be in a position to pass along some baby registry wisdom.

Go shopping with a veteran parent

As first-time parents, my husband and I barely knew the difference between a bouncer and a swing, let alone what specific features we would want. So when a mom friend recommended we head to Walmart to build my registry together—because she found them to carry the trendy brands she loved AND make registering a breeze during her pregnancy—I leapt at the chance.

By walking through the aisles together and actually getting to see the products, I was much more confident in my registry selections. Thanks to that quick, in-store tutorial from my friend, I understood exactly how to match a perfect infant car seat with an extra base and stroller—which is something I would have been clueless about on my own.

Include items at a variety of price points

When it comes down to it, a registry is really a wish list. So, while I had a personal budget for a stroller if it had to come out of my own pocket, this was an opportunity for me to ask for the stroller of my dreams. And, wouldn't you know it? A few family members went in on it together, which made a bigger price tag much more manageable.

At the same time, it's nice to include some of the smaller ticket items that are absolutely essential. I can't even begin to tell you how grateful I was to skip buying my own diapers for those first few weeks. (With super cute patterns, these are also surprisingly fun to give, too!)

Think about the gifts you would like to give

The first time I bought a mom-to-be a gift after my own child was born, I knew immediately what to look for on her registry: a diaper bag backpack, which I had come to have very strong opinions about after battling falling straps with my first diaper bag. This allowed me to feel like I had a personal touch in my gift, even if I brought one pre-selected by her.

I also appreciate it when my friends clearly incorporate their style into their registry choices, like with adorable baby outfits or nursery decor—and there's no sweeter "thank you" than a picture from a friend showing your gift in use.

Ask for things to grow with your child

Even though it's called a baby registry, there's no need to limit yourself to gifts to use before their first birthday. (To this day, I still have people who attended my baby shower to thank for the convertible bed that my oldest child sleeps in!) Knowing that, I would have included more options with long lifespans into my registry—namely, a baby carrier that can be used during the newborn months, baby months and well into the toddler years. A well-designed baby carrier would have saved my back from serious pain because it would have allowed me to comfortably and ergonomically carry my toddler as she made her way into the 25lb+ club. One brand that's designed to grow with your baby and accommodates 7-45 pounds (up to about four years old) and offers both inward and forward-facing positions is Ergobaby. With several different design and style options, you can easily find one that caters to your parenting needs. From an all-in-one carrier, like the Omni 360, that grows with baby from the newborn stages into the toddler years or a newborn-specific carrier, like the Embrace (and don't worry you can later upgrade to a carrier for an older baby, I recommend the 360 Carrier). The best part? All ergonomic designs are supportive and comfortable for both baby and parent, offering extra lumbar support with breathable, lightweight mesh styles. Everyone (even grandparents!) can get a kick out of babywearing, which is a nice and welcomed break for parents. Having one of these on my registry would have certainly made those first few years so much easier.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy. You've got this.

This article was sponsored by Ergobaby. Thank you for supporting the brands that support Motherly and mamas.

You might also like:


Months ago when the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) recommended Americans start using homemade cloth face masks to protect against the coronavirus parents had a lot of questions—a recurring one being "how will I convince my child to wear one?

As schools prepare to reopen, districts in various parts of the country will require students to wear masks to class come fall, making the question even more urgent.

So how do we get children used to wearing masks? Here's what experts recommend:

Keep reading Show less