Babies are Scientists

Every kid starts out as a natural-born scientist, and we beat it out of them. A few trickle through the system with their wonder and enthusiasm for science intact” Carl Sagan

Child’s play is science. Playing Doctors by Frederick Daniel Hardy (1827-1911); image: Stapleton Collection/Corbis

Over the last 30 years, it has come to be accepted that very small children have abstract, structured, coherent, causal representations of the world around them – representations that are similar to scientific theories. They use those representations to make wide-ranging predictions. This may be an innate capacity that infants and small children employ to frame their perception of reality. This capacity is based on statistical probability,  which is the primary tool science uses to make predictions about phenomena.  Children express this analytical behavior through activities which we describe as play.

Structured learning trains children out of this behavior. Based on this large body of research, the current push to drive younger children into the academic curriculum may be misguided. This perspective is in alignment with the Waldorf School system  (Rudolph Steiner) and others who hold that academic learning before the permanent teeth emerge at 6 – 7 years of age should be subtle, rather than directive. Allowing children the opportunity to fully engage their surroundings using their innate capacity to structure their perception of reality before this age fully engages this innate capacity and will help them later on to more quickly and fully engage with complex, abstract information. In essence, the more quickly we enforce our consensual view of reality on children, the more challenges they will have in intuitively making sense of the world around them.

Full Review Article published in September 28, 2012 Science:

Scientific Thinking in Young Children: Theoretical Advances, Empirical Research, and Policy Implications 

Allison Gopnik


NPR report on the developmental benefits of play:

Scientists Say Child’s Play Helps Build A Better Brain

This online course by RUTH CHURCHILL DOWER is an excellent overview of the reasons for and benefits of childhood play:


The Earlyarts website offers many resources for educators and parents to support developmentally powerful play:



Carol Black

This is an excellent article on innate child development


Robert Root-Bernstein

Article* on the benefit of humanities, arts, crafts or design (HACD) activities for a successful scientific career.

“Members of the U.S. National Academies of Sciences and Engineering are about three to five times more likely to have a lifelong avocation involving arts, crafts, theater, or some type of creative writing than are average scientists, and Nobel Prize winners engage in such activities at 15 to 25 times the rate of average scientists.”

*:(Science 6 July 2018)