This Leap Year…It’s All About Leaps!

Discover the developmental mental leaps of baby’s initial weeks

Ever heard of a baby leap? If you’re at all familiar with The Wonder Weeks book or app, you’re aware of the theories regarding changes in the perception of babies as they mature. Things that we adults perceive as reality once seemed as new, fascinating and sometimes as scary as it does to a little one fresh out of the womb. It may be tempting to think that the mind of an infant cannot possibly understand the complexities of this world as we do, given our knowledge and experience. But to actually consider what this world might look and feel like to new eyes is actually quite mind-blowing. While it’s a perception we adults will never truly revert to, The Wonder Weeks can help parents attempt to see things from their baby’s point of view in order to provide them with the input and comfort that will best support their mental, emotional and physical needs. Read on to discover what baby leaps are all about and find suggestions for activities to support their mental development!


The Wonder Weeks

What better way to learn more about leaps and the intricacies involved in babies’ mental development then to read The Wonder Weeks? Controversial or not, Plooij’s theories are thought-provoking and will allow you to examine your baby’s mental changes with true wonder.

Product: Sleep sack

Changes in babies’ mental development reportedly result in sleep difficulties and extra fussiness. So, invest in a quality sleep sack for more peaceful nights (fingers crossed!)

Quote of the Month

Every great move forward in your life begins with a leap of faith, a step into the unknown.

– Brian Tracy

The Wonder of a Brand New World

How mental leaps mold babies’ perception of the world around us

For many parents describing their baby’s development, the term “leap” may sound highly familiar. It was originally coined by behavioral scientist Dr. Frans X Plooij and his wife, Hetty van de Rijt, in the original 1992 version of The Wonder Weeks. A leap, in this case, refers to mental changes that occur in a child at specific ages that affect the way they see the world around them. The book has been republished several times under Plooij’s name (most recently alongside his daughter, Xaviera Plas-Plooij) and has also been made into an app, used by parents worldwide. The app, using your baby’s due date, provides information about your baby’s mental development as it correlates with his/her age since conception. It also provides predictions regarding “sunny” and “stormy” days in the months ahead, with stormy days indicating a transition into a new leap that can cause moodiness, clinginess and poor sleep, among other potential negative impacts.

While most experts agree that leaps in babies’ development do occur, many take issue with Plooij’s theory that these changes occur at set times, or that they even occur singularly in consequential order. In contrast, they argue that babies develop at their own pace and can hit milestones at any time, even experiencing leaps simultaneously.

The Sequence of Mental Leaps

Steadfast in his opinion, Plooj argues that the following developmental leaps for babies occur at the ages indicated:

  • The world of senses; 4 ½ to 5 ½ weeks: Babies respond to senses differently noticing more about the world around them.
  • The world of patterns, 7 ½ to 9 ½ weeks: Babies notice patterns and become familiar with the sensations, people, and things in their world.
  • The world of smooth transitions, 11 ½ to 12 ½ weeks: Babies will use their senses to understand things in their environments. They will follow things with their eyes, roll over and begin to develop motor skills.
  • The world of events, 14 ½ to 19 ½ weeks: Babies will begin understanding cause and effect, making them more interactive.
  • The world of connections, 22 ½ to 26 ½ weeks: Babies will understand more about separation and will begin looking for things when they disappear. He or she will also become more mobile.
  • The world of categories, 33 1/2 to 37 ½ weeks: Babies will begin to recognize shapes and colors and will start expressing themselves through social interaction.
  • The world of sequences, 41 ½ to 46 ½ weeks: Babies will start comprehending sequences and how basic steps can result in an end product. This will aid with communication and functionality.
  • The world of programs, 50 ¼ to 54 ½ weeks:  Babies will get an even better understanding of sequences making him or her understand that getting dressed means going outside and that playing with toys is followed by cleaning up.
  • The world of principles, 59 ½ to 61 ½ weeks: Babies will develop social skills during this stage engaging more with others, copying their actions, and developing a sense of humor.
  • The world of systems, 70 ½ to 76 ½ weeks: Babies will use emotions to modify behaviors and express them through language, art, and conversation.


Support Those Leaps!

Activities to coincide with your baby’s changes in perception

Leap 1- Sensations

Sit your baby in your lap with your knees propped up to support him/her, and tell them stories (about anything, really!) using variations in your vocal pitch.

Leap 2- Patterns

Provide your child with (safe) objects of various shapes and colorful patterns for them to inspect with wonder.

Leap 3- Smooth transitions

Hold an item of interest that your baby can easily grasp at arms-length in front of them so that they may reach for and follow it with their arm in a smooth motion. Don’t forget to pause to give them a chance to grab it!

Leap 4- Events

Bounce a small ball in your baby’s line of vision so that they may observe a short series of images that they should now be able to do during this leap.

Leap 5- Relationships

Your baby will have a sense of cause and effect during this transition. Use a variety of cause and effect toys or even model simple on/off buttons and switches that allow them to further witness and comprehend this new phenomenon for them.

Enjoy the fun that these leaps can bring to the interactions you share with your little one!

For many parents who follow the sequential order of the The Wonder Weeks closely, they appreciate the predicted timeline of sunny and stormy days ahead, as it provides reassuring justification for their baby’s temperament and behavior. For others, it can be a source of stress, as seeing an upcoming stormy period may ignite anxiety and a sense of impending doom about sleepless nights that may actually never happen at the forecasted time.

The Signs of Mental Leaps

Per The Wonder Weeks, babies experience of total of 10 mental leaps in the first 20 weeks of life. Indications that a baby may be experiencing a new leap include the following:

  • An increase in the “three C’s”: crying, clinginess and crankiness
  • Changes in sleeping patterns
  • Separation anxiety
  • Fussy feedings
  • Change in health
  • Unpredictable moods
  • Improvement in existing skills
  • Learning new skills

Regardless of whether a baby’s leap occurs at the predicted time, it is helpful to watch for signs that they are experiencing a mental leap in order to provide extra support in these moments of growth. These periods of intense mental development can be overwhelming for baby, who must make sense of a world that is changing drastically and rapidly. It’s no surprise that they crave extra comfort and support during these transitions!

While knowing about your baby’s leaps in mental development is helpful in empathizing with them and understanding their behavior and mood during a given time, it does not make parents immune to stress and frustration during rough times. Don’t be afraid to ask for help from loved ones or friends—they are likely more than willing to help—and know that it will not last forever. Try your best to soak in the moments of infancy while knowing that they can be both frustrating and fleeting. Engage your little one in stimulating activities that will enhance the leaps that they experience (see side bar!) and help you bond. And lastly, don’t forget to delight in their awe of this big, bold, wonderful world.

Content of this newsletter was written by:
Megan A. Miller, M.S., CCC-SLP

Please contact Megan with any questions or comments at: