Have you ever watched your child’s eyes light up with excitement when you peek-a-boo around a corner or jump out from another room? What about seeing your young child encounter a new animal, sound, or object? A research studied detailed by John Hopkins University discusses an amazing dynamic in how babies learn… by surprise!

It turns out that babies are entranced by what is novel to such a degree that it will actually motivate them to pursue knowledge of something new until they understand what they are experiencing.

“For young learners, the world is an incredibly complex place filled with dynamic stimuli. How do learners know what to focus on and learn more about, and what to ignore? Our research suggests that infants use what they already know about the world to form predictions. When these predictions are shown to be wrong, infants use this as a special opportunity for learning,” says Feigenson, a professor of psychological and brain sciences in the university’s Krieger School of Arts and Sciences. “When babies are surprised, they learn much better, as though they are taking the occasion to try to figure something out about their world.”*

When an infant’s experience doesn’t correlate to what he or she understands about the world, it is highly motivating for them to dive in deeper. They will try to understand not just what they are seeing but why and how and build a foundation of critical thought.