Is there anything better than when you go to visit your grandchild and they recognize who you are for the first time?
Sometimes it feels like it’s taking forever for your little grandbaby to know who you are or recognize your face, so you may be wondering how long it will take for them to know who you are.
Let’s start with memories – as that is what gives babies the ability to know who you are.
Do Babies Have Memories?
In short, yes babies do have memories but they don’t work in the same way that adult’s memories do.
For the first 4 – 6 months of a baby’s life, they have very short term memories. At around 4 months old, a baby can remember that your face has disappeared behind your hands for a moment or that a ball has rolled away. However, they can really only remember one thing at a time.
So expecting them to remember who a grandparent is that they don’t see every day is likely to not happen during this stage of their life.
The good news, though, is that during the first year of life your baby’s memory will expand and grow more than any other year of their life.
At around 10 months old, babies can usually keep track of and remember a few things at a time but only for a very short period of time.
The rate of development is going to be different for each baby, but long-term memories can take up to a few years to develop. This is why most people don’t have many memories of the first few years of their life.
When Do Babies Recognize Familiar Faces?
When a baby is born, their vision is pretty fuzzy and there isn’t much that is in clear focus for the first part of their life.
The good news, though, is that babies tend to recognize faces quicker and easier than they recognize objects.
By the time your baby is 3 months old, they can recognize your face. What’s really neat, though, is that before 3 months old their other senses are so strong that they can pick you out of a crowd using their other senses before they are 3 months old.
The timeframe for when babies will start to recognize members outside their household depends on the amount of time they spend with them.
If your child sees their grandparents once a week, it’s likely that they will recognize them by the time they are about 6 – 9 months old. If they see them more than once a week, or even daily, it’s likely that could happen even sooner than the 6 month mark.
If grandparents (or other family members) live far away and regular visits just aren’t possible, it could take longer for the child to recognize them.
If you can regularly FaceTime (or other video chat) with them, this can help them know to associate a voice with that face and it can help them to recognize family members who live far away when they do come to visit.
How Do You Know if a Baby Recognizes You?
You may not be sure as to whether your grandchild recognizes you – they might just be in a particularly happy mood.
Generally speaking, faces that are familiar to a baby will invoke a cooing and smiling reaction out of the baby.
How Long Can a Baby Remember Someone’s Face?
Babies are surprisingly good at remembering people’s faces – even those who are not in their immediate family.
There is a difference, though, between a baby recognizing the face and remembering who they are in relation to themselves.
For this reason, babies still need to see people regularly in order to remember who they really are.
This explains why a child can remember and recognize their favorite daycare or preschool teacher, but they don’t remember their great-aunt that they met once in their life.
How to make it easier for grandchildren to recognize their grandparents
If their grandparents live far away and can’t see them more than a few times a year, or maybe once a month, then there are ways to help them recognize and remember who they are.
If you have pictures of their grandparents, pulling them out and regularly showing them to the babies can help them recognize who they are when they come to visit.
Additionally, when the pictures are shown mention who this person in (grandma, grandpa, aunt, uncle, etc) so that they can associate words with a face. While they may not be able to speak the words there is some research shown that they will understand what it is you’re saying.
When Does a Child Have Their First Memory?
Spending time with your grandchildren is a really important part of being a grandparent, and you want to think that they will remember all the moments you have together.
So, if babies don’t recognize faces for the first 6 or so months of their life – when will they have their first memory of you and their family?
Many people’s first memories come from when they are 3 or 4 years old, but they aren’t memories like will happen in older years of life.
Many memories from this time in people’s lives are more implicit memories, meaning that people remember how they feel rather than the very specific details of that moment.
This means that your grandchildren will remember how they felt in the earlier years of their life – happy, sad, scared, etc. So spending time with your grandchildren and creating happy memories with them. They will associate positive memories with their grandparents, and remember how they felt instead of what specifically happened.
If you want to help your grandchildren remember the earlier events of their life, you can show them pictures of it.
For example, everyone in the family may have taken a vacation together and some of the grandchildren were too young to remember it.
If you have pictures of the vacation, taking them out and showing them to a young child while talking to them about the vacation and who is in the pictures.
While they may not remember the details of the vacation (or other event you’re talking to them about), showing them pictures will help them to know that the vacation did happen and they will remember the feeling they have in spending time with their family.
How Important Memories Are
As mentioned, grandchildren may not directly remember the details of a situation or family event, but they will remember how they felt about it.
What is kind of neat about memories is that they can be overwritten with new details, as they are made apparent to us. So your grandchild having the positive feelings about an event rather than remembering the specific details is a really positive thing for them.
They will always remember how their grandparents spent time with them, took them on vacation and did all these fun things with them.
Since memories can be overwritten with new details, if your grandchild can recount the happy memories with you and how they felt about it that’s far more important than remembering specific details about what happened.
Depending on how often grandparents see their grandchildren, grandchildren can start to recognize them as early as 6 months old.
If the grandchildren see them, or other family members, less than once a week it can take a little longer for them to recognize their grandparents or other family members.
The amount of time it takes for babies to recognize family members can also depend on the baby, and each child will not have the exact same timeline.
If your grandchild doesn’t recognize you right now, don’t take it personally right now. It might just mean they haven’t spent enough time with you (yet) to form that memory and recognition.
Spending more time with your grandchildren – like offering to take them for the night while the parents have a date night – can give them some very positive memories of their early childhood with their grandparents.
As research has shown, children don’t have too many memories before the time they are about 3 or 4 years old. Rather they will remember feeling happy and being surrounded by people who love them.
Knowing this, spending time with your grandchildren and make sure they feel loved and safe can give them fantastic implicit memories of their early childhood.
If you live far away from your grandchildren, ask their parents if you can video chat with them often so that they will see your face and get to learn your voice. This can help them to recognize you when you come to visit, instead of feeling like you are a stranger.
With the options of today’s technology, it can be almost like you’re in the same room as your grandchildren when you’re halfway across the country.
Give it some time, talk to them more often and try to visit as much as you can and your grandchildren will recognize you in no time!