Watching a baby develop and discover the world is a fascinating experience! We now know our newborns begin learning even before they are born! A baby’s brain is primed by nature for learning. But are there things that parents and caregivers can do to stimulate healthy brain development? Yes! And the wonderful part is, you do not need a lot of fancy, high-tech, overpriced toys to stimulate young minds.
Foundation: The foundation for all brain development begins with good health and nutrition. Babies need regular check-ups, a healthy environment, and nutritious food to ensure proper development. Babies also require a strong, secure attachment to parents and daily caregivers. When a baby’s needs are met consistently, they develop the security necessary to engage with others and explore their world.
Stress Management: It is important to a baby’s developing brain that the amount of stress within the home is minimal. Prolonged stress undermines the brains’ natural ability to make neural connections and learning pathways. Such stress includes frequent explosive arguments, domestic violence, excessive noise such as loud music and crowds, parental anxiety, and neglect.
Touch: People of all ages need affection and comforting touch. Babies lacking in this basic need do not thrive emotionally or physically. It is essential that babies receive frequent, enjoyable touch and non-verbal communication. Touch helps children focus and become alert. It relaxes them so they feel secure to explore and it builds a sense of competence and power.
Language: The brain is designed to learn a language system. So wrap your child in a blanket of caring, meaningful, and responsive language. Talk with your baby continually when feeding, diapering, bathing or playing. Ask questions and explain what is happening and what they see. Read to your baby. It doesn’t matter much what you read, but that you read regularly.
Sensory experiences: Babies love to taste and touch. It is another way they learn about the world. Expose them regularly to new smells, textures, tastes and sounds. Play a variety of music, listen to wind chimes, and better yet, sing to your baby. Let them explore safely outdoors. Soft grass on bare feet feels good. Leaves can be soft or crunchy. Dirt has its own smell and feel. Encourage sand and water play. Have fun but remember-what goes in their hand will soon go in their mouth!
Engaged Play: Babies love nothing better than looking into a loving caregiver’s face. Make eye contact with your child, make funny faces, smile, and play games such as peek-a-boo and patty-cake. Give your baby bright colorful objects to look at. Move objects slowly in front of your baby and allow him to follow them with his eyes. Remember, television does not provide the same stimulation as personal contact. The American Academy of Pediatrics strongly discourages television viewing for children ages two years old or younger, and encourages interactive play.
Remember, you are your baby’s doorway into the world of love and learning. From warm, responsive interactions with caregivers, baby’s develop the skills necessary to ensure a lifetime love of learning!