In the first years of your baby’s life, the brain is busy building its wiring system. Activity in the brain creates tiny electrical connections called synapses. The amount of stimulation your baby receives has a direct affect on how many synapses are formed. Repetitive stimulation strengthens these connections and makes them permanent, whereas young connections that don’t get used eventually die out.
These first years are a very important and pivotal time for a developing young brain. This intense period of brain growth and network building happens only once in a lifetime. We as parents have a brief but golden opportunity to help our babies stimulate the formation of brain circuitry. Here are some fascinating facts that researchers have discovered:
- Babies have a biological need and desire to learn
- The foundational networking of the brain’s synapses is nearly complete after the rapid brain development of the first 3 years
- The more stimulating experiences you can give your baby means the more circuitry that is built for enhanced learning in the future.
- Babies have a definite preference for high contrast images.
- The amount of connections in the brain can increase or decrease by 25 percent depending on the environment and stimulation.
- Visual stimulation can produce developmental advantages including enhanced curiosity, attentiveness and concentration.
- Your baby’s best toy is you! Interact with your baby as much as possible!
Things you can do to stimulate your baby:
- Love. First of all, remember love and affection are very real needs. Your baby is never tyring to manipulate or control you, he/she simply has a biological need for your love. This unconditional love also creates a strong self-esteem and increased development of brain circuitry.
- Talk to your baby, often with a kind voice, a wide range of vocabulary, and a lot of expression. Your voice is her favorite sound (he/she has heard it since before she was born).
- Respond to your babies requests (interpreted cries)without hesitation. This teaches her that she can communicate with other people and gives her a stong sense of trust and emotional stability.
- Touch your baby. Researchers discovered that premature infants that were massaged grew faster, cried less, and were released earlier from the hospital than those who weren’t.
- Encourage imitation. Your baby is constantly analyzing you and figuring out ways to mimic your voice and facial expressions.
- Let you baby experience different surroundings: go for walks, take her places, show her sites!
- Let your baby explore different textures and temperatures (not too extreme, of course). Provide a safe environment for your baby to explore. She also needs time to discover things for herself.
- Read books: even though your baby can’t follow the story, he/she loves the pictures and the sound of your voice.
- Play music for your baby
- When you get frustrated because your baby keeps dripping objects or pours the box of cereal on the floor, remember, he/she is trying to figure out how the world operates.