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Boosting Baby's Brain

Your baby’s brain is growing and growing and growing! At birth, her brain is 25% of its adult volume, but by age 3, her brain will have grown to 80% of its full size. Between conception and age three, a child’s brain undergoes an impressive amount of change. At birth, it already has about all of the neurons it will ever have. (Urban Child Institute).

What does this mean for us as parents? Experiences, both positive and negative, affect the way your baby’s brain develops. Your decision to talk, play, read and sing to your baby will increase the firing of the neurons that make important connections within the structure of the brain. New experiences build on what your baby already knows. Bathing, dressing, feeding and diapering all offer opportunities to interact in a positive way with your baby. Using those routines as a foundation; you can easily add to the experience, following your baby’s lead and responding to her cues.

The brain is divided into two distinct sections; the right hemisphere and the left hemisphere. The left part of the brain is the part that desires order, logic &sequence. It is also the side that regulates language, while your right brain is holistic, nonverbal, and emotion driven. The right brain likes the big picture rather than details that the left brain favors.

Babies and very young children can be seen as right brain dominant. That makes sense doesn’t it? Yet it is easy to forget, as our adult brains are integrated and therefore able to use both sides as we go about our daily interactions. Dan Siegel author of the Whole Brain Child tells us that we need to, “integrate the left and the right brain” He further states, “The good news is that by using everyday moments, you can influences how well your child’s brain grows toward integration.”

Parents can do many things to influence the growth of whole brain and the integration of the two hemispheres. First and foremost parents can create routines. Zero to Three, a National Non-Profit Organization states, “Young children thrive on predictability-knowing what to expect. It helps them feel safe and secure, and it helps them learn to anticipate what will come next. This sense of predictability also helps them understand sequences and patterns as they grow which are important for learning language literacy and math skills.” Once routines are established, create time within the day for exploration of new faces, situations and materials and play back and forth games; following your child’s cues: facial expressions, actions and sounds ( words).

Zero to Three also states that parents need to see themselves as the “coach” not the “fixer”. “Children learn through trial and error. Your job is not to solve the problem your child is facing, but to help him develop the problem solving skills that will help him feel confident to master the many challenges he will face as he grows. This process builds brain power and the motivation to learn.”

All early relationships and experiences matter. Parents need to be aware that negative experiences are just as much a factor in the developing brain as positive ones. Donald Hebb PhD. Reminds us, " cells that fire together, wire together." This is especially true in the brain’s critical years of growth ( 0-3).
For more information on your baby’s the developing brain: www.zerotothree.org

Your Baby's First/ Best Toy: You!

You are your child’s first and best toy! Your body is their world; your face, their map. Of course babies have basic needs to be addressed, but beyond those needs they have a drive to learn and develop. Your body feeds them, cares for them and keeps them safe, but your face, voice and interests give them information. Babies smile and coo first with their parents; looking for the response and slowly building on that experience to try the next. Parents are happy to oblige and create a game of their own that the baby responds to as well. This back and forth play between parent (s) and child is essential in the social emotional development of the child and essential too for the brain to make positive connections. It is also what bonds us as a family.

Toys are the instruments of learning. Babies need no other toy at first than their caregivers. We can tune into what our baby likes: our fingers for grasping, our bodies for rocking, swinging and transporting, our voices that sound high pitched and sweet, and our eyes and exaggerated facial expressions. We are mulit- purpose in our ability to entertain and teach our babies. All of these interactions with our baby are part of the learning process that is necessary for development. Therefore, you’re the most important toy your child will ever have.

How to play or interact with your child is not mine to say. Let your own baby’s actions and interests guide you. Each baby is an individual. Allowing him to initiate the play is a wonderful way to learn about your baby and offer him respect in the process. Follow your child’s lead… another concept many professionals recommend, but often is unclear. Observant parents can tell what their baby wants through their behavior, and note when the game is over. Too much stimulation may cause an abrupt change in the quality of the play. Note the change for next time; immature nervous systems need time to accept multiple stimulation.

T Barry Brazleton tells us, “As your try things out, let the baby tell you whether you are right or not. When you’re on the right track, her face will be placid and content, her body will be relaxed and her responses will be organized and predictable. When you are on the wrong track, she’ll be disorganized and unreachable.”
As your child grows, you can introduce toys to enhance the play you have developed. Rattles, ribbons, balls and mirrors are all great additions to his favorite toy, you

About this Blog

The HRC Blog will be a place for sharing information on special topics of interest such as family support, early childhood development, etc. Submit blog entries to Nancy.Spiegel@harborrc.org.

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