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