They have ten little fingers, ten tiny toes and one amazing brain! As parents, we find ourselves bombarded with tips on how to make our baby the smartest, healthiest, most polite, most creative, best kid around. We are told what they should eat, what they shouldn’t eat, which toys to buy, what to listen to, what they should watch, and so much more. All of this information is important and as parents we are responsible for sifting through the hype and determining the very best for our bundle of joy. However, research and experience seem to clearly point in one direction- relationships. Children learn when they are loved. Interaction with caring adults is at the core of baby brain development.
Isn’t it wonderful that what babies need most is both free and fun for the parents?
Language Development: Science has shown us that an infant brain makes connections and sounds based on what he or she is hearing. As you talk, sing and coo, you are allowing your baby’s brain to connect and decode the sounds that will become their language.
Tell your baby what you are doing (“I’m changing your diaper now”) to allow them to connect words with what is happening in their world.
Sign language also allows your child to communicate successfully with others at a younger age which causes language to develop more quickly.
Cognitive Development: Babies spend their day figuring out how the world around them works. Children do not need special toys to stimulate brain development. Skip the expensive toys and stop at the library. Reading aloud stimulates brain development. Children need to explore.
Make a funny face or copy the ones your baby is making. If they stick out their tongue, stick yours out.
Turn off that TV and allow your baby to have quiet time to explore. Give your baby new experiences by taking them out and about. Let the grass tickle their toes. Hide a toy and let your child find it.
Social and Emotional Development: We all want our kids to be polite and social members of the community. To develop this in your child chat back and forth with them to allow them to practice the art of conversation and taking turns. Social interaction speeds learning at all ages so value these moments. Babies use the facial expressions of adults to help them decide how to feel in specific situations. Enjoy those snuggles because touch releases important hormones that help an infant grow and develop. Give your child opportunities to look at photos and hang photos of people who love baby on the wall.
Be conscious of maximizing the amount of time you spend face to face with your baby. Eye contact is important and children love to gaze into the eyes of a loving parent or caregiver.
Fine Motor Development: Interaction with caring adults is typically what motivates young children to try new things, especially things that are challenging like fine motor activities. While you smile and laugh with your child hand them small things to pick up, allow them to squeeze your finger, encourage them as they use the “pinching” fingers to pick up items. The muscles that start with things like picking up a toy or completing a puzzle later become the ones used for writing and other important learning tasks.
Gross Motor Development: For young infants, the only playground they need is you! Let your child climb on you, hop on your legs, pull on your hands and gently bounce on your lap. These activities improve coordination and strengthen muscles while your little one feels the most safe and confident.
Choose care arrangements for your child that ensure positive interactions throughout the day. Ask to see plans for activities and learning and read them to be sure that the day is spent face to face with learning and fun. Most importantly, while you are with your baby enjoy playing!
To find out more about Lutheran Social Services Childcare and Education Services including the Infant/Toddler Enrichment Program, visit http://www.lsssd.org/children_services/childcare_and_education/
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