You want the best for your baby. You want to help your baby to become the smart, capable little learner you know he or she is.
The best influence on learning and brain development is not the newest toy or electronics — it’s time and attention from you.
Nurture your baby, nurture their brain
There are two main components to healthy brain development:
- Trust: Respond to your baby’s needs, and let your baby know you are there. This is the foundation of your baby learning trust. This sense of trust lowers your baby’s stress response hormones. When baby trusts the environment, he or she feels free to explore more.
- Responsiveness: Pay attention to your baby’s cries, cues, babbles and smiles. Show your baby you care with eye contact, words and touch. Don’t miss your baby’s attempts to engage because you are on your phone or computer. Over time, these missed opportunities for interaction can have a negative impact on brain development. (Neglect is the most common form of child abuse.)
Communication: It’s a dance
Make it a goal to interact with your baby — during diaper changes, feedings or free play. Make routines come alive through:
- Expression: Mimic your baby’s expressions by making the same facial expressions back to him or her. Provide back and forth play to help your baby learn the communication dance.
- Touch: Interact with your baby through soft touches to baby’s tummy and legs while changing a diaper or by rubbing your baby’s arms with lotion. To gain more ideas on how you can incorporate massage into your routine, attend an Infant Massage Class with baby.
- Sound: Repeat words or noises as you and your baby “communicate” back and forth.
More ways to play
Activities that engage your baby’s brain development include:
- Reading: During reading time, make eye contact; babble back to your baby’s babbles.
- Singing: Do simple actions while singing a song. Laugh with your baby as you sing.
- Playing games: Play peek-a-boo or try putting a toy behind your back; ask your baby to find it. Enjoy the search and find game together.
The back-and-forth communication between you and your baby is critical to healthy brain development.
Yes, the best toy for your baby is you.