Brain development begins shortly after conception and continues throughout adolescence and it does not stop there, because as new neuroscience studies show, the brain grows constantly, even in young adulthood.
As we age, unused neurons disappear. The good news is that the brain has the ability to learn and adapt, a phenomenon known as neuroplasticity. This feature or, rather, brain’s ability to reorganize its neurons so that new neural connections can be formed, is beneficial for learning, for acquiring new knowledge and effective for spiritual and cultural development.
In infancy, the brain is even more complex and a sophisticated organ that develops at an astonishing speed. The neuroplasticity of the brain is so great that a baby can easily switch from one emotional state to another. That may be because a baby’s brain forms 700 new neural connections per second in his first years of life.
In this process of building the brain, early experiences can have a profound influence on the structure of the brain and neural connections, which will subsequently become the foundation for future learning, health and behaviour.
Although genes outline the formation of neural cells, they are highly reinforced by the interaction between the baby and the parents.
Early stimulation of the brain: the most promising strategy
A baby’s brain develops under the impetus of many factors, but the determinant factor is the communication with adults and how they respond to baby’s needs (remember that a baby is adapting to a new lifestyle out of the womb and s/he learns about hunger, loneliness, fatigue, discomfort, etc. ).
Thus, a responsive caregiving will be favourable for the development of cognitive-linguistic, emotional and social skills.
- Respond Promptly When The Baby Cries
“Any form of distracting the child from crying will be seen by him as a form of emotional abandonment. Children need to be around people who listen to them and participate in their manifestations of anger, pain, fear. ” John Bowlby, psychoanalyst
If you pay close attention to your baby’ cry, you will be able to identify her/his needs as each cry has a distinguishable tonality. For instance, when the baby is hungry, the cry is short, it rises and falls. On the other hand, a cry of discomfort or distress is usually sudden, loud and long. Contrary to the common belief, responding to a baby’s cry does not spoil him/her. Reassurance and attention signal emotional security to the brain and build positive neural circuity.
Thus, when the baby cries try to soothe, nurture and cuddle him/her.
2. Build Trust and Social Skills by Being Attentive and Involved
“A person’s attachment status is a fundamental determinant of their relationships, and this is reflected in the way they feel about themselves and others. Neurotic patterns can be seen as originating here because, where core attachments are problematic, they will have a powerful influence on the way someone sees the world and their behaviour. Where there is a secure core state, a person feels good about themselves and their capacity to be effective and pursue their projects. Where the core state is insecure, defensive strategies come into play.” John Bowlby-psychoanalyst
Babies who are emotionally secure and attached to you will engage in exploration and learning. The best way to create a harmonious connection between you and your child is through games. Although children see games as a source of pleasure, fun activities have a deep impact on his/her personality and skills. Your key role as a parent is to respond clearly to your baby’s actions during games as a developing brain learns to make sense of the world and the baby needs a response to his/her behaviour.
Thus, the more s/he plays, the stronger the confidence in her/his abilities are.
3. Develop Creativity & Cognitive Skills Through Play Games
Speaking of games, babies respond well to learning simple sequential movements. Choose age-appropriate toys that allow the baby to explore and interact. For example, toys such as windup jack-in-the-box or stackable blocks can help the baby learn about cause-and-effect reasoning.
4. Body Massage
Babies can get easily frustrated and irritated when they try to learn about their surroundings and as such, sometimes they may cry in order to let off steam. Nevertheless, you can use body massage to decrease stress and enhance feelings of well-being. Additionally, regular, gentle and lovely strokes will improve baby’s circulation, sleep and digestion.
*Ensure that you use appropriate and safe, moisturising body oil. It will not only help your hands glide smoothly over baby’s skin, but it will also prevent skin irritation.
5. Sing Songs
It is demonstrated that music has a positive influence on children’s cognitive development, memory, and the social connection with other children of their age and beyond. The simplicity and rhythms of traditional lullabies are essential in training the brain for language, communication and spatial reasoning, meaning that singing to a baby enhances the development of both brain hemispheres.
It is also recommendable that parents encourage their children to participate in musical activities or learn to play an instrument. For instance, research data suggests that studying an instrument or vocal singing can develop self-esteem while stimulating complex actions of movement coordination and sustains concentration. Piano, guitar or violin singing, for example, contributes to the use of areas of the brain that are not normally used in day-to-day activities.
Although there is no perfect way to be a parent, the key is to recognize your baby’s needs, personality and create a safe environment that will promote his/her growth.