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Facts for Families
Building Baby’s Brain
February 27, 2019
Extension Educator, Family Life
By Cheri Burcham, Family Life Educator
The complexity of the human brain is nothing short of amazing. The changes which occur in a baby's brain are significant from the time of conception to three years of age. As a caregiver of a baby, it is your goal to support healthy brain development. Extension Educator Susan Sloop gives us a few suggestions to help:
· Respond promptly when your baby cries. Soothe, nurture, cuddle, and reassure him so that you build positive brain circuitry in the brain. Your calm holding and cuddling, and your day-to-day engagement with your baby, signal emotional security to the brain.
· Build trust by being attentive and focused. Babies who are securely attached to you emotionally will engage in exploration, learning, and discovery. Respond clearly to your baby's actions. A developing brain learns to make sense of the world if you respond to your child's behavior. Be consistent in your responses to your baby.
· Use body massage to decrease stress and enhance feelings of well-being and emotional security. Loving touches promote growth in babies. Research has shown that premature babies who are massaged three times daily are ready to leave the hospital days earlier than babies who do not.
· Respond to infant coos with delighted vocalizations. Slowly draw out your syllables in a high-pitched voice as you exclaim, "Pretty baby!" The areas in the brain for understanding speech and producing language need your rich input. When you provide loving, language-enriched experiences for your baby, you are giving his brain's neural connections and pathways more chances to become wired together. In turn, he will acquire rich language, reasoning, and planning skills.
· Be attentive. When your baby points, be sure to follow with your gaze and remark on items or events of interest to her. This "joint attention" confirms for your baby how important her interests and observations are to you. Express joy and interest in your baby.
· Play games, such as patty-cake and peekaboo. Babies respond well to learning simple sequential games and simple movements. Choose developmentally appropriate toys that allow babies to explore and interact. Toys such as a windup jack-in-the-box or stackable blocks help your baby learn cause-and-effect relationships and reasoning.
· Set up a safe environment for your crawling baby or toddler. Spatial learning is important, and your mobile child will begin to understand parameters such as under, over, near, and far. He will be able to establish mental maps of his environment and a comfortable relationship with the world in which he lives.
· Sing songs such as "Itsy Bitsy Spider" and "Ring-Around-the-Rosy." The body motions and finger play will help your baby integrate sounds with large and small motor actions. Songs also enhance your child's learning of rhythms, rhymes, and language patterns.
Take time and enjoy your interactions with your baby. You may be pleasantly surprised to find that it is good for your brain too!!
Here are some links to more information regarding your baby's brain development.
For more information on University of Illinois Unit 19 programming and to read more helpful articles, visit our website at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/ccdms/index.html or call us at (217)345-7034. Also visit the Family Files Blog at http://web.extension.illinois.edu/hkmw/eb380/