Boost Baby’s Brain Power
Questing fingers. Roving eyes. Interest in everything, even the most prosaic detail of our lives. As I write this article, I’m sitting next to my nearly 9-month-old daughter who is taking a bath. Only a few months ago, I had to do everything for her. Now she sits up and bends over, splashing in the clear water, touching the spout. She talks to herself as she explores shampoo bottles, the shower curtain and her rubber ducky. She is absolutely engaged in learning right now.
We all want our children (or grandchildren, nieces and nephews, etc.) to become intelligent and alert. Babies’ brains triple in size in the first two years! Here are some ideas to help your little one’s brain develop.
Very small babies have limited interaction, but your engaging them is not lost. Talk a lot—your voice will help them begin to piece together speech patterns. Smile at them—you’ll be teaching your babies to decipher the intricacies of social interactions. Cuddle them—you’re creating a sure sense of safety that will help them succeed in life.
Once babies start to interact, the fun intensifies! When they begin to notice the world around them, everything becomes an adventure—from the doorstop to the drawer pulls to the toilet seat. While it can be draining to us as caregivers sometimes, this exploration is essential to brain development and has been linked to attention span in later life.
But even crawling around the house exploring can get old for little ones. When spoons, chair legs and picking up raisins doesn’t hold your little one’s interest any more, try these tips for engaging that fast-growing brain!
Go for a walk. Getting outside changes the stimuli. Most babies love feeling the breeze on their soft cheeks, chattering at animals and touching flowers. Try pointing things out as you walk and naming them. You’ll be helping your little one figure out the world.
Teach your baby to smell. This is an often overlooked sense, but a powerful one. We give our daughter basil, espresso and cinnamon to smell. She loves it! Anything with a strong odor is a good stimulus. Name the smell for your little one and watch that little nose sniff!
Keep a wide variety of music playing. Our baby loves sludge metal, but she also dances to Gershwin, sings along with the Cure, listens silently to Adele and falls asleep with Tori Amos. She has her favorite songs and is starting to dance. In fact, lately I can’t even sing her a lullaby, because she wakes up and tries to sing along!
Let your baby have intentional sensory play. Frozen corn or peas, rice in a dish, water in a sink—touching all kinds of textures and substances is essential to helping babies figure out the world. If you can handle the mess, letting them play with their food is an excellent way to create more interest in it, as well as an opportunity to have fun. Sometimes the only way my daughter will eat squash is when she can mash it around and put it in her mouth herself.
Narrate your day. Babies spoken to a lot have slightly higher IQ scores and excel in reading and writing activities when they are older. It may seem silly to you, but the more you talk to your baby, the more he or she will learn how language, emotion and relationships work. Speak your thoughts out loud, narrate your cooking project, discuss your work. Your baby may not understand the words themselves, but he or she will certainly get the meaning behind them.
Make faces! You will teach your baby how to read facial and body expressions, which is essential for later life. Human interaction is important for babies to grow strong and healthy and be able to learn well.
As long as their basic needs are taken care of (food, shelter, clothing, affection) babies will learn from anything. Use your creativity and allow yourself to truly enjoy being with your babe. By offering many kinds of stimuli, as well as peace when the stimulus becomes too much, you can help your little one’s brain develop and have fun doing it.
Kansas City writer Emily McIntyre enjoys activities that boost her daughter’s brain power.