Did you know that 80% of a person’s brain develops by age 3? At birth, a baby’s brain has 100 billion neurons and will grow trillions of brain cell connections known as neural synapses during their first year. Like muscles, any neurons that are not used are lost, which is why it’s crucial to trigger neural synapses through stimulation from the word go.
The rule of the brain is that the more you use it, the more neural connections get formed and this is what boosts brain power. These simple activities will help boost your child’s neurological wiring and also enhance the bond between you and your baby.
Before we even go to anything advanced, talking to your baby is the simplest yet the most effective way of boosting their brainpower. Children learn words, sounds, and rhythm from the person taking care of them. The more words they hear and pack into their brains, the more its capacity expands. Instead of imitating them with incoherent babbling, use real words, a normal tone, and a lot of facial and physical expressions.
According to Angela Spenser, author of Babyopathy, you should use descriptive language whenever possible. Take every opportunity to explain to the baby what you are doing, what you will do, and describe things and activities. For example, you can say, “this is called a sock. We are going to put it on your feet,” and show them what you are talking about.
One more trick when talking to your baby is using sign language. A study by the University of California shows that babies who learned 20 signs spoke way earlier than those who didn’t. Use your hands and sign language to describe what you are saying.
Research shows that we should start reading to our babies when they are still in the womb and continue this right through their infancy and toddler years. Why is this important? A study in the Journal of Development & Behavioural Pediatrics shows that kids who were read to as infants have a larger vocabulary and more advanced mathematical skills than those who weren’t. In fact, there is a direct correlation between how many words a baby hears a day and their language skills.
As you read to your baby, they are not just listening and holding onto words, they are also watching you as you frown, smile, and make facial expressions, and they mimic those expressions. This helps with brain development. When reading to an infant, choose books with bold colors, huge pictures, animals and try to express yourself as much as you can.
Everybody knows about the mental benefits of being active as a child and also playing brain-provoking games. What most people don’t know is that you should start playing with a baby as soon as they can see, which is around week 2. Start with easy sequential games like peeka-boo and little piggy and observe as your baby absorbs the sequence and the expressions you are making.
You can also use bath time to play using different textures like water, soap, bath towel, and bathing duck. Utilize all these components in your playtime and let the baby touch and release them, even as you describe what each item does. As they grab onto these things and feel the textures, the brain also learns what the eyes see, and the hands feel. They also learn how to coordinate the brain with the hand to see something and go pick it up.
As the child grows a little bigger, let’s say a few months, you can incorporate other toys such as stacking blocks and other colorful stuff that will stimulate the baby’s brain as they try to figure them out.
Few people know about the power of music in brain development. Recent research has shown that babies arrive in this world already prepared to process music the same way they process speech. Unlike speech and language though, music involves many parts of the brain and enhance listening skills, develop intuitive responses and aid in learning vocabulary.
What is most interesting is the fact that music enhances memory and aid in emotional responses. Songs will help your child learn rhythms, rhymes, and language patterns. You can start with simple baby songs like ‘baba black ship’, ‘itsy bitsy spider’ and ‘ring around the rosy’. Use facial and hand expressions as you sing and exaggerate your mouth movements to help them read the words coming from your mouth.
It’s also important to validate the baby’s response to the music with positive reinforcement like clapping and holding their tiny hands as you dance.
All the activities we have discussed are essential in working out the brain cells and boosting neural synapses. However, the process of neural synapses happens when the brain is at rest. It's only when asleep that the brain gets to unpacking everything the baby learned during the day and arranging it in their appropriate places. This is called the active phase of sleep of REM sleep, and babies spend half of their sleep in that phase.
Ensuring that your baby receives enough sleep is one of the most important ways you can boost their brainpower. You can do this by creating a sleep routine where the child gets at least 10 hours of sleep during their first year. You can ensure your baby catches some good sleep by keeping them busy during the day, so they are tired at night. Create a nighttime routine where the physical activities start to die down, and everything goes to relax mode without any more stimulation (even tickling).
A child’s brain is highly pliable and more vulnerable than that of an adult. The upside to this is that you can help it expand to unbelievable levels. On top of the five activities we have mentioned, ensuring the child is eating healthy brain-boosting foods and staying active is also always good.
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