The Five Most Important Things

The 5 Most Important Things You Can Do to Boost Your Baby’s Brain Power and Build His Learning Foundation Early

- Susan M. Heim

Your baby’s brain is phenomenal! With more than 100 billion neurons, they would stretch for 62,000 miles if laid end-to-end. But most of the connections between these neurons must be established within the first eight months of life so that the foundations for lifelong learning are set in place. Parents are vital players in this complicated process by providing early, positive and rich experiences during baby’s first year. Following are five things you can do to help boost your baby’s brain power!

Hold your baby. You cannot spoil a baby by holding him too much in the first six months of life. Forming an attachment with your newborn baby is the first and most important influence on brain growth. Proper brain development can occur when you meet your baby’s needs for comfort, nourishment and love. If these needs are not met, the resources usually dedicated to brain growth will be used for basic survival. So, keep your baby close and, yes, spoil him!

Read to your baby. It’s never too early to read to your baby! Sharing books with her helps to encourage the development of language skills and promote later literacy. It doesn’t matter if she doesn’t comprehend your words. She’s learning to understand the rhythm of language, acquiring listening skills and lengthening her attention span.

Go face-to-face with your baby. Vision is the least developed sense at birth. A newborn is only able to see about 8-12 inches in front of his face. Studies have shown that babies are fascinated by the human face-its soft contours, dark eyebrows, and different lip and eye colors. A beard or mustache is especially intriguing. And babies look longest at their own mother’s face. So, get in your baby’s face to help him develop good vision!

Introduce your baby to sounds. Talk to your baby throughout the day. Sing silly songs to her and play gentle music. When she gets past the newborn stage, show her how to squeak a toy, pound the floor or jiggle cereal. Introduce her to all of the wonderful sounds in the world for optimal hearing development.

Give plenty of tummy time. All babies should spend supervised time on their tummy to strengthen the muscles in their neck and upper body. One minute of tummy time three times a day is good for a newborn. As your baby grows, you’ll pick up on his cues that tummy time can last longer. Rub his back, talk to him and rattle a toy. Or put baby on your belly and let him look into your face. (Tummy time should always be supervised to avoid the risk of suffocation, and babies should always be put to sleep on their backs.)

By doing these five activities with your baby, you’ll establish a close bond with her, and promote the development of her language and motor skills, vision and hearing. Your baby’s brain will love it!

Adapted from Boosting Your Baby’s Brain Power, by Holly Engel-Smothers and Susan M. Heim (Scottsdale, AZ: Great Potential Press, 2009