We don’t often think about brain development in our children. Often we just follow the right steps and our kiddo’s brains develop. Until. Something. Is. Off.
I know. With my first child, I had some brain science under my belt from my education degree. I had a skeletal view of the developmental steps she should go through, but that’s as much as I thought about it. Maybe you’re like me. You’re doing some great things to improve your baby’s brain function. If so, think of this as a cheerleading session. I’m cheering you on! Great job! Maybe you are practicing some of these principles to grow you child’s brain and you are tired of doing the right thing. Maybe you are growing weary. Let me encourage you.
And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. – Galatians 6: 9
The truth is most of the hard work you do to grow your child’s brain, no one sees. Not right now anyway. When you keep practicing the principles that grow your child’s brain, it will grow. You can’t open their brains and check it. Just as when you plant a seed in the ground, you water and wait. You don’t dig up the seed every few days and see if it sprouted. You wait and one day, it pushes a tiny green sprout through the soil. Your kiddos will follow suit. One day, your toddler will sign “more.” One day you child will regulate and use her words. One day, your five year old will recognize her need for a snack. This glimpses of brain growth will happen in bits and spurts. You can’t grow a tree in day, neither can you expect your kiddos brain to mature after a few practiced principles.
While genetics play a role in a developing brain in a newborn, scientists now know that relationships and experience shape the brain.
When an infant is born he has 100 billion neurons just waiting to connect. They are like loose wires flailing around waiting to connect. Think of your middle school science class and the electricity board, you have a light, a battery and a switch. You have to connect all three with wire. Then you flip the switch. You are the wire. Your babies brain already has the light and switch, just waiting to turn on. How do you connect the wires?
Relationship grows the brain.
This is one of the most important parts of brain growth. Relationship has the power to grow the brain. Interactions make the connections. This is why it is so important to engage with your child starting at infancy. The more you interact with your infant in positive ways, the more you grow the brain.
Here are some easy ways to grow an infants brain:
Singing to baby.
Soothing voice of mother.
Being on the shoulder of daddy.
Mother holding baby and gazing into her eyes.
Reading to your infant (you can start in utero).
Singing with and to your infant.
“A well-tended child is fed, cradled, and soothed when she cries from hunger or crankiness. This scene plays out hundreds of times in the first month of life alone. Through this exchange, the baby learns to trust that her needs will be met and that she can rely on people.” – The Connected Child
Repeated experiences also grow the brain.
Whatever the experiences are, that is where the brain will grow. If it is fearful, then the downstairs will grow (more on upstairs and downstairs brain here). If a child is soothed and learns how to talk things through and sort out feelings, the upstairs brain will grow.
This is the Hebbian Principle: What fires together, wires together.
An infant who is fed when hungry regularly expects to be fed every time she is. She develops the belief that her needs will be met.
An infant who is soothed when upset develops the belief that her voice will be heard. She is on her way to healthy emotional intelligence.
An infant who is smiled at, laughed with, spoken to, read to, and sung to (no matter how off key) believes that she is important. She is developing social skills.
The basics of brain development are so basic, they usually come naturally. Maybe they come naturally to you. Think of this post as a booster shot. You are already doing all the right things to enable your infants brain to keep growing -Go YOU!
Want to learn more about this subject? Listen to our latest Podcast, “Baby Intelligence.”