Outdated brain development research from the 1980's and 1990's has been used to encourage parents and caregivers to "build smarter babies" with early reading programs and Baby Einstein videos. Current research shows that in young brains, social and emotional development has priority over cognitive development. Children need a strong foundation of social and emotional experiences to develop into healthy, resilient, and successful lifelong learners.
The earliest years (0-3) are the time of fast and furious brain growth.
To support that growth in ways that have long term benefits for academics and personal well-being, include these activities in your daily routine:
- Talk to baby face-to-face. Tell him or her about how you are interacting with the world, with the things and people in it. Tell him or her about things that are interesting to you, things you find delightful. When he or she responds with wide-eyed interest and smiles at your words, acknowledge his or her response and keep on talking.
- Read to baby. Find good children’s books that you enjoy reading the first time and will enjoy just as much when you have read them for the umpteenth time. (Books like that ARE out there!!)
- Sing to baby. Singing is language and emotion in one neat package. A wise woman once told me that when we sing to young children, we make powerful emotional memories which can persist over their entire lives. We all remember songs and tunes from our childhood (who can forget the commercials... "you deserve a break, today”... from McDonald's). Singing to a baby is even stronger. When you see a burly 62 year old man listening to “You are My Sunshine” as tears roll down his cheeks, it shows the power of memories as he remembers someone who sang to him, loved him and cherished him 60 years ago.
- Allow baby to play with interesting things in ways that interest them for uninterrupted blocks of time. Through this kind of play, children learn how to learn. They develop focus, attention span, persistence and problem-solving skills.
A brain is built on relationships and experiences.
Talking, reading, singing and playing fill a baby’s mind with “knowledge” that he or she can use to learn language, build concepts, find patterns and understand his or her world. Children will also have the confidence and competence to meet each new developmental stage, embrace challenges and continue to grow and develop.