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4 ways to stimulate your baby's brain

Babies soak up information from the moment they are born. Most of that information comes from parents. For babies, everyday activities are the most fertile ground for learning and development.

In the months since your baby was born, you may have wondered what's going on in his or her head. The answer: a lot.

The brain is very impressionable early in life, far more so than in adulthood. During the first three years of life, the brain grows and develops a lot, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). This rapid period of brain development makes it easy for a child to learn new skills such as language—or even a second language.

How parents can make a difference

During this time of early life, a child's basic ways of thinking, responding and solving problems are established. This means that how you interact with your child will affect how he or she develops.

The AAP offers the following tips for encouraging brain development during your child's first years:

1. Give attention. Who can resist hugging and kissing a little one? You may think you're simply getting your baby fix. But you're actually helping your child when you show affection. Babies thrive when they get warm, responsive early care. It plays a large role in healthy development.

2. Talk to your baby. Some people think that talking to an infant or a small child who can't speak is silly. This notion is far from the truth. Talking to your baby helps him or her to develop language skills. Not sure what to say? Try talking about where you're going while driving in the car. Or discuss how your day went while feeding your little one. Reading to your baby is also a great way to help with language.

3. Encourage independence. You can practice life skills with your baby by encouraging the baby to do certain tasks on his or her own. For example, encourage self-feeding with a spoon or fingers at mealtime. Or let the child take the lead in dressing and undressing. Perhaps you could ask your little one to help you put toys away. Your child probably won't do everything perfectly at first, but be patient. Eventually he or she will get it right. Remember, even when your child doesn't do a task the right way, he or she is learning from the experience.

4. Set a good example. Babies learn by watching the people around them. When you do something, your child will try to copy you. Babies will also look at how their older siblings play and then try to play the same way. That's why it's important for everyone to be loving and respectful at home.

Keep perspective

The above tips are important and helpful. But don't get so caught up in trying to help your baby's mental development that you end up pushing too hard. And remember, there are no tricks or shortcuts to help make your child's brain develop more quickly. Talking and listening to your child, along with sensitive, responsive caregiving, are the best ways for you to help your child develop successfully.

Reviewed 1/31/2024

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