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Infant Brain Development

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Dear Debi,
I'm currently caring for my friend's newborn twins. What should I know about infant brain development, and are there specific activities I should be doing with them?
Jill Donaldson
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
Host
  • Every experience impacts brain development
  • Secure attachments & positive interactions promote & strengthen brain development
  • Talking, singing, reading, touching & playing stimulate the brain
Expert Advice
Rosa Arevalo
Rosa Arevalo
Preschool Director
The first few years of life are crucial to brain development because that's when the brain is beginning to really develop and form connections. This early window is important because this is the time when the connections made in the brain will either become permanent, or "fade" away. As long as interactions with kids are repeated, the connections will become stronger and stronger until they're permanent. If interactions with kids are not constant and/or consistent, the connections will not become permanent, but rather fade away. Even though the first few years are so important, it's never too late to provide those critical environments and interactions.

There are specific kinds of things you should do with babies to promote their brain development. Games that involve interaction, such as "Peek-a-boo," are great because they're engaging and are reaction-based. It's important to provide kids with a rich environment, and to give them toys that are developmentally appropriate and that they can explore with. Playing and engaging with kids, talking with them, modeling language, and basically anything that provides constant interaction between you and them.

Probably most important is that adults provide themselves, especially for babies. Babies should be encouraged to experiment and move around their environment. Activities don't have to be complex or expensive, and you don't need all the gimmicks that you see on TV. When they're babies, they really need the constant interaction with the adults in their lives more than they need fancy toys.

When you interact positively with babies, and provide them with a safe environment to learn and explore, they feel safe and secure. It's a protective function. When they're faced with challenges, problems, etc., those attachments help them respond more positively, They feel secure and protected. If they go out and try to interact or problem solve, they know they have a safe place/ person to come back to. When they're in stressful situations, they learn the strategies for managing those stressful situations. It gives them confidence to be able to grow.
Child Care Provider Comments
Sonnia Corzo
Sonnia Corzo
Child care provider for 6 years, mother of four
I have a lot of sensory items around so that infants can explore. I like things that the babies can touch and feel such as tissue paper, blankets, various types of books and things they can put in their mouth. I also like to use lights, music and various sounds.
Cathy Agnew
Cathy Agnew
Cares for her grandchildren, mother of two
Nurturing your baby is very important. If babies sense stress, they are affected. You have to remain calm so that they can feel that energy. Things like soft music will help stimulate their brain.
Bridgette Smith
Bridgette Smith
Mother of two, expecting her third child
With my own baby, we go to some "Mommy and Me" groups. I introduce her to other babies. She loves singing songs. It soothes and quiets her. We also go to the park a lot. She loves the little swings and the seesaw.

Stacking Cups Featured Activity:
Stacking Cups
Infant Brain Development Featured Video:
Infant Brain Development
Topic: Child Development
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Brain Development
Ages & Stages: Birth to 12 Months
Resources
Child Care Aware - Rethinking the Brain
Zero to Three
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
 
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