20 Baby Brain Boosters
Did you know: At birth, your baby has more than a 100 billion brain cells? As she grows these cells form connections that impact your child’s thinking, emotion and behaviour. That's how your baby grows and develops. You can help these connections form and boost your child's brain power by providing the right stimulation.
And how can you stimulate your baby's brain? Through play, ofcourse! Playtime is more than just fun and games. While playing, your little one’s brain is working hard to solve problems. By banging on pots and pans, playing house and reading, your child is able to figure things out. Kids explore what they can do with their bodies to make something happen and begin to understand how the world works. So, enrich your child's experience and boost baby's development. Here are a few tips to keep the wheels in her head turning.
- Point and tell. This activity allows kids to figure out how words and objects are related. It also helps your child to communicate before he has learned to talk. You can start playing this game any time, but your baby won't join in until he's 3 or 4 months old. At first, your baby will probably look at you when you point. Here's how to do it:
Ask, "Where's your nose?" then point and say, "There it is!" Repeat this a few times before moving on to the other features. You can also take your child's hand and point in the direction you want. Say, “Look at that bus.” Research shows that pointing at the object while saying the word boosts language development. Without pointing the word may hold no meaning for your baby.
- Go explore. Going to the supermarket or the grocery store may seem like a mundane task to you but for your baby it provides a rich sensory experience. Your little one gets an exposure to new faces, sounds and smells. Regular stimulation combined with a certain amount of predictability works very well. So once it’s safe to take your baby outdoors, take your child to the grocery store on a regular basis.
- Try peek-a-boo. Once your baby is 4 to 5 months old, she’ll be ready to play the classic game of peek-a-boo in which you hide by covering your face with your hands and then pop up from behind. This game helps your child learn all about object permanence. Initially, an infant doesn’t realize that things continue to exist even when they are out of sight. So your child enjoys a little surprise–you disappear and then reappear! Your baby will smile when you reveal your face. Soon, however, she will be able to predict where you are and try to move your hands when you hide. By 9 months, your little one will be ready to play along and she will follow your lead. She’ll try to hide and giggle when she makes eye contact.
- Turn off the TV. Research from the University of Massachusetts found that when the TV is on adults spend about 20% less time talking to their kids. Moreover, even educational TV programs are not very intellectually stimulating. Parents need to make such programmes interactive in order for them to be beneficial. Engage your child by repeatedly asking him what is going on in the programme, and other relevant questions.
- Narrate everything. Researchshows that the more exposure a child has to spoken language from birth to age 3, the better. So even while you’re attempting a diaper change make sure you narrate the process to your baby right from the day she is born. Experts say that there is a correlation between the number of words a child hears as a baby and her verbal IQ. Also, pay attention to the tone of your voice. A high pitch exaggerates the vowels and makes each sound more distinct. For instance, “Hiiiii!” and “baaaabyy.” This helps your child to imitate the sounds better. Be sure to respond to your baby’sattempt at communication. For instance, you can say, “Oh, do you want the big red truck?” Read more about your role in your child's language development.
- Grab a book. Reading increases your child’s memory, vocabulary and attention span. Rhyming books encourage pattern recognition. As your child grows older, she'll start anticipating the next word. If you pause near the end of a rhyme she’ll be able to fill in the blank. That's a sign her cognitive recognition (the ability to remember, process and adapt) is increasing. On the other hand, photo books are great for object recognition.
- Get more out of bath time. The bath tub is a great place to learn basic science. While kids, as young as 1-year-olds, are splashing around they learn the concept of sink or float. Get your child to experiment: Ask your little one whether his rubber ducky will float.
- Keep it simple. Stacking rings and simple puzzles teach 2- to 3-year-olds about problem solving. Your child will enjoy a sense of accomplishment with these activities and search for new challenges. There’s more that your child can do with classic blocks and rings than with more sophisticated toys that can perform only one or two tasks.
- Participate in pretend play. Your 2-year-oldis ready to be a pilot. Pretend play boosts important life skills – planning, problem solving and empathy. When your child plays the role of a pilot, doctor or teacher she is putting herself into another person’s shoes and working her brain to find solutions to unusual situations. She’s also planning to set up the stage for her role playing. The more work the better! Similarly, while using a block as a bus or a sandwich your toddler boosts her creative skills and imagination. If she asks you to participate as an assistant, support her with a variety of words to build her vocabulary. This aids language development.
- Breastfeed your baby up to 1 year of age, if possible. Research shows that kids who were breastfed as babies outperform the formula-fed ones on mental-development tests. Breast milk contains the brain-boosting fatty acid DHA which is effective in increasing baby’s cognitive skills.
- Make some noise. Provide 6- to 9-month-olds with toys that produce sounds whenever touched (rattle, bells, xylophone). Your baby will learn about cause and effect when he hits a toy and gets to hear a sound.
- Encourage touch and feel. Give your little one clean objects with different textures and patterns (such as cotton sheets, woolen blankets, satin quilts, cotton towels) to stimulate her senses. Talk her through the experience. (Ideal for 6- to 9-month-olds.)
- Explore materials. Allow your baby to use different materials, under supervision. For instance, let the little explorer learn how a wooden spoon is different from a metal one. Test to see what sort of sound these spoons create when used to strike a tin vessel. (Ideal for 6- to 9-month-olds.)
- Build some; break some. Let himbuild block towers and knock them down to study cause and effect.
- Play hide-and-seek. Partially hide an object under a blanket or a spoon in daddy’s pocket and ask your 9-month-old where it is. This encourages a lesson in object permanence i.e. objects continue to exist even when they can’t be seen. At around this age your child will be able to pull out the toy or the spoon.
- Love your baby. Once your baby is confident that you're there to meet her needs she'll go forth and explore on her own. So cuddle her often and make plenty of eye contact. The desire to communicate and connect motivates kids to learn to talk. So build that bond of love.
- Play some music, Mom. Researchers at McMaster University have discovered that very early musical training benefits children even before they can walk or talk. They found that 1-year-old babies who participate in interactive music classes with their parents smile more, communicate better and show earlier and more sophisticated brain responses to music. Rhythm and melody can help spark memory, language skills and reasoning ability.
- Involve 2- to 4-year-olds in everyday chores. You can teach basic mathematics (comparing, contrasting, quantifying) through everyday examples. Ask your toddler to categorize his stuffed toys by type (cats, bears, and so on). Let him separate his socks from yours when you do the laundry. Show him jars of pulses or grains and ask him which has more and which ones you need to shop for.
- Children of all ages need enough zzzzs. While night time sleep definitely has its benefits, research shows that daytime sleep can make a significant difference too. A University of Arizona study found that 15-month-olds who napped were able to absorb information they’d been given earlier and apply it to a new situation. The non-nappers hadn’t retained any information during the study.
- Don’t overdo it. Too much play can do more harm than good. If your child’s brain feels stressed then it won’t be able to make the connections and grow. So, remember to keep learning fun and relaxed. If your child gives you a sign that she would rather not play anymore, give her a breather.
P.S: Make sure you hand over only age-appropriate toys to your child. It is not safe for kids under 3 years of age to play with objects with removable or small parts.
What's your child's favourite game and how does it help her develop? Drop us a line in the comment box below with your child's name and age.