Even before your baby is born, he already has the 10,000 billion brain cells that he will ever need through his life. The connecting links of these cells grow at a tremendous rate during the first few months of your baby’s life.
This growth is partly stimulated by the activity of nerve pathways leading to the brain. The more stimuli your baby receive from his senses, the more nerve pathway activities occur, the more connections are created among brain cells. This helps build his brain, and the more connections mean a smarter kid.
Because your baby’s brain is still developing, it has a remarkable ability to form new neural connections — known as plasticity. The older your baby gets, the less plastic his brain is.
At this early age, your baby’s genes, together with his experience with the outside world, form his temperament and personality that will determine how and how well he will learn as he grows.
Indeed, brain research in the last few years have shown that the time of life that shapes adulthood the most is pregnancy through age 2 or 3.
Here are tips on how to help your baby develop his or her intelligence:
- Building your baby’s brain starts when he is still a fetus, or when you are still pregnant. Avoid substances known to be harmful to your baby’s brain development, and get adequate nutrition that benefits your baby’s brain development like folic acid and fish oil.
- You are part of your kid’s brain development. When your child feels safe & secure, he is building his brain. Also the activities that you enjoy most with your kid like talking, playing, cuddling, singing do most for his brain development. When you show love and care for your baby, you are making him smart.
- If possible, breastfeed your baby to make sure he gets brain-building nutrition, as well as provide him the loving bond he needs to feel safe.
- Don’t let your baby “cry it out”. Stress fills your baby’s brain with toxins that kill neurons.
- Do baby activities and play with your baby in a way that will stimulate her brain and senses. Play games with your baby to build a foundation for her math skills
- Read to your baby. He may not understand the words, but your loving voice and the visual stimulation helps make reading a pleasurable experience for him as he grows up.
- Each baby is unique. Although most kids follow the same developmental path, some go through a stage faster than others. Many kids exhibit uneven mental and physical progress.
- Your newborn is dependent on you for everything. Get to know him as much as you can by spending time with him. Know his temperament – is he outgoing, shy, or sensitive to touch? Learn what he likes and what upsets him. Your being able to respond to your kid appropriately helps him to feel safe and secure.
- What kids want most are not toys but your attention and time. It is not enough to be in the same room – you have to hold your kid, talk to him, and build a strong relationship.
- Your baby needs a lot of physical contact. You cannot spoil your kid in his first year by giving him a lot of what he needs – like hugs. You cannot spoil your baby by responding to him quickly. Distressed babies who gets parents attention learn to sooth themselves faster than those who do not.
- Talk to your baby. A 1995 study found that a child’s academic success and intelligence is linked strongly with the number of words he heard when he was a baby. Also, babies in affluent households hear 30 million more words by age 3 than poor children do. A study published in Pedriatrics also finds that moms talk three times more than dads. Betty Vohr, the researcher, suggests that dads should speak up more to benefit babies’ intelligence.
- When you talk, sing, show things, or let your baby touch objects, you are laying the foundation for his language development. Your baby’s listening and talking back is his way of relating.
- When talking to your baby, pretend to understand what she says – How you speak to your baby may be as important to her language development as how often you do it, according to researchers from the University of Iowa and Indiana University.
- Poverty can slow a child’s brain development, but raising your kid with love and affection can even help him overcome poverty and other social disadvantages.
- A baby’s room should be a place where he can sleep, as well as play, grow, and learn. Keep the room exactly the same for a least the first year. This way, your child feels safe and “at home”. At the same time, he is able to move around and discover new things with each developmental stage.
- According to a 2015 study published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, napping after learning during the day may help babies retain information over time.
- Give your baby smart toys. These are toys that stimulate and build his brain. Apps from tablets and smartphones can be effective educational toys, but it is best that you play with them with your baby. Machines are not as effective as humans in building your baby’s brains.
- Always remember that real learning is active and not passive. That’s why baby DVD’s and videos, where baby’s are just made to watch passively, do not work, and in fact may even make kids dumber.
- Use the element of surprise to help your baby learn – According to a study from John Hopkins University, babies are more interested in exploring when they encounter unexpected situations, and will test, poke or bang at objects to explain the unexpected. Feed your baby’s love of learning by showing him novel objects or familiar objects in unexpected ways. Let him investigate the object to satisfy his craving to learn something new.
- Ronald Ferguson, the director of Achievement Gap Initiative created five simple strategies for parents of children ages 0 to 3 to support early childhood development, namely:
- Maximize loving responsiveness and minimize stress
- Talk, sing and gesture a lot
- Use number games and rhythm
- Enable and encourage three-dimensional competencies, and
- Cultivate a love of learning
- Teaching babies to read may not be the best idea to give her a head start in literacy. Read books to her, talk to, and play with her instead.
- In taking care of your baby, it is a good thing for you to have the support of other parents and share experiences with them – in the community center or in the forum of baby web sites. Being with other children is good for your baby too.