A brain is an amazing thing. It is our command center and creator of our complex thoughts. Our brain contains more than 100 billion microscopic cells called neurons that communicate in trillions of connections called synapses.
The cerebrum takes up 80 percent of our brain, and sits up front and center. It has four major lobes, divided into two halves, the right and left hemisphere. The right hemisphere controls motor functions on the left side of the body, while the left controls the right. The left hemisphere is associated with analytical thought, planning and detail oriented perception, while the left is associated with emotional thought, creativity and intuition. Often one is more dominant than the other. The frontal lobes which are the biggest are located up front and don’t fully develop until adulthood.
Your child’s little cranium contains billions of brain cells eager to perform and develop the connections and pathways necessary for everything that child will achieve: reasoning, planning, creativity, adaptability, movement, speaking, emotional response and social awareness. Genetics will help determine what kind of brain we are born with, but early experiences in childhood play a crucial role in the development of brain architecture and function.
Something as simple, but as powerful as loving contact can be essential. When a child gets that all-important nurturing care early on, the young brain develops at an astonishing rate.
The first few years of a human’s life are crucial for setting the foundation for adulthood. A baby’s brain activity is exploding during their first few months. It is noted that as many as 1 million new neural connections are formed every second! In fact, doctors now conclude that 60% of a baby’s metabolic energy goes into brain development (adults only use about 25-30%), and there are things we can do as parents to help:
Responsive care: Watching and tuning into your child’s cues, understanding what they might mean, and responding to them increases the likelihood that infants will achieve cognitive-language, physical-motor, and social-emotional milestones, e.g., Understanding your infant’s verbal (cries, coos, goos, gurgles, babbles, chuckles) and nonverbal (smiling, frowning, pointing, waving, holding up arms to be held).
Touch: Human touch is crucial at this stage. The infant relaxes and feels safe. When an infant is held and stroked, the brain releases critical hormones that spur growth, e.g., hugging, baby wearing, and baby massage.
Communication: Talking with your baby about what you are doing with specialized attention helps with cognitive-language and an understanding of their world, e.g., “Kili, I think you need your diaper changed; you sound like you are uncomfortable. Let’s go to the diaper-changing table.”
Playing, Reading & Singing: Playing games that involve hands, and/or singing, and reading to your baby help engage your infant, capture her attention, and stimulate new pathways in her brain, e.g., activities like patty-cake, peekaboo, this little piggy, flip books or even puppets.
Sleep: Sleep especially in the initial ‘theta stage’ is great for brain development. If you can find their natural napping pattern during the day and eating pattern during the night, working together this can help your infant get the well-deserved rest they need.