We all want our babies to grow up into self-reliant adults and as parents, we are largely responsible for making that happen.
Understanding how a newborn’s brain works is an important first step if we want to come up with activities to stimulate our child’s mind.
Baby’s brain is made up of billions of brain cells or neurons which work like bridges that make connections. These connections facilitate learning.
About four weeks after conception, the neurons multiply at 250,000 per minute. Some of these neurons, particularly the ones involved in physiological survival functions like breathing, are already wired before the baby is born.
But the connections responsible for learning only begin to form during the first five years of a baby’s life.
The first five years in a baby’s life are therefore very critical and the role we play as parents is equally important in the learning process taking place.
The more you interact and stimulate the baby’s brain during this time, the more connections are created in the baby’s brain.
Here are some activities that you can do with babies and the ways they can help stimulate the brain.
Many of these are simple enough and require little to no props so you can easily include them into your daily routines at home.
1. Hold your baby
Physical touch is a basic human need and this explains why babies love to be held. Hugging and touching the baby also facilitates bonding and improves his or her immune system.
Aside from making the baby feel safe and warm, physical touches are helping them learn about personal boundaries.
Holding and touching lets baby intuitively define their personal space and the space of other people around them.
2. Talk to baby
Talking to your baby will help them learn the basic dynamics of communication and language.
Even with simple coos and babbles, you are helping them develop their vocabulary and setting the foundation for more complex communication.
Research has shown that the number of words a child learns by three years old increases directly proportional to the number of words spoken at home.
3. Play peek-a-boo
Peek-a-boo is one of the surefire ways to make baby giggle and laugh.
Cover your face with the palm of your hands and gently surprise baby when you show him your face.
More than entertaining your little one, this simple game also teaches baby the simple dynamics of cause and effect.
4. Play a memory activity
Simple memory games can help the baby become more observant and sharpen his or her memory skills.
Activities that do this include singing repetitive rhyming songs. You can also show the baby a toy and then ask him or her to find and identify it in a pile of different objects.
5. Read a picture book
Reading is a richly rewarding experience. It not only stimulates the imagination but also helps babies learn about language.
Research has shown that babies as young as 8 months can recognize the word sequences in stories when the story is repeated 2-3 times in a row.
Pick a picture book with big colorful pictures to captivate the baby and keep him or her engaged.
6. Make eye contact
Eye contact is the most basic way that parents can connect with their children.
When you make eye contact, especially when doing other activities with your child, you are letting them experience what researchers call “serve and return.”
Serve and return interactions help pave the way for a baby’s social skills and development.
7. Count objects
Whenever you go out or play with baby, count out loud the objects you see around you.
For example, the next time you play with blocks, count how many blocks baby can stack. Or if you stroll down the street, count the street lights you pass by.
You can also count the baby’s toes and fingers out loud. This simple gesture introduces the baby to counting.
8. Sing to baby
Singing is a great way to introduce babies to the relationship between words and sounds.
Apart from this, the baby also learns to exercise his or her listening skills when you sing a tune. You can also use songs to teach baby new words.
9. Be a human playground
During playtime, lie down on the floor and pretend to be a human playground. Encourage the baby to crawl and climb all over you.
This is not only a fun and playful bonding moment, you are letting baby exercise his or her motor skills, coordination, and problem-solving skills.
10. Make different facial expressions
Show baby a mirror and introduce him or her to the different parts of his or her face. Point to his nose gently and say “nose” and do the same for the eyes, ears, lips, etc.
You can also make different facial expressions that the baby can imitate like smiling or sticking out your tongue. Studies have shown that babies as young as 2 days old can mimic simple facial movements.
This is a good way to teach coordination and different body parts.
There are many fun toys and gadgets out there that promise to help stimulate the baby’s brain. These can be helpful tools but ultimately you are the baby’s most invaluable source of learning.
Constant interaction with your little bundle of joy is the most basic and natural way of letting them learn and experience the world around them.