Baby learning expert Dr. Jane Williams says babies’ brains grow most rapidly in the first twelve months of life, and this is a critical period for learning.
Research has shown that the correct stimulation for babies can influence how well they behave, read and learn when they reach school, along with improved confidence, communication and social skills.
During this first year the brain grows dramatically, producing billions of cells and hundreds of trillions of connections between these cells. A baby’s brain actually grows 64 percent, reaching over half of its adult size in the first three months.
It is well researched that during the earliest years of life, much of the essential wiring linked to learning is laid down. Paediatrician Dr. Meredith Bayfield says that research into brain development clearly shows a child’s success at school is set in the earliest years of life.
What is not well known is just how much of a dramatic influence parents can have over the number of neural connections made by their baby’s brain, and the resulting strength of their foundations for learning.
There is an enormous amount of brain growth that can go on in the first year if babies are given the opportunity to use their brains.
The human brain grows by use and this growth is practically complete by six years of age. This doesn’t mean we can not learn after this age, it simply means that the quality of learning available to us will depend primarily on the foundations we have acquired in the earlier years.
As the brain grows, there are millions of connections made between the message highways (neurons) that tell the brain about the body and the environment in which the baby is growing. The number of connections made, how strong the connections are and how much information the brain can interpret from the messages will be influenced by several key environmental experiences; movement opportunities, sensory stimulation, emotional security and diet – the biggest difference to the number of resulting connections is made in the first year of a child’s life.
During the first year, brain cells are busy making millions of connections. The connections peak at about one year and in a process called ‘pruning’ they are eliminated if they are not used. The connections that babies regularly use are the ones they keep.
So how can we help a baby to use their brain?
Babies’ brains grow through movement. Introducing the correct movement experiences into your baby’s daily life from the earliest months will have a profound influence on their brain growth and neurological organisation.
Fun movement activities will stimulate intellectual, physical and emotional growth, providing solid foundations for a future of learning, health and happiness.
Babies are born to move and programmed to develop along a specific sequence of physical milestones. It’s a step-by-step process. Each stage provides them with the experiences necessary for the next developmental level of achievement. These milestones correlate with stages of brain development. Alongside the development of movement skills, other key areas of brain development are being stimulated and readied for future learning.
Importantly, we need to remember not to ‘hurry’ a child through the developmental process. The brain needs lots of time, experience and practice to ‘wire up’ every new motor skill it learns. These movements and the quality of the movements within each stage of development will determine the amount of brain growth.
What is of great concern is that babies of today can have reduced opportunities to move, play and develop and this can severely impact their developing brain. One of the issues contributing to this is the over use of ‘containers’ into which babies can be placed.
The Correct Movement Experiences
The correct early-movement experiences are easy, natural and fun and any parent can do them with their baby. Parents are a child’s first and most important teacher – for the most part, the right kinds of movement opportunities involve good old-fashioned one-on-one parent/carer and baby interaction. Some of these include:
Tummy Time: On their tummies babies will develop neck, back, arm, leg and eye muscles that enables them to gain control over their body movements, which is so important for brain development. See our free Tummy Time video here.
Baby Massage: Massage and touch have positive effects on babies’ brains and bodies, as well as ensuring they form secure attachments essential for healthy emotional development. See our free Baby Massage video here.
Baby Exercises: These are fantastic for stimulating the pathways in the brain that form the foundations for physical competence, as well as connecting parts of the brain that help with thinking, understanding, learning and remembering. See our free Baby Exercise video here.
Music, Dance, Songs and Rhymes: Music and rhythm develop babies listening, speech and language skills, providing building blocks for the future development of reading and writing. Rhythm is also vital for smooth coordinated movement essential for sports and mathematics. See our free video on Music and Rhythm here.
Baby Balance Activities: Babies who have been given regular balance stimulation in the early months of life display improved coordination, posture, balance, control of movement and the ability to learn new activities quickly and efficiently. See our free Baby Balance video here.
In addition to playing an active role in your child’s learning ability, simply loving and nurturing your little one will also do wonders for their brain development.
Free Video Series for Parents of Babies:
We believe that every parent has the right and the need to have access to this important information. This is why at GymbaROO/KindyROO, we have made a free online series for parents.
We’ve called it the Active Babes Smart Kids series. It is an online video series that explains to parents exactly what to do with their babies to give them the best start and the correct stimulation to lay down the foundations for later learning.
The series is full of information, specialist advice and hundreds of activities for parents to join in and to do with their little ones. The series is highly recommended by paediatricians, doctors, early-childhood experts and the Maternal Child and Family Health Nurses Association. We are thrilled that there are already over 30,000 parents and babies enjoying and benefiting from our series. Register for our FREE online video series: The essential guide for parents of babies: activebabiessmartkids.com.au
Dr Jane Williams (PhD, BMgt, CertTertTeach, RN) is the Director of Research and Development at GymbaROO and KindyROO
Sponsor content from Gymbaroo and Kindyroo