What does your baby need to develop healthy brain connections?
Baby’s brain is built over time: it starts from pregnancy and continues through early adulthood and like a building baby’s brain needs a strong foundation in order to develop healthy brain connections. The brain is made up of several different areas that control everything we do from talking and walking to solving a problem. Each area has millions of neurons.
Communication between neurons happens through the transmission of electric impulses. As the messages are repeated, again and again, more links are made and neural pathways are formed. These pathways are the brain’s “wiring.”
From birth to age 5, these connections develop at an extremely fast pace when compared to any other point of time in their life. Many things are needed for healthy brain connections, but there are a few key ingredients that play an important role in brain development.
Firstly, the child requires a lot of care. Loving and positive relationships help build healthy brains and protect the child’s brain from the negative effects of stress. Secondly, what parents do or don’t do during the formative years for the child can have a strong impact on the child’s life.
Everyday experiences i.e. from your daily routine to the people your baby interacts with help shape your baby’s brain.
Through everyday experiences, children experience brain development right from the time of birth. Healthy brain connections are built through positive interactions with parents or caregivers. A strong positive relationship with at least one caregiver is essential for healthy brain development. It helps the child in building self-confidence and self-esteem at an early age. When the children feel safe and secure, they feel free to explore with confidence as they know that whenever they need, the caregiver is there for them.
Even a very young infant can experience stress in the place they live or play, is unsafe. Toxic stress which is caused by persistent problems like poverty, abuse or violence is very harmful to the baby’s developing brain. It can lead to mental and physical problems in childhood which may be carried on right into adulthood.
A healthy relationship with the baby can also be built by bonding through the skin to skin contact. Baby massage is helpful for this. The strokes encourage bonding and attachment. You can also make eye contact and talk to your baby often to form a healthy connection.
Back and forth interactions between the parent and the child are also very important for healthy connections. Your baby does not need expensive toys. The smiling faces of adults who respond to them and interact with them are the best toys for the children. Babies begin to understand back-and-forth interaction as early as three weeks.
When the child looks towards a dog, comment on the dog, when he reaches towards a toy, hand him the toy and explain to him about it. This becomes especially important when the baby is sick, hungry, upset or just needs some comfort. Communicating in a loving and affectionate manner also helps in enhancing brain development.
Parents can build routines for the mealtime, playtime and bedtime. Use of routine helps to build brain connections that support memory and organization. It makes the baby’s life predictable. It builds a sense of safety and security in the child.
Another way to build healthy brain connection is through repetition. When experiences are repeated the brain connections grow stronger. Playing the same songs again and again, telling the same stories, playing the same game or reading the same book etc. will help improve the brain connection and make them stronger and stronger. Rote learning is at a peak during this age.
A child’s daily experiences determine which brain connections develop and which will last for the lifetime. That is the child’s daily experiences form an imprint in the mind of the child which ultimately forms his character.
The quality of care and interaction they receive in their early years makes all the difference. Parents or caregivers and play a vital role in developing a baby’s brain in a healthy way.