The first three years of life are a critical time for brain development. I’m going to take some time over a few blog posts to share how your little one’s neurological development progresses during their most critical time—the first few years of life. Over the course of these first years, your little one’s brain will triple in weight and build trillions of nerve connections! Yes—trillions!
While your baby is born with some survival reflexes, he is still quite helpless, depending on you for care and guidance. Your role in his development is so important. The more you can show, teach, and expose him to, the more adept he will be at learning and picking up new things later in life.
Although all of his neurons have been created before birth, they are poorly connected. Connections in his brain are made every second of every day as he observes his environment and learns from you—his parents. Even if you don’t realize that they are occurring, your little one reaches milestones each day. For example, in the first weeks of life his vision becomes more clear and colorful each day.
The most important thing you can do in the first few months of life is to bond with your baby. He craves comfort and needs to be soothed. Your newborn seeks a connection with you and is constantly looking to you for guidance. See what toys catch his eye and show those to him and explain them. Language and eye contact are two of the best ways to bond with your little one.
Feeling loved and secure will help him to open up to learning since his basic needs are met. It is important to pay close attention because your newborn is communicating through sounds, motions and facial expressions. For example, he may turn away or arch his back in resistance to something he doesn’t like.
Your baby is now becoming much more interactive. He will babble and try to copy things that you or do. When he “says” something, try making a game of it and copying him. This will challenge him to come up with new sounds or gestures for you to say or do. If you laugh at something, your little one will say/do it again to see your reaction.
He is also beginning to explore. He will want to hold, throw and put everything in his mouth to see what it does. Hold your little one and walk around the house explaining different features to him—windows, lights, pictures hanging on the wall, etc. Since he can’t crawl or walk yet, helping him explore his surroundings will mean a lot to him.
Your little one is now refining his communication. He may be saying “mama” or “dada”, but give him time to make the connection to the meanings of words he says. This is a very important stage to be explaining things to him. Describe tastes, sounds, feelings and things that he sees because he will begin associating your words with the senses he experiences. When you talk, give him time to respond to what you are saying.
His motor skills are also becoming more smooth, meaning that he may try more complex tasks—pouring water out of a cup, fitting shape toys into their respective places, rolling a ball (on purpose!), etc. Show him how to do something once or twice and then give him time to try on his own. Helping him is wonderful, but make sure you are also giving him space to learn how to complete small tasks on his own as this will fuel his brain development.
At this age, it is important to help your little one manage his feelings. He can understand quite a bit but is still not able to fully communicate or do what he wants. This will frustrate him and make him fussy. Acknowledge that he is frustrated and talk to him, giving words to how he is feeling. Once he is calm, try to help him complete the activity that was frustrating him.
You can also begin to empower your little one. By now you probably have a good idea of how he communicates. Instead of just picking up a book and saying “let’s read!” try asking him if he would like to read a book and wait for his response. Let him choose the book. Following his lead will make him feel more invested in the activities and will in turn help him learn more.
Keep an eye out for our next post on your little one’s development during the second year of life. We encourage you to always be on the lookout for ways that you can challenge your little one and help him or her grow and learn. As always, we are here to be of support to you. Please contact us anytime Care@theollieworld.com.