In a world obsessed with faster, better and stronger, it is no surprise that the "do more" philosophy has moved to include our children. Toys abound that promise to make your child smarter in the womb and flashcards for babies are commonplace. But do these gimmicks really work? Just how much can babies younger than a year old learn beyond the basics of sitting up, chewing and, in some cases, walking?
How much enriching sticks to your baby before he or she turns 1? At birth, a newborn baby is functionally blind, deaf and insensate. These sensory pathways grow and develop based upon stimulation. The sensory pathways grow when appropriate visual, auditory and tactile stimulation is given with the proper frequency, intensity and duration.
For example, a newborn baby usually has a less than perfect light reflex. The light reflex is seen when the baby is exposed to light and the pupil constricts in response to that light. The sooner this reflex matures and becomes consistent, the sooner that baby will develop the ability to see outline and then detail. This is very easy to do and takes very little time, but it means that the baby gains the ability to see detail weeks or months earlier than he would have done if one relies upon accidental stimulation. This is purposeful stimulation rather than accidental stimulation.
A full sensory stimulation program at the newborn level or in the first few months of life involves very brief stimulation in all five sensory pathways (seeing, hearing, feeling, tasting and smelling). These brief bouts of stimulation help each pathway mature. As these pathways grow and become more mature, they are more useful for the baby. The mother and father can learn how to evaluate these pathways so they can easily determine what their baby needs next and what he or she no longer needs in each area.
It remains largely a mystery as to why the brain grows by use, but the fact remains that it does. The brain grows explosively between conception and age 6. The younger the baby is, the faster he/she will learn. If the baby is provided with visual, auditory and tactile stimulation with increased frequency, intensity and duration and given enhanced mobility, language and manual competence opportunity, he/she will develop more rapidly in all areas. This will increase their overall understanding of the world around them and greatly increase their interaction with the family. Their happiness, health and general well-being are also significantly improved by stimulation and opportunity.
They say when you grow one area of the brain; all areas will be enhanced to some degree. An overall program of stimulation and opportunity will enhance language development. If babies are given the opportunity to move on the floor, they will move. When they are given the chance to move more often, their respiration also improves. As they able to breathe better, they make more sounds. The more sounds they make, the more the mother responds to these sounds. The more the mother and baby talk to each other, the sooner she breaks the sound barrier and understands what her baby is actually saying.
According to research, babies begin clearly articulating their first words between 8 and 20 months because they have been absorbing and retaining the sounds of a language and associating meanings to those sounds. Although their babbling sounds insensible to us, the babies are beginning to talk to us, are trying to convey meaning and attempting to repeat what adults around them are saying. Babies are highly sensitive and receptive to everything they hear and see. Their brains are programmed to imprint and later recall every sound and every word pattern.
This can be achieved with language immersion action games, structured games, visual aid games, props and vocabulary-rich songs. With stimulation and attention, your child may learn to do what they were born to do - communicate with their parents. And even if they don't become the next boy wonder, you may have given them a lifelong gift - a love of learning and communication.
Language stimulation Dos and Don’ts:
- Always listen to the baby.
- Look at the baby like you are listening.
- Be willing to wait for a response.
- Accept the fact that the baby decides whether to respond or not; it’s their choice.
- Respond to what the baby says.
- Enthusiastically welcome every effort the baby makes to talk.
- Assign meanings to the specific sounds that the baby says repeatedly.
- Use real words when talking to the baby.
- "Baby talk" with the baby.
- Ignore the baby.
- Ask a question and leave no time for the baby to answer.
- Neglect to answer the baby.
- Imitate or make fun of the sounds the baby makes.
- Correct the baby’s pronunciation.
- Try to force the baby to answer or respond.
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