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As a new parent, understanding the importance of intellectual development in your infant can help you provide the best care for your child. If you are convinced that your baby is only capable of mundane biological processes like eating, crawling, pooping and babbling, you may be surprised by the transformational work that is going on inside your baby’s brain and the impact your involvement can have on the formation of his brain.
Studies have revealed that babies come equipped with an amazing array of cognitive abilities to learn and to communicate – from their first ability to make eye contact with you to their first steps toward learning to speak and walk.
Although our brain cell formation is mostly completed at the time of birth, much of our brain’s wiring is formulated during infancy and pre-school years. These first years of life will then lay the foundation for our future experiences. While it is true that some kids with good genes may experience spurts in rates of mental development, with early nurturing, even those who possess the short end of the gene pool can be geniuses.
Here are four things you can do you to boost your child’s mental development:
1. Feed your child’s brain
The quality of nutrition and fat consumption during infancy plays an essential role on your child’s brain growth. Never underestimate the power and health benefits of breastfeeding. Breast milk provides almost all vital nutrients, which include polyunsaturated fatty acids such as DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), AA (arachidonic acid) and optimal amounts of lactose and Vitamin C necessary for brain growth.
Exclusive breastfeeding is recommended between 6 months and a year, depending upon your baby. While we can’t promise that breast milk will turn your child into the next Einstein, documented evidence have indicated that breast-fed babies do end up more intelligent than their formula-fed counterparts.
2. Stimulate your child’s brain power
Reading and talking to your child is a great way to stimulate his language growth – which in turn help to develop good language and communication skills in early age. Chanting poems, reading and re-reading his favorite books (especially those with rhyming texts) and imitating your baby when he makes noises or little cooing sounds will feed his imagination and foster creativity and positive interaction.
Physical stimulation like holding and cuddling your child reassures him of your love and affection and creates a healthy environment for his brain to absorb more information and learn more easily. Make it a habit to massage your baby once a day. Massaging can ease your baby’s tense muscles, release his happy hormones and help him to sleep better. Positive interaction involving touch has shown to maximize a baby’s growth hormone release, thus helping him to grow and develop faster.
3. Use music education
Playing or listening to music is relaxing, entertaining and enjoyable. But do you know that music can also make your child smarter? Developing your child’s musical ability may improve his capacity to think, learn, reason and solve problems.
Babies recognize and are able to distinguish specific melodies at a very young age. One way to support your child’s musical growth is to begin singing lullabies and nursery rhymes to your baby both before and after birth. Music therapy has shown to improve a baby’s mood, increase his focus and alleviate anxiety and tension.
Complex classical Mozart or Beethoven tunes help to cultivate your child’s natural abilities and develop the areas of his brain that are required for creative thinking and spatial reasoning. Allowing your child to play with musical toys will also help to stimulate his motor, sensory and auditory skills during later stages of development.
4. Employ proper use of television
Recent research has characterized television viewing as a multi-leveled sensory deprivation that may be stunting the growth of a child’s brain. Children who are passively viewing have less opportunity to develop their senses than those who are actively playing.
When exposed to television, a child can become unresponsive and oblivious to his surroundings. Once the TV set is switches off, he can change from a contented, playful child to an irritable, screaming baby. The truth is that television viewing can be addictive. Do not let this valuable time that should be dedicated for the building of your child’s foundation for healthy growth and development lost in the world of television.
As a parent, you can minimize the negative and maximize the positive effects of television by holding off introducing it to your baby for the first two years of his life. Choose only developmentally appropriate and nonviolent programs (which include educational videos) and allow your little ones to watch them for no more than 2 hours a day on alternate days. Try to skip the commercials and make it a point to watch along with him so you can monitor his responses to what he is seeing on television.