We all know that babies are born with certain reflexes: crying when they’re hurt or nursing when they’re hungry. Beyond that, most of us assume a baby’s brain is a clean slate; everything they know they learn from their parents and the environment they are in. However, that isn’t the case at all. A baby’s brain is much more active than a few simple reflexes. In fact, an infant’s brain is very active, pretty much from the time they are born.
It can sometimes be difficult to tell how much your little one’s brain is working, but there are some fairly simple ways to figure it out. Luckily, you can experiment at home without any fancy tests or expensive doctors.
You can actually tell a lot about your baby’s brain just by becoming familiar with their body language. One of the easiest emotions to detect is stress or discomfort. We all have nervous habits, and babies are no different. Try getting your baby’s attention while music is playing, the television is on, and all the lights in the house are on. Does she squint her eyes or arch her back? These are signs that all of the external stimuli are too much; she is seeking a way to fend it off. To relieve the stress, shut off all the electronics and rocking her back and forth.
Try moving slowly from side to side while talking to your baby. He will most likely following you with his eyes, showing that he understands and expects your movement.
As she gets older, you can work on copying games. Make eye contact with your baby and make sure you have her attention. Stick out your tongue. It is highly likely that she will mimic your movements. Next, try raising your eyebrows or puffing out your cheeks. As she becomes more aware of facial expressions, she will work to mimic the ones that you make.
Around nine months, your baby will start to be aware of an item’s continual existence. Before that, your baby will assume that things you hide are gone forever. Have you ever played a game of hide-and-seek with a child only to find that they fuss when you hide? Try this test to see if they’ve grasped this concept yet: Take a toy away and return it back to where they are sitting. If they have a handle on what psychologists call “object permanence,” they will expect you to return it to where they are sitting. This concept also applies to games like hide-and-seek. If you hide your face behind your hands and bring it back out several times, then they will expect to see your face again each time.
Our babes are a lot smarter than we realize. Just like we spend time getting them to crawl and then walk, we need to work on exercising those active little brains too! Who knows what a little extra cognitive stimulation could do for your baby; you could be encouraging the makings of a future millionaire business tycoon, a professional baseball player, a musical genius…the sky’s the limit!
First-time dad and child development blogger Victor Rivas is passionate about two things –his brand-new daughter and the game of cornhole. He eagerly awaits the day when he can combine his two loves!