Monday, 27 July 2015

How to increase infant brain development

  • Stimulation from birth is essential for brain development.
  • This includes visual stimulation, sounds (talking, music, etc) and touch (feeling textures, human contact, etc).
  • Some studies show that babies who are exposed to classical music and older children who have piano lessons have higher IQs as a result.
  • Animals raised in an enriched environment - lots of toys to see and manipulate, which are changed regularly - grow up to have larger brains. 
  • Parents should dangle new toys from the toy bar regularly - and change every week or so.
  • You can tie a ribbon around a baby's ankle and attach it to a mobile - they like to use their feet like that.
  • Babies put on sheepskins regularly show better weight gain and sleeping, and less irritability and restlessness.
  • Vestibular stimulation - i.e. bouncing baby and swinging them around - is important and beneficial.
  • Study of adopted children showed that the single best predictor of IQ was the amount kids were exposed to place other than the home, and other people and children - i.e. visitors and trips out are important.
  • Baby massage is proven to improve emotional wellbeing, immune function, overall health, cognitive potential and physical growth.
  • Babies find their parents' scent comforting so parents should avoid scented products where possible, or if you do use them, avoid changing them.
  • Fat is essential for brain development so children's diets should include a high level of fat, including whole milk, until aged 2.
  • Children should avoid aspartate and glutomate as they potentially damage the brain.
  • Breast milk has major advantages for infant health.
  • The longer a mother breastfeeds in the first year of a child's life, the higher the IQ of the child.
  • When breastfeeding, mothers need to pay attention to getting enough protein in their diet.
  • Formula milk should contain taurine.  (Aptimil contains this.)
  • Iron is essential to brain development and breast fed babies should be started on iron fortified cereals at 4-6 months.
  • Also essential are zinc, iodine, thiamin, niacin, B6 and riboflavin.  So a regular vitamin and mineral supplement is worthwhile, but not over 100% RDA.
Motor development
  • Tummy time and upper body exercise are important.  Babies should be encouraged when they are in the right mood to hold their head, roll over, sit, stand, reach, etc.
  • Babies engage in proto-conversation before they can speak properly.
  • Children have an innate ability to learn languages which is lost by about 6 or 7 years of age so exposure to foreign languages before that age is beneficial.
  • Parents who talk more to their children have been shown to have kids with larger vocabularies and higher IQ.
  • Parents who maximise positive verbal responses to their children and minimise negative responses have kids with better language skills.  No one knows why.
  • It is better not to correct kids' grammatical mistakes; simply to set a good example with your own speech, and they will then learn.
  • The best way to encourage language development is to point out and label objects, people and events, especially baby's actions and feelings.
  • "Maternal encouragement of attention" e.g. mums who direct baby's attention through talking/gesture to particular objects, people or events, has been shown to give the child a 20 point IQ advantage.
  • Baby signing is good and does not slow down language development.
Second children
  • The ideal scenario to avoid impact on cognitive development is a 21-32 month age gap between first and second child. 
  • Research shows that day care centres promote cognitive and language development better than non-parental home care (such as nannies), provided the centre is high quality and has low child:teacher ratios.
Emotional development
  • Evidence shows that that more you smile and show positive affection to your baby, the more likely they are to become a happy individual.
Source: What's Going On In There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life. By Lise Eliot.

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