Promoting Your Infant's Intellectual Growth

Our baby is four months old. Every day when my husband comes home, he asks me what I did that day to stimulate her brain. He keeps bringing home new videos, tapes and activity kits for us. Some days all I've done is just hold her and I feel guilty telling him that. Is it okay for us to just snuggle and not do anything?

Question:

Absolutely. Babies thrive on touch. Snuggling is doing a lot!

As research on brain development in the first three years reveals more of the mysteries of this miraculous growth, entrepreneurs are quick to respond with products that promise to capitalize on learning opportunities and afford our children the best possible brain stimulation. There are wonderful tools available that delight babies visually, soothe them audibly and challenge them interactively. These programs can be beneficial for infants and parents alike.

But let's not get carried away.

It is not necessary to buy special products and follow planned curriculums to optimize your infant's intellectual growth. You are stimulating your daughter’s brain every time you do any of these things:

Talk to your baby. Give her a running commentary on what you are doing as you make dinner, fold laundry, pay bills. You are building her vocabulary, demonstrating emotions -- even teaching problem-solving.

Take her on field trips. When you go to the grocery store, the mall or the park, you're providing an exciting adventure for your baby. She is treated to new sights, smells and sensations. Put her in your body carrier and visit area museums, aquariums, zoos and farmer’s markets. Every outing enriches her.

Music and simple toys

Play music for her. If you have a radio, you have an endless supply of classical, jazz, rock, salsa and every genre of music you can imagine. Your baby's reactions will reveal her favorites! Babies adore music. It excites. It calms. Use music to celebrate and dance. Use music to bring closure and quiet.

Read to her. It's never too early to introduce an infant to books. Join your public library to keep current on children’s literature, and check both the library and local bookstores for special infant story times. Read her passages from your novel or excerpts from the stock reports. Collect board books that she can mouth and hold. Keep baskets of books available at her level. Before you know it, you will find her reading on her own. Perhaps upside down and backward, but she will share with her teddies the magic of a printed tale. Read early and often and make bedtime stories part of your daily routine.

Discover toys. Sturdy boxes, smooth tins, plastic cups, wooden spoons, sock "puppets," blanket peekaboos, paper towel tubes … these are the things fun is made of! (The most popular toy in one 6-to-12-month playgroup was a turkey baster.) Throw a few balls into the mix and you have heaven. Stimulate imagination and creativity in yourself. Children can make an entertaining toy out of anything.

Remind your husband that everything works best in moderation. Babies need "veg time," just as we do. Lovely moments when they can contemplate their toes, reflect on new discoveries and daydream of wonders to come!

 

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