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Dear Debi,
I’m a “worry” mom who is trying to raise two little ones, 8 months, and 3. Why are we hearing so much about children’s brains these days? What does this mean about my relationship with my child and how can I assure healthy brain development while I’m away at work?
Paula, Mother of two
Debi's Tips
Debi Gutierrez
Debi Gutierrez
Host
  • First few years are a “window of opportunity” for learning
  • Talking & listening most effective
  • Provide a nurturing environment
Expert Advice
Dr. Tanya Altmann
Dr. Tanya Altmann
Pediatrician, mother of one
A baby’s brain is twice as active as an adult’s brain. The first three years are of special importance. At this time the brain has the greatest potential for learning. An infant’s brain is like a sponge soaking up everything around them. For example, it is very easy for a child to learn a foreign language at this time.

When you’re at work you want to make sure that whoever’s taking care of your child has time for one-on-one interaction. One-on-one interaction is best for a child’s brain development. Make sure that whoever is caring for your child is taking the time to read to them, sing to them, and play with them.

Studies show that children need certain elements in their early stages of life to grow and develop to their full potential. Here’s what children need for bonding:
  • to feel special, loved and valued
  • to feel safe
  • to feel confident about what to expect from their environment
  • guidance
  • a good balance of both limits and freedom
  • exposure to a diverse environment filled with language, books, play, exploration, music and age appropriate toys
Proper nutrition is very important in early brain development. On days when you don’t eat well, you tend to feel sluggish and tired; the same applies for babies. It’s important that children get enough calories, protein and calcium, regardless of whether that comes from breast milk, formula, baby food or whatever.

The senses of touch, smell and sound are important ways children learn. The more they can touch, see, smell, the more information they’re taking in and processing. For example, we don’t recommend little mittens for newborns because they need to touch everything. Different textures are important because that’s mainly how they learn. Then they get into the “tasting everything” phase where the way they take in information is by putting things into their mouths.

Children who may have gone through very “negative” experiences may require therapy, depending on what the negative experience was and the age of the child. However, a good way to begin to undo the damage from that point forward is to provide positive reinforcement. Give them lots of one on one time, make them feel safe, secure, and loved and show them that you’ll always be there for them.
Child Care provider Comments
David Palomares
David Palomares
Father of three children
From the time my son, Christian, was big enough to sit up on a pillow, we’ve exposed him to books. He’s now learned to pick out books on his own. I think we’ve instilled in him a love of books; it’s amazing how the written word stimulates the brain.
Alma Martinez
Alma Martinez
Child care provider for 10 years
It’s important to make a connection with the child. When my grandson first came to my home, it was an unfamiliar environment for him. So to help acclimate him, I would bring him to the wind chimes in front of my house and play them. Now whenever he comes over, I always take him to hear the wind chimes.
Diane Ferguson
Diane Ferguson
Child care provider for 3 years
Everything you do with kids can be a learning opportunity. For example, when you change their diaper, you should talk to the infants and tell them what you’re doing, even though they can’t talk back. By using your voice and talking to them, they’re using their brains.

Ball Maze Featured Activity:
Ball Maze
Interactions That Stimulate the Brain Featured Video:
Interactions That Stimulate the Brain
Topic: Child Development
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How Babies Learn
Problem-Solving
Infant Brain Development
Resources
Child Care Aware - Rethinking the Brain
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Ages and Stages: A Parent's Guide to Normal Childhood Development
Child Behavior: The Classic Child Care Manual from the Gesell Institute of Human Development
Ages and Stages: Developmental Descriptions and Activities, Birth Through Eight Years
 
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