Thursday, May 12, 2005

You Can Stimulate Your Baby's Mind!

By Susie McGee

Your baby is growing and learning new things every day. There are so many changes that occur during a baby's first year. While each baby develops at his own individual rate, parents can help stimulate their own child's mind in a variety of ways. As you work with your baby, keep in mind that you and your child should enjoy your time together. Yes, you may be teaching your child new skills, but this educational time can be a fun time, also.

Many women begin working with their children before they are even born. That's right. Studies have indicated that an unborn child recognizes her mother's voice while she is still in the womb. Because of this, many parents-to-be begin reading to their children while they are still in utero. They also play soft, soothing music, including classical tunes. This is thought to stimulate the baby's senses. Some studies have even indicated that babies prefer certain books and music that they have heard before they were born. There is no doubt that a newborn recognizes his mother's voice right after birth.

Once your baby is born, you shouldn't wait until he is old enough to actually turn the pages before you read to him. Babies enjoy the closeness and the rhythm and cadence of their parents' voices as they read and sing to them. When you begin reading to your child, you are instilling a love of reading and learning from the very beginning, and this is very important to the development of your child.

It might be surprising to learn that your newborn will prefer certain types of books, although her tastes will certainly change as she grows and matures. Newborns' eyes haven't developed completely, and they only see certain colors, primarily red, black, and white. Because of this, it is important that parents begin introducing their children to images that have these colors.

If you don't believe that your baby could already have such preferences, try out a little experiment of your own. Place a book or colorful object in front of your infant. Your child can only see about six inches in front of her as a newborn, so don't hold the book or object too far away. While she may look at it for a moment, she probably won't focus on it for long. Now, place a book or object colored in red, black, and white in front of your baby, and watch her eyes zero in on the image. She may stare intently for several minutes at this new object. Look for books and toys that use these colors, and offer them for your baby's inspection several times during the day. You will need to do this when she is awake but not hungry.

As your baby continues to develop, his taste in colors will definitely expand. He will soon tire of the plainer black, white, and red images, and instead respond to more colorful objects. The brighter and more colorful the books and objects are, the better he'll like them. You might want to purchase plenty of sturdy board books for your child to examine and play with. Not only will this help him learn how to read, but it is also good practice for his developing motor skills. As he becomes more curious about what is on the next page, he'll become more adept at turning the pages and manipulating the book.
It is important for you to interact with your child as you show her the images in books and magazines. Take the time to point out the different objects that are pictured on the pages of the books. Repeat the names of each object, and ask her simple questions about the story. As she gets a little older, you may be happily surprised to discover that she has learned to point out different objects on her own.

You will want to continue to stimulate your child's love of learning, so it is important that you have a good variety of books and other images for her to look at. All children love pictures of other children, so find plenty of books with images of babies and children doing all sorts of different things. Also, your child may be fascinated by animals, and there are so many books available with many animals in them. You can teach your child about the various animals, birds, fish, and insects by pointing to each one and repeating its name. Your child will probably love to hear you make the sounds of each animal, also, and as she grows, she'll try repeating those sounds herself.

Of course, it is easy to understand how important books are to the development of your child's intellect, but there are other important things you can do to help your child mature both intellectually and emotionally. One of the simplest steps you can take to help your child become a well-rounded individual is to expose your baby to many different places, activities, and even people. Yes, it might be easier to leave your baby with grandma or a baby-sitter, but how else will your child learn about the world around him if he is never taken anywhere or exposed to anything?

If you have older children who are involved in extracurricular activities, take your baby along with you to these activities. Your baby will enjoy watching her older sibling playing baseball, practicing dance lessons, and learning the guitar. Yes, your baby might become restless, and that is to be expected, but so what? If you have to, take your baby out of the room for a while. If it is an activity that requires complete silence, he may not be able to last long in the room because of his short attention span, but eventually he will learn appropriate behavior as he continues to mature.

Learn to look at the world through the eyes of your child. You can take walks with your baby in your yard, at a park, or up the street. If he is too young to walk by himself, carry him in your arms or push him in a stroller. You should talk to him as you examine the wonderful world of the outdoors. Point out different plants, and tell him the names of the pretty flowers. Help him find the different birds in the trees, and talk about the birds' chirping and singing.

If you have pets, introduce your child. Of course, you should always supervise your baby when he is with any animal because you don't know what that animal's reaction might be, but pets can be wonderful companions for your baby. They also offer great learning opportunities for your baby. You can begin teaching your child when he is young how to treat animals. He needs to know how to be gentle and how to show compassion, and animals are a great way for him to learn and practice these attributes.
There are many puzzles that are made specifically for little fingers to manipulate. Puzzles are great learning tools, and your child will love removing the pieces from the puzzle. Of course, she'll need your help to put the pieces back together, but, one day, you and she will both be delighted when she can assemble the puzzle on her own.

Babies love silly songs and nursery rhymes, and these songs can also help your child develop her vocabulary. Children learn by repetition, so don't hesitate to continuously sing songs such as "ABC" or "The Eensy Weensy Spider" to her. You can also add hand movements with the songs to help your child learn how to perform coordinated movements.

Babies also love games, such as "Peek a Boo". You can help your child learn that objects may disappear, but they can reappear, also. Enhance this game by using a blanket or towel and hiding a favorite toy underneath it. Gradually pull the blanket off the object a little at a time until your child begins to see her toy. Once she reaches for the object to pull it off, clap your hands and praise her. She'll reward you with a big grin!

Finally, you should continuously look for learning opportunities to share with your baby. As you engage her in new activities and expose her to new experiences, she will want to learn even more, and her intelligence will continue to be stimulated. You and your baby can enjoy so many things together, and you will achieve so much enjoyment from just watching her continue to learn and explore.

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