Babies playing with toys
Enrichment, Pregnancy & Baby, Toddler & Preschool

Simple Ways To Help Develop Your Child’s Intellectual Potential

Babies are born with 100 billion neurons or nerve cells in the brain—all they will ever need. What happens with those neurons, particularly in the first few years, provides the foundation for learning and cognitive ability throughout a child’s school years and adult life.
While parents have “passed down” a blueprint for development, it is the baby’s environment and her experiences that will determine how that framework is used and whether its full potential is reached. You provide the basics, and the amazing brain does the rest.
Your baby’s health and nutrition are among the factors that influence early brain development. Proper nutrition and healthy bodies provide the energy, protection and hydration that the brain needs. Physical activity is also important to growing babies—reaching, balancing, rocking and rolling, crawling, whole body play such as bouncing and swinging, and so on. Beyond these basics, experts emphatically agree that babies learn best through imitation and exploration in the context of secure, nurturing relationships. That’s right, PLAY and LOVE facilitate the optimal environment for brain development.


Infants in particular need close relationships with their caregivers. Provide your baby with consistent, nurturing care. Babies can’t use words to communicate their needs or feelings but they do send signals in other ways. Sometimes their cues are sounds, even cries. Sometimes they communicate through body movements, tension, or facial expressions. For example, your baby may look away to signal that she is done playing. Pay attention; watch for your baby’s signals. Respond to them quickly with warmth and sensitivity.
Touch is another important source of security. Actually, without touch, an infant’s body and brain will stop growing at a normal rate. Make sure your baby is held and provided with gentle touch throughout the day. Physical comfort also helps to reduce stress, builds resilience to future stress and even helps with digestion.
Bonding with caring and responsive adults establishes a secure and predictable environment which will lay strong foundations.


Thinking about expensive, “brain-building” toys and equipment? Save your money. Babies (and children) learn best through simple, hands-on, sensory experiences—especially those that include you. Squeezing and chewing baby toys, rolling balls, touching grass, looking at picture books—all of these activities stimulate connections. Provide a variety of interesting experiences and allow your baby to explore. Balance old experiences that strengthen existing connections and increase confidence and security, while adding a new activity or experience every couple of days to inspire new development. Provide time and opportunity for repetition; it’s your baby’s way of practicing. Her brain is wired to keep the connections she uses most. So repetition increases brain development.
Language development has been directly connected to later school success. And the key to this development is receptive language. Babies need to be hearing language from birth, long before they begin to use words themselves. Narrate your day and your experiences with your baby. Read, sing songs, and recite nursery rhymes. Speak to your baby, even asking questions and modeling the patterns of language. Of course, remember to watch for your baby’s cues that she is ready for a little peace and quiet.
If you want to learn more about how the brain grows, windows or opportunity for certain skills, and activities to do with your child, join a class at the Parenting Center or check out one of our favorite books and website: Brain Rules for Babies, by John Medina; Einstein Never Used Flash Cards, by Hirsh-Pasek, Golinkoff and Eyer; Rethinking the Brain: New Insights into Early Development
by Rima Shore;
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