1. Babies are social learners and that’s why real face-to-face time and feedback are important. Tune in, talk with (not at) your child, and watch what he does and says and then respond and comment. Your feedback is important because it gives children’s actions meaning and keeps them engaged and makes conversations go on and on. What’s most disturbing to even very young babies is when their mom is not responding and there is no good reason for that.

Activity for 0-3 mo: When she’s alert, make eye contact, get up close and then zoom out of her vision. Zoom back in. Talk with her during all that time. She gets it all – your face, voice, and movement.

2. Babies need both familiar and new experiences to learn. Creating a predictable world and having routines is important because it gives young babies structure and safety. When things happen in the same way babies get to feel safe, learn about the structure of events and develop little scripts – this is what we do at bath time, meal time, etc. By giving your child new experiences you challenge his brains, make him explore and think in new ways. Babies, adults, seniors have something in common: We require challenges for a fit and strong brain.

Activity for 0-3 mo: Change how you sing a familiar song. This new experience gives him something new to learn. Or, start clapping to the song, and then stop at a certain point to have your child chime in. Over time, he’ll do so.

3. Babies are clever builders and come with hidden talents. One such talent is their ability to closely track their experiences and then ‘run’ statistics on them to learn what is important, and what is not. Babies watch you carefully – how you talk, look, use your hands to do things – and then learn from all of that and build their knowledge about people and things.

Activity for 0-3 mo: Create a toy line. Span a rope over his crib with 2-3 toys on it which are just close enough to be reached. Once he gets to move those things hanging on the rope, he’ll try again and again to make them move. He’s learning about cause and effect – I swipe, this moves.

4. Babies need lots of what I call ‘tuned-in’ conversations. That is conversations about things that interest them, that give them space to respond and that expand on their actions, gestures, sounds, and later, on their ideas and words. Talking, tuning in and responding back, and back is what matters. More tuned-in conversations in the first two and three years matter and shape children’s future learning and lives, science tells us.

Activity: Tune in and comment what your child just did or said. Copy a funny sound or a funny face he just made, for example. Responding consistently creates trust and rich learning moments.

5. Babies’ brains are very malleable and shaped by experiences. Babies’ brains are extremely malleable in those first three years. Babies learn more in this time than they ever will again. Neuroscientists compare the brain to a muscle which can be made stronger by high-quality, challenging experiences. This means that genes and poverty are not destiny. And that’s good news. High quality, language-rich experiences early on build more powerful brains which makes for meaningful advantages well into the school years and beyond – from language, to thinking, approaching challenging situations, social skills, and more. That said, learning is not a race and children’s brains have certain preferences for what to learn at certain stages and ages. If you watch a child closely you’ll get a good idea what they’re ready to learn and what helps them learn. The biggest threat for young children’s brains is continued stress which is toxic and negatively affects their developing brains.

6. Babies learn best through play and with lots of love. Babies are physical and sensory learners first. They learn best through play and hands-on exploration in which you scaffold and guide them along with lots of love. Their world view is often different and that’s OK and likely makes you smile and think: I remember laughing when a toddler told his mom: The trees are not moving today. They are out of battery. They need caregivers to keep them safe, to believe in them and to challenge them through new experiences.

What activities to you and your child enjoy?

Share your experiences with other parents and young children by submitting pictures, videos or stories on Parent Share.

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Looking for a resource to more closely tune in to your child and foster learning all around as you build a strong foundation together, check out my new book: Raising A Talker: Easy Activities for Birth to Age 3.

Click here to find out more about it and read excerpts.

More information – Gryphon House