We all like to be entertained, and babies are no exception. But there are some “dos” and “don’ts” when it comes to stimulating your baby’s brain.
The best thing you can do for your infant is simply interact with him. You are your child’s first teacher. It’s your job to show him the ropes. Developmental School Psychologist and Early Interventionist Lisa Schiavoni says it’s important to talk to your baby. Sing to him. Read to him. Play with him. Make him part of your everyday activities. Try singing silly rhymes, talking about what your child is seeing while driving, labeling body parts during diaper changes and bath times.
Not long ago, you could plunk your baby down in front of the tube, put on a video and have some much needed mommy time. But the thinking has changed. The American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends no screen time whatsoever for babies until the age of two. Studies show that engaging with electronics at an early age has an impact on attention span and concentration and may delay cognitive development. And it doesn’t matter if he’s watching “The Good Wife,” “Sesame Street” or Baby Einstein videos. Television is two dimensional. Too much screen time builds a different kind of brain in children, one that is lacking dimension. Think about it this way — if a baby sees a ball on TV, it looks round, but it feels flat. If they hold a ball, however, they understand it is round and it has texture and it rolls away if they don’t hold onto it.
Children learn by touching, feeling and exploring. The best way to learn is always by doing, not watching.
Of course most of us can’t live our lives without our cell phones, tablets and TVs. If your baby happens to glance at it while he is breastfeeding or having tummy time — it’s not the end of the world. Just make sure you try to limit overall exposure. For those of you with older kids, it’s probably best to limit screen time to less than forty-five minutes a day. According to Dr. Robert Pressman from the New England Center for Pediatric Psychology, “Across the board, there is a steady decline in emotional strength and educational performance after forty-five minutes of daily screen use.”
The best kind of stimulation toys for your baby are black and white board books, wrist rattles, infant play gyms and anything musical. Lisa Schiavoni recommends Mrs. Mustard’s Baby Faces Stroller Cards because the focus is on faces of babies, which other babies love. She also recommends Lamaze Wrist & Foot Rattles. Avoid toys with electronic components such as lights and sounds since they don’t encourage sensory motor and language. And never underestimate the value of making silly faces. It’s free, fun and effective.