Updated: Mar 25, 2020
After running quite a few of our workshops on Baby Talk (the universal cues all babies use to communicate), I have received a lot of comments about how to boost babies' brain development. What toys do I use? What is most appropriate and at what age? As parents, we want to know how we can best help our little ones grow in the best ways possible!
Just by asking these questions, I already know you are an invested parent. But helping your baby grow doesn't need financial investment in the latest toys. The best thing about helping to boost your baby's brain development is that all you really need is YOU! The Harvard Centre for the developing child released a great resource that highlights 5 things you can do to boost your baby's brain development.
These simple tips don't require much and they are based on the science of brain development! Each of these tips promotes the Serve and Return relationship. We talk a bit about this back and forth communication style in our baby talk workshop, but let me explain a bit more here. When a baby cries, laughs, looks towards you, or away they are "serving" up a cue. They are sending you a message. When a parent notices this cue and responds in appropriate and sensitive ways, they help the child feel cared for and learn that they are able to communicate their needs well! This back and forth (serve and return) forms the foundation of brain development! It starts with trust, relationships, and communication, and grows from there!
So what are these 5 simple brain-building strategies???
1) Watch for your child's serve and share in their experience
This is key because to notice a cue that your child serves means that you have to be watching. One tip that we often share in the Baby Talk workshop is to be sure to position yourself so that you can see your baby's face during interactions. Face-to-face or sitting at a 90-degree angle gives you a great vantage point to see the hanging expressions on your little ones face and enjoy what they are enjoying!
2) Return the serve in sensitive and appropriate ways
Noticing the serve is one thing, but now you need to respond. The response is what helps build trust and confidence that they are actually communicating what they intended! What I mean by "sensitive and appropriate" is that when your baby is laughing, your response isn't crying. And when your baby is crying, your response isn't laughing. If they laugh, you laugh with them. When they cry, you are empathetic (although you may want to cry too, sometimes).
3) Call it like it is!
Babies learn language skills from listening to others. You can help them understand the world by giving words to what they are seeing, hearing, or experiencing. At the grocery store let them know the round red fruit they see is called an apple. In fact, describing it as round and red are great ideas too! Now you are building their vocabulary with description words (adjectives) as well.
4) Keep the game going: take turns and be patient.
Like most games, the back-and-forth, game-like process of serve and return also comes with a set of rules. Turns. Once your child serves a cue, it is now your turn. You respond, and now it is back to them. Wait for their turn. Patience is key here. They are working hard at processing new information, understanding what you have just shared with them, and making sense of their role in all of this. Wait for their next move before you jump in again. This is easier said than done, but it is worth it to watch how they make sense and seek out further responses (or even clarification) from you.
5) When it's over, it's over.
Young children, especially infants can have very direct ways of letting you know they are done with an activity. They may drop a toy, throw it, or burst into tears. It is important to learn your child's way of letting you know they are done with this activity and ready to move on to something else. Sleep or food perhaps?
Those are some CHEAP and easy brain boosters for you! Like I often say, your child's favourite (and I will add, most educational) toy, is YOU!