The serious work of brain development begins a few weeks after conception, and by the time a full-term baby is born, their brain is about one-third the size of an adult’s. It’s wired for learning at birth, but how a child learns to interact with the world depends heavily on early interactions with parents and caregivers, particularly during the first three years of life — the most critical period of brain development.
During the first year alone, 700 neural connections form per second, and they are direct responses to a baby’s environment and experiences. These early neural connections form the basis for how we learn to think, learn, feel, and form relationships. Babies who have positive, loving interactions will learn to expect love and security from the world, while those who experience chronic stress or neglect will learn the world is not a safe or supportive place.
Fortunately, creating positive experiences is as simple as engaging with your child in a loving way. It’s learning to recognize verbal and nonverbal cues and responding to individual needs as well as talking to your child throughout the day, playing with them, showing affection, and engaging in a type of interaction known as serve and return.
Serve and return involves back and forth. Think playing peekaboo, throwing a ball, or allowing your baby to respond when you talk to them (smiling, babbling, and cooing count). To make the most of serve and return, it’s helpful to know how and when certain functions develop in the brain, which is why we’ve highlighted just a few of the things a baby’s brain is doing and how you can interact with them, from birth to age three.
This post was created by SheKnows for First 5 California.