Easy ways to make your baby smarter

By Drum Digital
01 May 2014

The best way to boost your baby’s brain is with plenty of fun and games – and of course, lots of love! We give you some practical tips.

You’ve just had your first baby – and she’s beautiful. Like any parent, you’re already dreaming of what she will achieve one day; how she will grow up into a happy, intelligent and successful young adult with the world at her feet.

But how do you encourage her to get there? How can you help your baby become as clever as she possibly can? The first thing to remember is that being clever and successful is not just about reading at an early age, mastering difficult sums or doing well in intelligence (IQ) tests, experts say. It’s about an all-round clever- ness that combines common sense and social skills and helps your baby grow into a well-balanced child and a confident, positive adult.

????The good news is that you can start teaching your child all these skills from birth. In fact, research has shown that the first three years of life are enormously important because that’s when a baby’s brain develops at its fastest.

There are two ways to boost your baby’s brainpower at this early age:

  • Offer lots of love, smiles, hugs and encouragement to make baby feel loved and secure. Loving and nurturing your child are crucial for the development of intelligence, experts say.
  • Let your child take part in brain-stimulating activities, but make them fun and make sure they are not too difficult for her age.

Boost your baby’s brain, age by age

The new arrival: birth-3 months

Newborn babies can do far more than we think and you can start doing things with them immediately.

  • Always attend to a crying baby. Crying is baby’s way of telling you she needs you. Soothing her teaches her to trust you and that you are there for her – the first building blocks of her future self-esteem and confidence.
  • At this age, you are your baby’s most important toy! Let her feel your face and hands, soothe her with your voice and sing to her often. Talk to her and use her name often to encourage language development.
  • Hang a brightly coloured mobile from the ceiling in her room or above her bed. You can even make your own by cutting out colourful shapes and hanging them from a clothes hanger.
  • Let her touch toys of textures (such as wood, plastic and fabrics). Babies learn through their senses and feeling the difference between soft, rough and hard textures helps with brain development.

Getting to grips: 3-6 months

  • Continue with all the activities above.
  • Develop a daily routine. This will make baby feel secure and help her to become a confident child.
  • Slowly move a rattle or ball across her field of vision.
  • Let baby lie on her tummy and put a toy just out of her reach to encourage her to move towards it – this helps with all- important muscle development.
  • Prop her up with cushions and encourage her to sit and play with toys.
  • Read to her and sing songs to encourage language development. It doesn’t matter if she does not understand the words.

Sitting up and crawling: 6-12 months

  • Introduce simple toys such as wooden blocks and shape sorters. Other good toys at this age: soft animals, rattles and things that make a noise, balls, baby books made from plastic or fabric and an unbreakable mirror. (Baby will love looking at herself in the mirror!)
  • Let baby bang a spoon on an overturned pot. Before you know it, she’ll be an accomplished musician!
  • Look at pictures in books together. Point towards objects in the pictures and name them to stimulate baby’s vocabulary.
  • Talk to your baby often, but be careful not to use too much baby language. Speak normally and clearly to encourage her language development. Describe even the most mundane thing you’re doing, such as hanging up the washing.
  • Take baby for a walk and point out the things you see along the way.
  • Play peek-a-boo. This is a real favourite with babies and helps them understand that?you are still there even though they can’t see you. Hide your face, then pop back into baby’s view and say: “Peek-a-boo, I see you!”
  • Dance with your baby to start developing a sense of rhythm.
  • Play clapping games.
  • Bounce baby on your knee and let her jump on your lap while holding her hands to stimulate muscle development.
  • Make bath time fun and show her how to pour water in and out of plastic containers.
  • Remember it’s also good to leave baby to play on her own for a while – just make sure?that she’s in a safe environment. Babies learn best by exploring the world around them.

On the go: 12-18 months

  • Playing in sand is now great fun!
  • Encourage her to try simple puzzles. Help her if she battles or gets frustrated, but don’t do too much for her.
  • Make your own playdough: Mix 1 cup flour, 1 cup water,?1 cup salt and 1 tablespoon cream of tartar. Stir over low heat in a pot until the dough forms a ball. Remove from the pot and knead until the dough is smooth and pliable. Store in a plastic container. For coloured playdough, add a few drops?of food colouring to the water. Kids have lots of fun with this: they roll it out, form it into different shapes and cut shapes with a cookie cutter. This stimulates creativity and teaches finger control, which will be important for writing later on.
  • Haul out crayons and paper?– toddlers love scribbling.
  • Get constructive with building bricks.
  • Visit the zoo or a park and talk about the things you see and hear.
  • You can now start teaching your child the names of colours and some body parts.
  • Tell her you love her often and give lots of hugs and kisses.

The independent spirit: 18-24 months

  • Continue all the games above.
  • Teach your toddler tidiness and how to put things away.
  • Spread out sheets of newspaper on the floor to prevent mess and let her play with paint.
  • Encourage her to play house and use her imagination. All you need is a teddy or a toy tea set.
  • A cardboard box can be a house, a palace, a car . . . or drape an old sheet over the table and pretend you are both in a tent.
  • Reading books is very important to help her develop her language skills.
  • Let her help you lay the table.
  • Build her self-esteem by giving her small chores around the house, such as helping you dust and sweep. Don’t interfere she battles to do something. Let her try to do it herself – this is how she learns problem- solving and independence.
  • Applaud when she gets something right.
  • Now is the time to start kicking, throwing and catching a ball. Be patient – your baby will get better at this and it is very important for her muscle development.
  • Let her string beads on a piece of string.
  • Limit TV time if she has any: one educational children’s programme a day is enough!

Problem solver: 24-36 months

  • Continue all the above activities.
  • Encourage her to do up her own buttons and zips.
  • Let her help you sort clothes in a pile of washing and count the items while you do it. Encourage her to sort things by colour. Counting and sorting are important mathematical skills!
  • Stimulate her imagination by giving her lots of opportunity for make-believe play, such as mom’s and dad’s old clothes.
  • Head into the kitchen and do some baking together.
  • Allow her to start making her own decisions, such as whether she wants to put on the red or the white top.

In a nutshell:

You don’t need lots of expensive programmes or toys to boost your baby’s brain. Her best learning tool is you: talk, sing, laugh and play with her as often as you can!

Three secrets of clever babies

  • The fancier and more expensive a toy is, the less imagination your child will probably need to play with it – and that will not help her brain development one bit. Try to find toys that stimulate her imagination. A sand pit in which she can construct her own roads is a better idea than a plastic mat with roads drawn on it. Make sure toys offer variety and are safe and correct for your child’s age (check the packaging). Don’t forget girls also need construction toys and boys can play with dolls!
  • Try not to push your child to develop too fast. Babies can’t learn things before they are ready for them because their nervous systems can’t cope.
  • Kids love exploring because that is how they learn. Allow your child opportunity to explore the world around her, but always make sure that it is in a safe environment.

- Lucy Taylor

Additional source: Your clever baby: How to make the most of your child’s potential by Dr Carol Cooper, Published by Ryland, Peters & Small


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