The result of much of the studies done on cognitive development (brain functions) in children shows that early nurturing / training plays one of the most significant role in the shaping of their future abilities
Scientists believe that a baby’s brain grows rapidly during the first few years of their lives. While it is growing, it is also mapping out a network of neurons to support thinking and learning. This way it establishes its own potential capacity for processing information. But the use of this capacity is not an automatic process. Neuroscientists believe that it may be that the nerve cells within this network connection / or potential capacity, begin to fire up when they are exposed to the right amount and right type of stimulation. This has led early childhood educators to the conclusion that infants need cognitive stimulation. It helps to fire up the neurons and promote a healthy development of the brain circuitry.
So what can parents do to foster this cognitive stimulation?
Obviously, they cannot make perfect the circuitry for the infant’s developing brain. They can, however, provide them with the right kind of stimulation. One brain researcher said that the child must get the right kind of stimulation at the right age to ensure the proper development of the neurological circuits.
What is the right kind of stimulation?
It is not just the giving of fancy and expensive toys. It is the giving of their time and attention to incite the infant to respond and react to his environment. It also means to provide a safe environment and experience that will capture his / her curiosity to explore and discover its contents; subsequently enabling the developing neurological network the capacity to expand.
What can parents do when the infant does not respond readily?
They must put on their creative hats, as it were, and search for activities that will arouse the child to respond: for example: play with them, the game: the dropping of the toy and picking it up again, and again, and again; whereas the infant does the dropping and the parent does the picking up, of course. The idea here is to find or create age appropriate activities that are funny and exciting to them, and to be willing to interact with them at their level. This will help the more docile child and eventually capture a vibrant response.
Age Appropriate Stimuli
Birth to 6 months Bounce / rock the baby to the rhythm of a variety of musical compositions: example The Dance of the Reed Flutes from Tchaivovsky’s Nutcracker Suite (provided in the recording); http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h94BdxnheeM
Play musical CDs and allow the infant to listen: example: 2nd movement of Piano Concerto in D major by W.A. Mozart.
Play the dangling of the scarf game, using an array of bright colorful scarves. This can be played to the music of the Snake Dance from The Nutcracker Suite as well.
6Months to 18 Months Play the Peek-A-Boo game with the baby. Suggestion: The parent can do a highly rhythmic and funny dance to the music of the Russian Dance from the Nutcracker. The disappearing act could be done in the middle of the 2nd theme; and return in the same rhythm at the end on the big fortissimo (Very loud section) The parents will become the dancers here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NzSGBGWO3r4
Play the baby Einstein video (seen in the image), the funny characters are bound to provoke an active response. Play other games that are similar in nature, i.e exercising the baby’s brain through music.
18 Months to 3yrs
Enroll the toddler in the more formal music classes: (1) Musikgarten; (2) Kindermusik;
(3) Music For the Young. These fun classes are like structured play, but they are based on a variety of activities which involves singing, dancing, and movement..
Movement and many other physical skills like riding a tricycle / bike, learning to write etc. are centered in the same section of the brain ( the exercising of one, will help the others).
In this diagram of the brain: (the orange areas support language, music, math, abstract reasoning)(the green areas support motor skills).
The Rationale For Exercising the Baby’s Brain Through Music:
Neuroscientists have found that the neurons used to process music, math, language,and abstract reasoning overlap. This means that these activities are processed in the same section of the brain. Since the infant does not have the ability to respond to math and abstract reasoning at this point in time, then using the ones at their disposal: activities that are based on music and language, will not only help to turn on the neurons in this section of the brain but also helps to gradually activate the other skills that are still dormant, (math, abstract reasoning).
Since ‘the formative years’ is such a powerful period of brain development, then, it is imperative that parents give their children a good foundation within this period. It has the far reaching effect of setting the tone for future achievements.