Did you know your child grows the fastest in their first 3 years? The first three years of a child is so critical to brain development. It is setting the groundwork for them to be great learners. It is never too early for a child to start learning. A baby’s neural circuits that provide a foundation for learning, behavior, and health are the most flexible the first three years. Encouraging learning from the very beginning is so important.
You may be wondering how your baby is learning, especially when it feels like all they do is cry, eat, poop and sleep. But your child is learning, every day, just by watching you and their environment. Your baby is learning how to communicate to you their needs and what their interests are, right from the beginning!
A parent is a child’s first teacher. They are watching and learning right from them. A baby’s everyday interactions with their parents are essential to their brain growth. By having a simple conversation with your baby has been a proven key factor in early brain development. They are learning what words sound like, how to imitate these words as well as how to communicate with others. By having these interactions, a parent is also creating a better bond with their child, helping them feel secure in their environment to encourage even more learning.
So how can parents encourage learning with their baby? Sing to your child. Songs capture your child’s attention and help with their cognitive development. Read to your baby every day. Reading is a wonderful way to encourage early learning. Not only does it help bond with parents but it helps build their language skills and cognitive thinking skills. When you read to your baby, you are introducing them to whole new worlds and things.
And most importantly, parents should play with their children. When children play, they are practicing what they are learning. It is through play they can work on their cognitive, social and literacy skills as well as focusing on their physical abilities and learning new vocabulary. Play is more complex than what it may seem at first. They are learning not only how to problem solve, but they are learning how to interact with other people, learning cause and effect as well as nurturing their creativity and imagination.
Children can start benefiting from toys as young as a month old. Sensory play helps stimulate your baby's senses. Most of these types of toys focus on sign, sound, and touch. As your baby gets older, you can then focus on toys that help with fine motor development such as stacking blocks. With blocks, they also learn the cause and effect by stacking them up and then knocking them over. With older children, toys that promote pretend play become essential. They begin to focus on their social and emotional skills. When they are pretending to be a different character they are experiencing “walking in someone else’s shoes” which helps them understand and learn empathy.
You truly can never too early when it comes to learning with your little one. Creating a positive foundation through play that helps make learning fun for your little one and will help that spark of interest for exploring for years to come. Play often with your children. It truly is a parent's most important work.