Your GRANDbaby’s Amazing Brain
By Cheryl Harbour – Author of Good to be Grand
Scientists used to believe that infants didn’t have much happening mentally. All they were capable of doing was eating, sleeping, and other bodily functions. Most people assumed they were all reflex and no reason. But as testing methods have improved, a whole science around understanding a baby’s brain has taken hold. It’s fascinating for parents and grandparents who stare into those big eyes to try to imagine what their baby/grandbaby is thinking. For instance:
• Do they recognize their own name when it’s spoken?
• Can they tell the difference between their parents’ faces and those of strangers?
• When they laugh, do they really think something is funny?
Neuroscientists are definitely making progress in finding out, so read on to see what they now know.
Throughout infancy, babies’ neurons are rapidly multiplying
Babies are born with 100 billion neurons, and by the time they are three years old, they will have 1,000 trillion neurons. In fact, from birth through age three, a human brain grows to about 90 percent of its capacity. What’s happening is sometimes called “brain wiring.” Connections between brain cells are being generated constantly and rapidly, until around age ten or eleven, when the brain becomes more selective and begins to discard connections that are rarely used.
In other words, young babies’ brains are wired to learn. Scientists now know that they actually have more of the chemical that makes brains change connections more easily. They also have fewer inhibitory transmitters that prevent neurons from firing. So babies are living, breathing, learning machines. The fact that they are dependent on others is part of the master plan, too. Scientists have found that the more complex and intelligent a species is, the longer the offspring take to reach maturity and independence – and human are at the top of that list.
Scientists have found that the more complex and intelligent a species is, the longer the offspring take to reach maturity and independence – and human are at the top of that list.
What can you do during this important time in your grandbaby’s life? Read on.
Six ways to make playtime a learning experience
To offer your GRANDbaby learning experiences while playing, try these six tips from experienced grands:
1. Choose the right time. When a baby is quiet and alert, rather than active and squirming, his or her brain will be more ready to focus.
2. Young babies want sensory stimulation – so you’ll do well to concentrate on sight, sound, and touch.
3. Babies like sharp and contrasting colors more than muted tones.
4. Babies under six months prefer to gaze sideways rather than looking straight up at something. Encourage your grandchild to track objects by moving a toy from one side of their sight line to another.
5. Introduce your GRANDbaby to his or her own face in the mirror.
6. Read, talk, and sing throughout your time together.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Cheryl Harbour is the special editor of our “My GRANDbaby” section and author of Good to Be Grand: making the Most of your Grandchild’s First Year, a combination of up-to-date information and grandparent inspiration.