As parents, we all want to stay one step ahead — whether it’s getting our babies to walk, talk, feed themselves or start developing physical and cognitive skills, but oftentimes we just don’t know what the best way is to get a head start on our child’s development! There are so many conflicting theories out there so we sat down with the experts over at Spring Learning to get their advice for nurturing baby development:
How early is too early to start brain stimulation and sensory integration?
It’s never too early! While we don’t start “education” at early stages, we definitely encourage stimulation and preparing your child for future education by nurturing their brain and senses. It’s building the foundation for future success. Brain stimulation and sensory integration starts from day 1. At five months, babies undergo the reflex-motor development stage. Our KindyROO and Sensory classes help with body awareness, stimulating sensory pathways and inhibiting primary reflexes that may impede progression towards the next developmental sequence. KindyROO focuses on gross and fine motor development, visual / auditory skill development and socialisation skills while our Sensory class exposes children to their environment through stimulating each of their senses.
Does experience change the actual structure of the brain?
Yes. Brain development is “activity-dependent”, meaning that the electrical activity in every circuit — sensory, motor, emotional, cognitive — shapes the way that circuit gets put together. Like computer circuits, neural circuits process information through the flow of electricity. Unlike computer circuits, however, the circuits in our brains are not fixed structures. Every experience, whether it’s seeing one’s first rainbow, riding a bicycle, reading a book or sharing a joke, excites certain neural circuits and leaves others inactive. Those that are consistently turned on over time will be strengthened, while those that are rarely excited may be dropped away. Or, as neuroscientists sometimes say, “Cells that fire together, wire together.” The elimination of unused neural circuits, also referred to as “pruning,” may sound harsh, but it is generally a good thing. It streamlines children’s neural processing, making the remaining circuits work more quickly and efficiently. Without synaptic pruning, children wouldn’t be able to walk, talk, or even see properly.
Why is it important for children to nurture their brains early on?
Children are born with all of the brain cells they’re going to have (a few brain structures add new nerve cells during infancy and a single region adds new cells throughout the lifespan). As babies grow, they learn many things, but they do not get new brain cells. The nerve cells in the brain (called neurons) grow and develop as the baby matures. Just as muscles must be used to become stronger, the same is true with the brain. That’s why it’s important to start engaging brain stimulation and sensory integration early on!
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