Page 38 - Alaska Parent Winter 2020 Digital
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   38 alaska parent
winter 2020/21
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Baby gym
No, you don’t need to take your baby to spin class. But physical activity – think tummy time, crawling, scooting, walking practice, or parent-child swim – can boost brain growth. Researchers have found that physical activity benefits cognitive development, especially executive functions and language skills, in children from birth through age 5.
Why, thank you!
When your baby hands you a toy and looks at you expectantly, they’re initiating a game that develops social and emotional intelligence, says Sarah. Play along by responding with delight (“Thank you so much!), waiting a beat, then handing the toy back, and keep the back-and-forth going for as long as your baby stays interested.
Bust a move
Exposing babies to music introduces the concept of rhythm, which benefits mathematical skills, says Sarah. Encourage this learning with mini dance sessions as early as the newborn stage (holding your baby, of course), spending 5-10 minutes bouncing and swaying to the beat of songs you know and love.
Rhyme time
Reading books filled with rhyming words, like The Cat and the Hat, help your baby develop phonological awareness, an important component of language and literacy, says Sarah. “Books work well for this because as parents we don’t normally speak in rhymes. And we tend to get into verbal ruts and
use the same words over and over again. Books expose babies to words and rhymes you might not normally use.”
Face it
Just hours after birth, babies show a preference for gazing at faces, which boosts visual development and cognitive growth. Stanford researchers found that by 4 months old, babies facial recognition skills rival those of adults. A simple game like placing your face 10-12 inches from your baby’s face, then
switching with another person or even a stuffed animal and waiting for your baby to respond, can help babies hone this important skill.
That shape sorter you may have received at your baby shower
is great for developing spatial awareness and mathematical ability, says Sarah. Once babies get a
bit older, building blocks can help continue that development. “With blocks, babies are testing their environment and really getting into some complex concepts related to math, like volume, distance, and how structures work,” she says.
Baby comedian
“Parents sometimes think that in order to build language skills they need to ‘fill their baby’s bucket’ with a lot of words,” says Sarah. “But the back-and-forth interaction is what really benefits cognitive growth.” Try responding to your baby’s early coos and first words with a hearty laugh, a squeal or a surprised
face. The sillier the better, since babies are often delighted by these responses and more interested in keeping the interaction going.
I get it
Playing together provides opportunities to boost social and emotional skills by helping your baby understand and process emotions, says Sarah. “When your child becomes frustrated, talking about the emotions they’re feeling is important. When parents say
‘I understand why that made you upset,’ they’re scaffolding (or supporting) important social and emotional concepts.”
Focused, attentive interactions
with loving caregivers are the best brain-builders, says Sarah. When caregivers play with babies, they can make the experience even more beneficial by focusing on their baby and tuning out their phone and other distractions. “To create a high- quality interaction, it’s important
to be fully present and really focus your attention on your child.”

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