What do we really know about how a young child develops? What can parents
do to best support their child’s healthy development and growing brain?
This information is based on findings from a report* from the National Academy
of Sciences that examined the research on child and brain development to establish
what is known about the early years. You might be able to use these key findings
to nurture your own child’s healthy development!
The following chart describes many of the things your baby is learning between
0 and 2 months and what you can do to support your child in all areas of his
development. As you read, remember that children develop at their own pace
and in their own way. Understanding who your child is, what his strengths are
and where he needs more support, is essential for promoting his healthy development.
If you have questions regarding your child’s development, ask your pediatrician.
What You Can Do
Questions to Ask
One of the most important tasks of the first 2 months
is to help newborns feel comfortable in their new world. They are learning
to regulate their eating and sleeping patterns and their emotions, which
help them feel content, safe and secure.
• Observe carefully. This will help you figure
out what your baby’s cries are telling you.
• Soothe your baby. When you respond to your baby’s cries
and meet his needs, you let him know he is loved. You can’t spoil
a baby. In fact, by responding lovingly to his needs, you are helping
him learn skills now that allow him eventually to soothe himself. You
are also promoting a strong bond and healthy brain development.
• What soothes your baby? How do you know?
• What most distresses him?
Newborns use their gestures (body movements), sounds
and facial expressions to communicate their feelings and needs from day
1. They use different cries to let you know they are hungry, tired or
bored. They ask for a break by looking away, arching their backs, frowning
or crying. They socialize with you by watching your face and exchanging
• Figure out what your baby is trying to tell
you. Responding makes him feel important and tells him he is a good communicator.
This builds a positive sense of self and a desire to communicate more.
Talk and sing to your baby. Tell him about everything that’s going
on around him. Pay attention to the sights and sounds he likes. Find
toys and everyday objects with different colors and textures and see
which he likes best.
• How does your baby communicate with you?
• What kinds of interactions does he like best? How do you know?
• How does he let you know when he has had enough?
Even as newborns, babies can play in many ways. They
can connect sounds with their sources, and love when you talk and sing
to them. Play helps babies learn about the world around them. It is also
an important way they connect with you, helping them to develop a strong
attachment and promoting healthy social development.
• Offer your baby lots of different objects for
him to look at, touch and even grip in his palms. He can focus best on
things that are 8 to 12 inches away.
Play "tracking" games by moving yourself and interesting
object back and forth. First he will use his eyes to follow. Eventually
he will move his head from side to side. This helps strengthen his neck
muscles as well as exercise his visual abilities.
• What experiences does your baby seem to like
best? (For example, talking with him; looking at toys or other objects;
hearing the cat "meow.")
• What kind of toys grab your baby’s attention? How does
he let you know what he’s interested in?
• What kind of play do you enjoy most with your baby?
*The report, From Neurons to Neighborhoods: The Science of Early Childhood
Development, was a 21/2-year effort by a group of 17 leading professionals
with backgrounds in neuroscience, psychology, child development, economics,
education, pediatrics, psychiatry and public policy. They reviewed what was
known about the nature of early child development and the influence of early
experiences on children's health and well-being. The study was sponsored by
a number of federal agencies and private foundations.
Content is excerpted from Healthy Minds, with permission from ZERO
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