Baby Prodigy: A Guide to Raising a Smarter, Happier Babyby Barbara Candiano-Marcus
Winner of thirteen national awards, the Baby Prodigy Company’s DVDs and CDs have opened up an exciting new world for babies to explore. Now the creator of this landmark series presents a simple, straightforward guide no parent should be without. This fascinating book shows how stimulation affects the intelligence and
ENHANCE YOUR BABY’S POTENTIAL!
Winner of thirteen national awards, the Baby Prodigy Company’s DVDs and CDs have opened up an exciting new world for babies to explore. Now the creator of this landmark series presents a simple, straightforward guide no parent should be without. This fascinating book shows how stimulation affects the intelligence and happiness of your baby. It provides a program of activities that will enrich your infant’s sensory awareness–hearing, seeing, touching, feeling, and tasting–in order to jumpstart amazing brain growth during the critical first three years of life.
• sanity-saving tips for sleepless nights, fussy days, colic, and more
• bonding and soothing techniques to use during your baby’s first three weeks of life
• easy, pleasurable activities to promote development in very young infants
• milestones to look for as your child grows–from birth through toddlerhood
• creative ways to stimulate curiosity, attention span, memory, and nervous system advancement
• the ideal books and toys that will inspire learning and retention
• baby talk: what your baby is trying to say, and how to talk to your baby at every stage of development
From the Trade Paperback edition.
“Using recent advancements in child development research . . . [the Baby Prodigy program], unlike any other on the market, is specially designed to educate, entrance, and delight your child.”
“Stimulating, fun, and worthwhile.”
- Random House Publishing Group
- Publication date:
- Sold by:
- Random House
- NOOK Book
- File size:
- 3 MB
Read an Excerpt
Happier, Smarter Babies
As I began to research childhood brain development in order to develop the Baby Prodigy DVDs, CDs, and videos, I had to educate myself on how the brain worked. This chapter is by no means an effort to provide you with a full education in neuroanatomy; it is a simple overview of the biology and development of the brain, with an emphasis on the areas that are developing most rapidly during your child’s first years of life. It’s my goal to make this chapter on the science of the brain as basic and nonintimi- dating as possible. If, after reading this introductory material, you are as fascinated by the workings of the brain as I am, you may want to read more deeply in this subject. In the appendix, Recommended Reading and Resources, I suggest some works that explore in detail the subject of your child’s developing brain.
When reading this chapter you may be surprised—as I was when I began my research in this area—by the discovery that many of the stimulating activities that promote brain growth and development in your baby are activities that we, as parents and caregivers, practice naturally and instinctively. In 1996, the Families and Work Institute held a conference at the University of Chicago entitled “Brain Developments in Young Children: New Frontiers for Research, Policy, and Practice.” Experts from the fields of neuroscience, medicine, education, human services, media, business, and public policy came together to discuss what was known about the developing brain and how that knowledge should inform efforts to improve results for children and their families. Their top recommendations have been distilled into a list of ten important guidelines for promoting healthy brain development in children:
1.Be warm, loving, and responsive.
2.Respond to your child’s cues and clues.
3.Talk, read, and sing to your child.
4.Establish rituals and routines.
5.Encourage safe explorations and play.
6.Make television watching selective.
7.Teach through discipline. Be consistent and loving. Supervise and set limits.
8.Recognize that your child is unique and expect him to succeed.
9.Choose quality child care and stay involved.
10.Take care of yourself.
Later in this chapter I will talk briefly about how each of these guidelines affects how your child’s brain becomes “wired.” I’ll touch on how relationships with parents and caregivers—as well as the sights, sounds, smells, tastes, textures, and feelings children experience—help to develop the structure of the brain and shape the way your child thinks, learns, and behaves for the rest of his life. But first, a short introduction to the most important and complex structure in your body: your brain.
An Overview of the Brain
The fully formed adult brain is a three-pound mass that allows us to think, move, feel, see, hear, taste, and smell. It controls our bodies, receives and analyzes information, and stores our memories.
Approximately 100 hundred billion long, wiry nerve cells, or neurons, send and receive electrochemical signals to and from the brain and the nervous system. The glial (meaning “glue”) cells are even more numerous and act as a support system for the neurons.
The brain itself is covered by a tough coating called the dura and floats in a cushion of cerebrospinal fluid, surrounded and protected by the hard bones of your skull. The brain and the spinal cord make up the central nervous system. The brain consists of roughly four parts:
Also known as the frontal lobe, this intricate, wrinkled part of the brain, along with its covering, the cortex, is responsible for complex processing and high-level functions, including the following:
coordination of movements
sense of smell
The cerebrum itself has an extremely complicated structure, containing the right and left hemispheres of the brain; the occipital, parietal, and temporal lobes; and the corpus callosum.
The left and right hemispheres. Control many physical and mental functions. The right side of your brain controls the left side of your body, and the left side of your brain controls the right side of your body! The right hemisphere governs temporal and spatial relationships; analyzes nonverbal information such as pattern recognition, line orientation, and complex auditory tones; and communicates emotion. The left hemisphere works to produce and understand language and controls other cognitive functions. In most people, the left hemisphere of the brain is dominant over the right in deciding what response to make.
The occipital lobe. Controls vision and reading.
The parietal lobe. Has some visual and language and reading functions, but primarily governs sensory combinations and comprehension of stimuli. Your sense of touch is dependent on your parietal lobe.
The temporal lobe. Also pitches in on visual and language duties, but is more strongly associated with hearing, auditory and visual memory, music, behavior, and emotion, including strong emotions such as fear. The temporal lobe plays an important role in an individual’s sense of identity.
The corpus callosum. Keeps communication flowing between the left and right sides of the brain.
The Brain Stem
Sometimes called the lower brain, this section controls motor and sensory pathways to the body and face and governs vital centers of the body including cardiac, respiratory, and vasomotor.
Located just above the brain stem, the cerebellum also governs the cardiac, respiratory, and vasomotor centers. It also coordinates your sense of balance and muscle movement.
The Limbic System
Finally, the limbic system lies above the brain stem and under the cortex. It consists of a number of intercon- nected structures that researchers have linked to hormones, drives, aggressive behavior, strong emotions and the physiological changes that accompany them, temperature control, and memory formation.
How Your Baby’s Brain Develops
Your baby’s brain begins forming just three weeks after conception and continues its development over a lifetime. While genetics do predispose us to develop in certain ways, researchers have found that parents and caregivers have the ability to influence brain growth in awesome ways. Proper stimulation will make your baby’s brain grow denser, quicken his thought processes, and enhance his perceptive capabilities. With the right brain stimulation, experts tell us, your child will be smarter, more competent—even happier.
Babies are born with 100 billion neurons—roughly the same number they’ll always have. Although they come into the world with all the neurons they need, and then some, the architecture of a baby’s brain is far from developed. Over the next three years, until a baby’s brain reaches nearly 90 percent of its adult size, trillions of connections—called synapses—are formed between neurons. Synapses act as bridges, establishing the brain’s circuitry. The higher the quality of the synaptic connection, the quicker the brain can process information.
By the age of three, your child will have developed an estimated 1,000 trillion synaptic connections. The type and quality of these synaptic connections is determined by the kind of stimulation a baby receives from her world. The more a synapse is used in daily life, the more it is reinforced. A synapse that is not used often enough is eventually pruned away. Or, as neuroscientists like to say, “cells that fire together, wire together.”
My favorite analogy to illustrate how synapses are strengthened or discarded over time compares them to the trails created by travelers who are making their way through a previously uncharted wilderness. Footpaths that are frequently traveled soon become easily accessed and eventually become roadways that allow travelers to move quickly and efficiently. Other paths, which started out as equally possible routes but that are not traveled frequently, soon become overgrown, unused, and finally impassible.
In the first three years of brain development, production of synaptic connections far outpaces elimination. By the age of three, your child’s brain has nearly twice the number of synapses as yours. For the rest of her first decade, production and elimination of synapses are virtually equal. Beginning in early adolescence and continuing for the rest of her life, elimination of discarded synapses becomes the dominant process. Researchers use the term “plasticity” to describe this creating, strengthening, and discarding of synapses and neuronal pathways in response to the environment. Essentially, because the brain develops in an adaptive way, it will adapt to both positive and negative environments.
So what does this mean for your baby? In a nutshell: For the first three years of her life, the stimulation she receives and the experiences she has will influence how her brain will be wired as an adult.
From the Trade Paperback edition.
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