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by Claire Gagne
New parents want to give their baby the best start in life, and a big part of supporting early baby brain development is stimulating your baby’s brain. It might seem like a daunting task, but boosting your wee one’s brain doesn’t need to be complicated, says Alyson Shaw, a paediatrician at Ottawa’s Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario—in fact, it can be a simple part of your new routine. Here are eight everyday activities that help your little one’s development.
1. Breastfeeding or bottle feeding
Feeding your little one isn’t just great bonding time—it’s also a great opportunity to get her brain working. “When babies are born they can focus on a mother’s face from the distance they are during breastfeeding,” says Shaw. When you’re feeding, you’re looking at your baby and the two of you are making facial expressions back and forth. Respond and repeat your little one’s coos to help her learn to form words and hold conversation. If you’re bottle feeding, keep her nestled around the height of your chest to ensure she’s close enough to focus on your face.
2. Going for a drive
Let’s be honest: There isn’t too much you can do with your baby while you’re in the front seat focusing on the road, and your babe is staring at the upholstery on the back of the rear seat. But singing is a hands-free activity, and one that will greatly boost his baby brain development. “When parents sing to babies, they’re often singing with a lot of intonation, which is interesting for the baby,” says Shaw. “Songs can introduce new words and repetitive patterns, which is important for language development. Singing also teaches babies about rhyming, which is important for later success in reading.” When you’ve had enough of the lullabies, sing him a little Beyoncé or Neil Young—he won’t know the difference.
3. Diaper Changing
Changing a dirty diaper isn’t exactly every parent’s dream chore, but don’t dismiss it too quickly—it’s an ideal time to bring language into your baby’s life, says Shaw. Talk to him about what you’re doing, and what you’re going to do next. “Babies can come to expect certain patterns to their day. If you’re changing your baby and sing a particular song, you’re building that into your day,” she explains.
4. Bath time
It’s not just bath time—it’s math and science time! Babies love to pour water from one container to another, and while your little one is happily playing in the tub, she’s also learning cause and effect, how gravity works and observing the volume of water, and “these are early math skills,” notes Shaw. Bath time also offers a great opportunity to interact with your babe: Sing songs while you’re soaping her up to help develop her language skills, and use the washcloth to play peekaboo—it’ll help her learn about object permanence, or the awareness that objects continue to exist even when they can’t see them.