Mentally stimulate your baby and boost his IQ with these fun activities.
WORDS CHRISTEL GERALYN GOMES
Experts in child-development argue that a baby’s first year of life counts for more than you think. So what are some easy, fun and everyday ways to help your bub get the best start in life? We speak to the experts.
According to Dr Janice Wong Tzen Yuen, paediatrician in the departments of Neurology, Neurorehabilitation and Neurodevelopment at Thomson Paediatric Centre, if you want to boost your baby’s IQ, careful care begins while he is still in the womb. She says that your physical health during your pregnancy, good nutrition and breastfeeding once your baby is born are the three pillars that lay the foundation for a healthy developing brain.
We hear about how important breastfeeding is time and time again, but many working mums – for very practical reasons – may choose not to breastfeed for long. According to Associate Professor Stacey Tay, senior consultant at the Division of Paediatric Neurology, National University Hospital, “Brain scans have shown that breastfed babies have larger brain volume, white matter and deep grey matter volumes in the brain. This correlates with higher verbal IQ, working memory and motor function.” So try to breastfeed for as long as you possibly can.
Let Baby Sleep
It can be tempting for the parent who really wants the little bub to be adequately stimulated to constantly give the baby new stimuli, but be careful that you don’t excite your baby so much that he gets less sleep than he otherwise would. According to AP Tay, adequate sleep is just as important as anything else for your baby’s brain to develop at optimum.
She says, “Newborns need 14 to 17 hours of sleep, infants need 12 to 15 hours, toddlers 11 to 14 hours and preschoolers 10 to 13 hours daily.”
Chat Baby Up!
Developing your child’s brain isn’t rocket science. According to Dr Chitra Gangadaran Ramalingam, specialist in paediatrics and consultant at Raffles Children’s Centre, studies show that talking to your baby from birth enhances cognitive skills and improves vocabulary and language processing skills. While our society tends to favour math and science learning brains, it is a fact that a person’s language skills directly relate to intelligence and success in life. If you want your child to be able to understand the world and its complex ideas, language is the tool he needs first.
Listening is Step One
According to Dr Chitra, “Children develop their receptive speech and language skills before developing a clearer expressive speech and language. Hence, it is of vital importance for children to hear and listen to their parents before they start expressing themselves.”
Baby-talk is Awesome!
In the initial stages, your baby will really focus on silly cooing and funny sounds and rhythms.
Experts say cooing communicates affection so go nuts – baby is learning
to recognise your voice, gleaning tonal emotions and distinguishing
language from other sounds all at the same time.
But it’s Not Just Baby Talk…
However, to take it a step further, there’s value in speaking to your baby as if he can fully understand you. Dr Chitra notes that influential developmental psychologist, Professor Erika Hoff from Florida says that parents should not restrict their conversations to simplistic baby talk because using rich and complex language helps children to learn the multifarious structure of language. "Children cannot learn what they don't hear," says the professor.
Learn tunes or make up your own and sing while you work, give your baby a bath or change his diaper. Research suggests that understanding musical rhythm is linked to mathematical intelligence.
Stimulate Baby’s Vision
According to Dr Chitra, you can start stimulating your child’s vision right from birth, even when all your baby sees are blurry blobs. “Parents can use different ways to stimulate according to the developmental age of the child. Vision plays a key role not only in their cognitive skills but their fine motor skills through enhancing their hand-eye coordination.”
Make Eye Contact
A newborn can focus on something 20 to 30 centimetres away, so this is the perfect time to start bonding with him. Look into your baby’s eyes and fall in love!