Smarter Solutions For Your Baby's Brain
Did you know that at birth, a baby’s brain is made up of over 100 billion neurons (nerve cells)? Over the first year of life, the nerves prune down and form important connections that drive a child’s cognitive capacity.
The infant brain is plastic. In the science world, "plastic" means that connections between nerves are changed and formed easily. During these early months of life, the child’s brain needs to be exposed to specific movement skills that facilitate cognitive growth as well as specific cognitive skills that influence independent movement. Neuroscience and physical therapy have linked the impact of early movement, cognition, and brain development to influencing positive lifelong behaviors. This connection directly translates to a child's success in school and in life.
How it works…
Combining specific movement exercises (reaching, sitting, transfers, and walking) with cognitive activities (problem-solving, memory, attention, social interaction, and language) improves synaptic connections for optimal brain growth.
Here is an example…
One of my favorite exercises combining cognition and movement is tethering. Here, a proximal action (action close to the body) results in a distal reaction (movement away from the body). By using a string, the baby learns through this cause and effect activity that arm movement makes the rattle shake. The baby learns this behavior and repeats the movement seeking the effect of the shaking rattle. Benefits include: memory, attention to task, problem solving, pre-rolling development, head control, and hand-eye coordination.
The key to improving Baby brain development…
Find the "just-right" level of cognitive and movement challenge.
When the cognitive task is too difficult, the child will lose interest on the task resulting in poor motor performance. For example, in the picture above, this baby might not move or move with slow speeds during reaching and playing due the overwhelming amount of toy choices she is presented with. Thus, the high cognitive load contributes to poor movement skill development.
Likewise, when the physical challenge is too difficult, the child will be unable to perform the cognitive task. For instance, in the video below, the child does not have the strength to hold his head in midline or reach his arms to engage with the toy in sitting.
Both of these scenarios contribute to a negative affect, poor motivation, and most importantly, a lack of learning.
The success of physical and cognitive development is derived from finding that "just-right" level of cognitive and physical challenge which allows the baby to experience the environment in the best way.