Nurturing Young Minds: Jump-Starting Your Infant's Brain Development


As parents, we have an incredible responsibility to support and nurture our children's development, particularly during the crucial early years. The first few months and years of a child's life are a period of rapid brain development, laying the foundation for future learning, socialization, and overall well-being. By understanding the key factors that contribute to infant brain development and employing stimulating activities, we can help jump-start their cognitive growth and set them on a path of lifelong learning.

  1. Establish a Secure and Nurturing Environment. The environment in which an infant grows plays a vital role in their brain development. Creating a secure and nurturing atmosphere sets the stage for optimal cognitive development. Ensure your child feels loved and cared for by providing consistent and responsive caregiving. Regularly engage in activities like cuddling, talking, singing, and gentle play, which foster a strong bond and help develop neural pathways associated with emotional well-being.

  2. Encourage Sensory Stimulation. Sensory experiences are essential for infants to explore and make sense of the world around them. Offer a variety of stimuli to engage their senses—touch, sight, hearing, taste, and smell. Provide colorful toys, interesting textures, and safe objects they can grasp and manipulate. Expose them to different sounds, music, and nature sounds. Take them on outings to explore nature or visit age-appropriate sensory play areas. By stimulating their senses, you support the development of neural connections and lay the groundwork for cognitive and perceptual skills.

  3. Foster Language and Communication. Language development is closely linked to brain development in infants. Engage in regular verbal interactions with your child, even from the earliest stages. Talk to them while changing diapers, bathing, or feeding, describing what you're doing and asking questions. Read books with colorful illustrations, using expressive voices and gestures to capture their attention. Sing songs and nursery rhymes, as rhythm and melody aid in language acquisition. Respond to your child's babbling and gestures, encouraging their attempts at communication. These interactions promote language skills, enhance social-emotional development, and build the foundation for later literacy.

  4. Promote Physical Activity and Motor Skills. Physical activity and motor skill development go hand in hand with brain development. Encourage your infant to explore their surroundings by providing a safe space for crawling, rolling, and eventually walking. Offer age-appropriate toys that promote reaching, grasping, and manipulating objects. Engage in tummy time activities to strengthen their neck and core muscles. As they grow older, introduce activities that involve coordination, such as stacking blocks, playing with puzzles, or imitating actions. Physical movement helps develop neural connections and supports overall cognitive development.

  5. Ensure a Healthy Diet and Adequate Sleep. Proper nutrition and sufficient sleep are essential for optimal brain development. Breast milk or formula provides the necessary nutrients for a growing brain. As your child transitions to solid foods, offer a variety of nutrient-rich options, including fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Establish a consistent sleep routine, ensuring they get the recommended hours of sleep for their age. A well-rested and well-nourished infant is better equipped to learn and develop.


Every interaction and experience shapes an infant's brain development. By creating a loving environment, providing sensory stimulation, fostering language and communication, encouraging physical activity, and ensuring proper nutrition and sleep, we can jump-start our child's cognitive growth and set them up for success in their future learning and development.

Remember, each child is unique, and their development unfolds at its own pace. Embrace the journey, enjoy precious moments, and be a supportive guide in your child's exploration of the world.

Photo by Melisa Figueroa on Unsplash

Study Suggests Long Terms Health of Babies Affected by Covid 19 Pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has been hard on many people in a variety of ways, even babies. For babies born during the Covid19  pandemic, a JAMA study suggests, the log-term health problems has the potential to be lifelong.

The first three years of life are crucial for brain development in humans. But it’s not just the health of babies that it affected, but the interactions between babies, parents and other would be caregivers. Babies need to be touched, spoken to, swaddled, smiled at, played with, stimulated and loved. As they respond to those interactions, neural connections are constructed in the brain. Without those interactions, an infant's brain doesn’t develop and grow as it should.

A stressed out or depressed parent or caregiver may find it hard to find the time and energy required to give the child's brain the love, stimulation and attention it needs to develop. There are many studies showing that poverty, maternal depression and other factors can change the development of a child's brain forever.



As part of an ongoing study of babies and their mothers, researchers from Columbia University studied the development of three groups of 6-month-old infants. Two of the groups were born during the COVID-19 pandemic; the mothers of one group had COVID-19, while the mothers of the other did not. The third group was a historical cohort (a group of babies who were born before the pandemic).

Mothers participating in the study used an Ages and Stages Questionnaire (ASQ-3) to record their babies’ development and evolution. The researchers noted no difference in the development of the two groups of babies born during the pandemic, suggesting that prenatal exposure to COVID-19 doesn’t affect development, which is good news. But babies born during the pandemic scored lower in gross motor, fine motor, and social-emotional development than the babies born before the pandemic. Examples of developmental tasks for babies in this age group are rolling from back to tummy (gross motor), reaching for or grasping a toy with both hands (fine motor), and acting differently to strangers than to parents or familiar people (social-emotional development).


Infant Development during COVID

It’s just one study, and we need to do more research to better understand this, but the findings are not really surprising given what we know about infant development. The COVID-19 pandemic has caused a lot of stress — emotional, financial, and otherwise — for so many families. It has also markedly affected the number and kind of interactions we have with other people. Babies are on average interacting with fewer people (and seeing fewer faces because of masking) than they did before the pandemic.

Even though we need to do more research, this study should serve as a warning for us as a society. The children of this pandemic will carry scars forever if we don’t intervene now. We’ve already seen the emotional and educational effects on children, and we need to be aware of the developmental effects on babies too. The stakes are too high to ignore the research.


What Can be Done?

We need to find ways to financially and emotionally support families with young children. We need to be diligent, energetic and creative, and work every angle available. And even if our government can't help out enough and play a role, our communities and individuals must take up the slack.

And parents and caregivers of infants and toddlers need to know about this research — and ask for help. It’s understandable and natural for parents to think that babies are too small and unaware to be affected by the pandemic. But they are affected, in ways that could be long-lasting. Talk to your doctor about what you can do to help yourself, your family, and your baby’s future.

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Baby Development: When Attachment Ends

My third child had the remarkable distinction of being attached to not one, not two, but three blankets. These baby items were appropriately, if not creatively, named blue blankie, yellow blankie, and green blankie, and he loved them all. Regardless of where he went, the blankets were always in tow. It was cute at first. After all, he was the baby of the family, and everyone likes to dote over the youngest child. But as he passed from baby to toddler, his dependence on the blankets grew. I wondered if transitioning him from an item he'd outgrown would be three times more difficult when it was time to leave this baby development stage in the dust.

As time went on, I began to worry that he'd take the blankets on his first date. I knew he wouldn't, of course, but when you're a parent in the throes of weaning your child from his favorite baby item, you seriously begin to wonder. The blankets accompanied us to the playground and the supermarket -- even his sister's soccer games. As time went on, they got dirty, torn, and worn. 

Our pediatrician assured us that our son wasn't the first child on the planet to grow overly attached to a security object. In fact, it's a normal stage of baby development that helps provide the child with a sense of security, and there's no reason to force him out of his comfort zone. These things usually fix themselves, she said. She was right.

Preschool -- and the peer pressure that goes along with it -- played a major role in weaning our son off the blankets. It doesn't take any child long to figure out that the other kids aren't walking into preschool with three blankets in tow. In addition to that, his father and I tried our best not to fuss about the blankets. Yes, they were annoying, but we tried to overlook them. Logic told us that if these baby items were acting as a form of security, then telling him not to use them might only create more anxiety, and in turn, increase the dependency. We chose to let the social pressures of preschool work their magic instead.

During the time when our son and his blankets were inseparable, these tips helped us cope:


  • Don't insist that your child give up his security attachment too soon. It only creates more anxiety.
  • Set limits when necessary, but do it gently. For instance, rather than dragging the blankets through a dirty playground, we encouraged our son to leave them in a safe place while he played.  
  • Find other ways to keep your child's hands busy and occupied, like building blocks, drawing, or solving a floor puzzle.
  • Give plenty of hugs while your child is learning to outgrow the dependency.


Like many parents, we worried that our son's blankets would be with him forever. Now we know that blue, yellow, and green blankies were simply another stepping stone in his ongoing quest for independence.

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First Words: Reach this Baby Milestone

Every new mom waits patiently to hear her baby’s first words--probably secretly hoping it will be “mama.” But when that first bit of language finally emerges, don’t panic if you can’t understand exactly what your baby is saying. For my firstborn, her early utterances were tough to discern, but one day in her 13th month, she clearly said “fan” (a strange first word, I know) -- and I was certain a genius was born. Here’s how to encourage your baby’s first words:

Keep on talking: Experts agree that the more words your new baby hears, the better, so keep talking to her even if you think she’s tuning you out. I talked endlessly to my daughter when she was a baby, commenting on what we saw in the park, what she was eating, and what the plans were for the day. I explained the weather, talked about what we were buying in the food store, and even narrated how I changed her Pampers diaper. No topic was too dull.

Take pause: As you chitchat during the day, be sure to give your new baby time to digest what you’ve said -- and to reply in her baby gurgle. This will help her learn the flow of conversation. My baby babbled away and tried to repeat what she heard, so I acted as if I was having a conversation with her and gave her time to explain “her side.”

Crack the books: Begin to read from day one! It’s never too early to start short board books with new babies. Isabel loved to snuggle up and hear a couple before bed, and she’d chew on them during the day, too. To help along baby development, work up to longer picture books, and let her help by turning the pages.

Break into song: Simple rhyming ditties are entertaining, of course, but they also serve to teach new babies new words. I used to sing as we were walking in the park, picking up toys, or eating a snack or meal. Pop music hits, church hymns, camp songs -- any happy tune will do the trick.

Above all, I learned not to feel silly as I taught my baby to talk. Yes, gabbing about your to-do list to your little one can be a bit strange, and you will often feel like you’re talking to yourself. However, it will be more than worth it once your new baby says her first words.

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Baby Items to Keep Your Baby Happy at Each Stage

Before my son was born, my husband and I made the prenatal pilgrimage to register at a big box baby store for all the baby stuff we thought we’d need. We were excited, overwhelmed, and just a little bit skeptical. Would we have room in our apartment for tricked out swings and bouncers? How could there be so many variations on the pacifier? Did our little guy really need all this baby stuff? Turns out, he was indifferent to some items, like the ubiquitous lovey blanket, and totally tickled by others.

Here, the go-to baby items that kept our baby -- and his first-time parents -- happy throughout his first year.

0-3 Months

Pacifier My reluctance to introduce the pacifier -- for fear my son would be screaming for this addictive baby item at age three -- quickly subsided when our pediatrician endorsed it as a great way to soothe a fussy baby and help him to sleep. Pacifiers may also help reduce the risk of SIDS, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. So now we keep a few in the diaper bag and by his crib.

Activity Mat Now that our son has conquered that baby development milestone of walking (or more like running) around the house, it’s hard to remember that our baby ever hung out exclusively on a round piece of fabric in the family room. For the first three to four months he happily played beneath the soft, padded arches of his activity mat, swatting at colorful, dangling toys, or strengthening his back muscles during tummy time.

Car Seat-Stroller Combo Baby items come with a lot of straps. It may seem like you’re constantly clicking and unclicking, locking, and unlocking. Enter the detachable car seat and stroller in-one, which lets you transfer your tike -- from the car to the stroller and back again -- while he’s still happily nestled in his car seat (so you’ll never have to disturb him from his nap).

4-6 Months

Swing In the early days, my son was mostly unfazed by this particular baby item. He couldn’t focus on the mobile swirling above him, and even the lowest setting was a bit too fast. But as he packed on the pounds, he found his swing sweet spot. The rocking motion and music helped soothe, entertain, and coax him to sleep whenever he refused to nap in his crib. Plus, it gave me a few precious, hands-free moments.

Toys to grasp Once your little one finds his fingers (one of the cutest baby milestones!), between four and seven months, he’ll be reaching for the remote, your earrings…you get the idea. My son was crazy for a lightweight ball we found that had plenty of large holes his fingers could grip. He also loved to hang onto colorful linked rings that doubled as teethers and pliable plastic rattles.

Floor Seat When I first put my son in his floor seat, which helps your baby into a seated position, his eyes lit up. This was a baby item he could get on board with. Propped up in this new pose, he also had a fascinating fresh perspective on life. Look for baby seats that have straps, detachable toys, and that can double as a booster seat for meals on the go.

7-12 Months

Exercise Gym In the months before he developed his walking skills, my son’s activity gym was one of the baby items at the center of his universe. He loved to pull up to a standing position and explore the keyboard, mirror, and other toys, which made pleasant clicking and clacking sounds. Our gym came with a detachable seat, which rotated around the table. My little one loved to propel himself in circles, and I loved that he could get his legs working without leaving the room.

Stuffed Animal My son’s stuffed monkey is practically a member of the family -- he dines with us on occasion, gets kisses at night, and travels with us on family vacations. While it’s important to keep stuffed toys and other objects out of the crib during the first year (to reduce the risk of SIDS), Monkey’s always been game to demonstrate how to brush one’s teeth, play peekaboo and lay perfectly still for a diaper change. He’s a comfort and constant companion -- in other words, perfect as far as baby items go.

Photo by kids&me Germany on Unsplash