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“Developing a brain is a lot like building a house: you need a good foundation,” says Merle Davies, director of the Center for Early Childhood Development, in the English city of Blackpool.
Her work there, in charge of the ” Blackpool better start ” program, has become a reference in the United Kingdom and that is why the BBC spoke with her about the best ways to help the brain development of a baby or a young child.
These are your answers, summarized in 7 tips.
1. Interact “as in tennis”
Brain development is an interactive process and any “take-back” activity can help in that process.
It is an early development strategy inspired by these two actions of a tennis match, known in English as ” serve and return “: for example, responding to a baby when it begins to babble by emitting sounds like “gu gu” or “ga ga “, or accepting and saying” thank you “if you pass a handkerchief.
According to the Child Development Center of Harvard University, in the United States, “when a baby or a small child babbles, makes a gesture or cries, and an adult responds attentively with eye contact, words or a hug , they establish and strengthen neuronal connections in the child’s brain that will support the development of social and communication skills “.
2. Read, read, read
“We have evidence that children who are read by their parents or caregivers are more successful in school, they also have higher self-esteem, establish better relationships with other children and often demonstrate better behavior,” says Merle Davies.
In their Center for the Early Development of the Child they recommend reading at least 15 minutes a day: that does make a difference in their development.
3. Talk to him from the beginning
When adults interact with the child or talk about what the child is saying to them, for example by asking questions, giving examples, or sharing rhymes and songs, then children begin to develop those cognitive tools and skills they need to thrive.
Even when the child is babbling or saying something that is not particularly intelligible, Davies recommends starting a conversation with the child to let him know that you are going to interact with him like that, chatting.
4. Control the level of stress
Those who care for the child should be alert about the type of environment in which the child is, offer comfort when they are upset and help them calm their emotions.
This is particularly important for children who grow up in chronically stressful environments, vulnerable to violence, abuse or neglect, since what is known as “toxic stress” can cause developmental delays and health problems even into adulthood.
According to the Child Development Center at Harvard University establishing a stable supportive relationship with adults involved in the child’s well-being at an early age can prevent or reverse the damaging effects of toxic stress.
5. Respond carefully and in tune
The relationship established between a baby or a child under two years of age and their main caregiver is key to their physical, emotional and intellectual development.
These younger children need to feel safe, protected and cared for by their reference adults.
A mother, father or caregiver who is not receptive or indifferent can feed the appearance of social, emotional or behavioral difficulties, which can affect the child’s physical and emotional development.
6. A lot of play and outdoors
“Playing is essential for a child’s learning and well-being,” says Merle Davies, as is a stable routine of sleep .
In addition, daily physical activity, 60 to 90 active minutes a day , helps brain development, strengthening different motor skills, balance and vision.
Doing it outdoors is vital for brain development, and can also relieve stress for families, especially if they live in a confined space.
Experts agree that encouraging children to play abroad can help reduce the risk of having myopia and there are also studies that show that playing outside can reduce myopia to children at a slower pace.
7. A balanced diet
A poor diet can negatively impact a child’s brain and nervous system development, says Merle Davies.
At first, breast milk is very good from the nutritional point of view, because the milk of the mother’s body changes every day to give the child exactly what he needs.
Then, with the progressive introduction of solid foods, what matters is that they are varied and that they respond to the nutritional needs of the child.