Amy is a mom of 1, an avid researcher in parenting, holistic wellness and natural living, organization and productivity, and more.
As a new parent, you may be wondering how you can help stimulate your newborn's brain development. While there are many expensive toys and gadgets on the market that claim to do just that, there are actually a number of simple activities that you can do at home to encourage cognitive development in your baby and help your baby reach developmental milestones.
Importance of stimulation for babies
Newborn stimulation refers to the various activities that you can do with your newborn baby in order to help them develop both physically and mentally. Research has shown that newborn stimulation can have a number of benefits for both babies and their parents, including helping to improve sleep patterns, promoting cognitive development, increasing bonding, and providing comfort for your infant. Newborns are also more likely to cry less and be less fussy if they receive regular stimulation.
Stimulation in early infancy helps children to reach their developmental milestones.
Benefits of stimulation for infants
When it comes to benefits, there are three main categories: physical, cognitive, and emotional.
Physical benefits can include things like improving muscle tone and helping your baby to acquire a sense of balance. Cognitive benefits can include aiding in the development of memory and attention span, as well as promoting problem-solving skills.
Emotional benefits can include helping your child to regulate their emotions and fostering a sense of security and trust.
Your baby's overall health benefits from age appropriate stimulation. Brain development in infants is tied closely to sensory stimulation. So, what are some newborn stimulation activities that you can do with your little one to help little one's development?
Types of stimulation for babies
There are a variety of ways to stimulate your newborn. Here are some types of stimulation that can be beneficial:
- Visual stimulation. Babies love to look at bright colors and patterns. You can hold up pictures or flashcards for your little bean to look at, or hang colorful mobiles above their crib.
- Auditory stimulation. Babies also love listening to music and sounds. You can sing nursery rhymes or play soft, calming music for your newborn to listen to.
- Tactile stimulation. Babies enjoy being touched and held. Try massaging your baby with gentle strokes, or cuddling them close.
- Olfactory stimulation. Babies have a keen sense of smell, and they often respond favorably to certain scents. Try diffusing lavender or chamomile essential oils, or using lotions with soothing scents like vanilla or almond.
Every tiny human is different and will respond differently to different types of stimulation. Experiment and see what works best for your little one!
How do you stimulate your child's development?
1. Talk to your baby—even before they're born!
One of the best things you can do for your baby is to talk to them from the very beginning. It's never too early to start! Even before they're born, your voice is a familiar and comforting sound to them. When you speak to your nugget, you're not only helping them to learn about language and communication, but you're also building a bond that will last a lifetime.
There are many ways to talk to your child. You can sing songs, read stories, or just have a conversation. Talking with your baby is a great way to pass the time while you're feeding them, changing their diaper, or getting them ready for bed.
It's also a perfect opportunity to teach them new words and concepts. Every time you talk to your newborn, you're helping your baby's development and overall health.
Newborn babies are unable to see or hear very well. However, they can feel vibrations and respond to touch. Researchers have found that newborn babies who are given a lot of stimulation—through touch, movement, and sound—tend to be more alert and responsive.
Furthermore, newborns who are talked to frequently tend to have better language skills later in life. So even though your newborn may not be able to understand you, it is still important to speak to them often. By doing so, you will help them to acquire the skills they need to thrive.
Try to talk to your infant as often as possible. You can speak to them while you're holding them, while you're walking, or even while you're doing the dishes. It's important to use a variety of words and sounds when you're talking to your baby. This will help them to learn and remember new words.
2. Sing and read to your newborn
Singing and reading to your newborn is a great way to stimulate their language development. Research has shown that babies who are read to frequently tend to have larger vocabularies than those who are not. Furthermore, reading to your baby can help them to develop a love of books and learning. It's also a perfect way to spend some quality time together.
Early childhood reading time has tremendous effects on verbal intelligence. Try to read to your child every day, even if it's just for a few minutes. Choose books that are specifically designed for babies and toddlers.
These books often have bright pictures and simple stories. Start by reading the book once all the way through. Then, go back and point out different pictures and talk about what's happening. The spoken words help your baby's brain learn listening skills and remember your voice, and seeing the pictures help their brains to make sight connections.
Try to read to your kiddo every day, even if it's just for a few minutes. You can read them a story or even just look at the pictures together. Their brain will benefit just from hearing your voice. Storytime is precious time for kids.
Sing songs while you are feeding them and playing games while making sounds engages your child and will help teach your newborn to respond, use his or her voice, and encourage your child's learning enjoyment.
3. Play music for your baby
Playing music for your infant is a great way to stimulate their cognitive and language development. Research has shown that babies who are exposed to music tend to have better language skills and improved coordination. Furthermore, music can help to soothe and calm your baby. It's also a great way to spend some quality time together.
You don't need to be a professional musician to play music for your bundle of love. You can sing them lullabies, play soft instrumental music, or even listen to music together.
There are many different types of music that are specifically designed for babies and toddlers. Start by playing the music for a few minutes each day and see how your child reacts. You may be surprised at how much they enjoy it! Children love soft and playful music!
4. Give your baby lots of cuddles
Cuddling with your little precious is a great way to promote social and emotional development. Research has shown that babies who are held and cuddled frequently tend to be more calm and content. Furthermore, cuddling can help to increase bonding between you and your baby. It's also a great way to show your love and affection.
Bonding time with your infant not only heightens intelligence in your child- it also reduces your stress. In the first few weeks after birth, when new parents are so so very tired, the bonding time spent with baby helps to release chemicals in the body that promote healing and relaxation.
Try to cuddle with your newborn as often as possible. You can hold them while you're talking, reading, or playing music together. You can also give them a massage or rock them gently in your arms. Cuddling is a great way to show your child how much you care about them
5. Stimulate your baby's senses
Stimulating your baby's senses is a great way to promote his or her intelligence.
There are many ways to stimulate young children's senses. You can expose them to different sounds, textures, and smells. Once your child is introduced to solid food, you can stimulate their senses with the smell of new foods.
You can also give them massages or let them play with safe, age-appropriate toys like mirrored crib fixtures, rattles, and teethers.
Try to stimulate as many of your baby's senses as possible each day. Remember that babies are fragile and easily stimulated. You don't want to play loud music or overwhelm your infant with strong smells, chemical fragrances, over-rubbing, rough housing, etc.
6. Give your baby plenty of tummy time
Tummy time is an important part of their physical development and overall health. Furthermore, tummy time can help to improve coordination and muscle development. It's also a great way to promote bonding between you and your child.
Try to give your baby tummy time every day, even if it's just for a few minutes. You can put them on their tummies while you're talking, reading, or playing music together. You can also let them play with safe, age-appropriate toys. Tummy time is a great way to show your baby how much you care about them.
7. Get outside and explore!
Getting outside is a great way to promote muscle and auditory intelligence. Furthermore, being outdoors can help to improve coordination and muscle development. It's also a great way to promote bonding between you and your baby.
Whether it is through playdates with other babies or simply spending time cuddling and interacting with you, socialization helps to stimulate your baby's senses and can promote healthy emotional growth.
Try to get outside with your baby every day, even if it's just for a few minutes. You can go for a walk, visit a park, or even just sit in the backyard. Let your baby explore and discover new things. It's a healthy activity for both parents and children.
8. Encourage your baby to move
Encouraging movement is a great way to promote your baby's muscle tone and agility.
One way to help your child's coordination is to provide them with opportunities to practice their motor skills.
This can be as simple as letting them grab at and explore objects around them. Babies reach for colorful objects placed just far enough away to encourage a little stretch. As they begin to learn more control over their movements, they will also be strengthening the connections between their brain cells.
Try to encourage your baby to move every day. Even just a few minutes of movement can make a big difference. You can put them on their tummies, let them kick their legs, or even just hold them in your arms and walk around. Encouraging your baby to move is a great way to nurture their agility and balance. Movement enables curiosity, which is a cornerstone of higher intelligence and good health.
9. Promote bonding through eye contact
Bonding with your baby is a great way to promote emotional connection skills and trust. Research has shown that babies who have a strong bond with their parents tend to have better social skills later in life.
Bonding can help to improve coordination and social skills. It's also a great way to show your love and affection and the eye contact deepens the feelings of connection your baby has with you.
Newborns can't really see at the time of birth, but the simple act of looking at them stimulates the baby's brain to learn sight.
10. Give your baby plenty of love and attention
Giving your baby plenty of love and attention is the most important thing you can do to promote intelligence in your child. Research has shown that babies who receive plenty of love and attention tend to have higher intelligence later in life.
Furthermore, being loved and cared for fosters trust and engagement. It's also a great way to promote bonding between you and your baby and gift your child good emotional health.
Try to show your baby how much you love them every day. You can hold them, cuddle them, and give them kisses. Those gentle caresses tell them how much you love them. Giving your baby plenty of love and attention is the best way to show your baby how much you care about them.
11. Take advantage of technology
There are a lot of great educational toys and apps available for babies these days. Look for ones that improve cognitive skills, motor skills, and social skills. You can also download apps that help with learning letters, numbers, shapes, and colors.
Technology can be a great way to promote sensory understanding. Look for play things and apps that are specifically designed for infants. These ideas can help children learn and grow in a fun and interactive way.
12. Give your baby time to play
Newborn play is an important part of the way baby learns about the world around them. It's a great way for babies to learn about the world around them and helps them to reach developmental milestones.
Children learn to increase their focus by watching you smile, touching colorful objects, and hearing playful sounds (including your voice) during sensory sessions on activity mats, looking at sensory books, and while gently shaking rattles.
Try to give your baby plenty of time to play every day. You can let them play with their toys, explore their environment, play games like patty cake, and interact with other people and animals. Play is a great way to promote learning and development.
At the bottom of this article is a list of great Montessori toys for infants. Make sure you check those out!
13. Get active with your baby
Being active with your baby is a great way to promote muscle and cognitive development and helps them keep good fitness habits at any age.
Babies who are active tend to have better health overall. Furthermore, being active can help to improve coordination and muscle development. It's also a great way to promote bonding.
Your baby's little body needs gentle movement and stretching to foster good health and mobility.
14. Socialize with your baby
Finally, it is important to provide your newborn with plenty of opportunities to socialize. For newborns, this probably won't mean letting everyone you know hold your baby.
But allowing your baby to spend some time with other babies and interact with trusted and gentle, close family and friends is healthy for their learning skills.
Even spending time outdoors where other people are around is a good way to introduce a baby to the world.
Here are some more specific ideas that encourage baby's development
- Play peek-a-boo or other simple games that encourage baby to track objects with their eyes.
- Put colorful objects in baby's line of sight, or hang a mobile above the changing table or crib.
- Newborn play is essential to helping your child reach developmental stages faster. You can give your kiddo playtime on activity mats, using rattles and sensory books, and other colorful objects while you tell them about the objects.
- Read aloud to baby every day, starting from birth. Research shows that this simple activity has a big impact on verbal skills.
- Play soft music or sing lullabies to baby.
- Give baby plenty of time to tummy crawl, which helps strengthen the muscles in their neck and back and promotes movement and curiosity in children.
- Connect with other parents and caregivers to share ideas and advice on human development. There are lots of great resources out there!
Above all, remember that all children are different and each will grow at their own pace. There's no need to worry if your baby isn't doing everything on this list - just enjoy spending time with them and watch them grow!
Babies are amazing and so smart! They learn more than we could ever imagine in those early months. Stimulation and sensory play has a cause and effect relationship with good health and intelligence. Kids benefit from these interactions at all ages and you can expect your family's health will benefit too.
All of these activities are important for helping to stimulate child growth and good health. However, it is important to remember that every baby is different and will develop at their own pace. So new parents, don't worry if your baby isn't doing everything on this list right away. Just enjoy the time you have with your children and know that you are helping to lay the foundation for a lifetime of learning and growth.
Building Baby’s Intelligence: Why Infant Stimulation Is So Important: https://cchp.ucsf.edu/sites/g/files/tkssra181/f/buildbabyinten081803_adr.pdf
Health First - Infant Stimulation: https://hf.org/health_info/your_health_first/kids/infant_stim.cfm
Musical intervention enhances infants’ neural processing of temporal structure in music and speech: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4868410/
The importance of early bonding on the long-term mental health and resilience of children: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5330336/
The Importance of Play in Promoting Healthy Child Development and Maintaining Strong Parent-Child Bonds: https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/119/1/182/70699/The-Importance-of-Play-in-Promoting-Healthy-Child?autologincheck=redirected
Making Eye Contact With Infants Can Support Their Social Development: https://positiveparentingnews.org/news-reports/making-eye-contact-infants-can-support-social-development/
Two Different Communication Genres and Implications for Vocabulary Development and Learning to Read: https://edsource.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/06/massaroJLR1.pdf
Impact of attachment, temperament and parenting on human development: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3534157/
How Cuddling Saves Tiny Babies: https://time.com/504/how-cuddling-saves-tiny-babies/
© 2022 Amy Stacks