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Brain Development
How do talking, reading and singing affect my baby's brain?

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How does nutrition help develop the brain?

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How much television should my newborn watch?

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Is breastfeeding important to the development of my baby's brain?

  • For the first year of life, breastfeeding is considered by many professionals to be the best form of nutrition for your baby.
  • Breastfeeding helps the baby build his/her immune system.
  • An important part of feeding is also the time you take to hold your baby while he/she nurses.

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Isn't my baby's brain already developed when he/she is born?

Your child's brain begins developing within a couple weeks of conception The brain will grow to about 80 percent of the adult size by the age of 3 and 90 percent by age 5. While your newborn child is born with most of the brain cells he/she will need to function, it is the experiences that your baby has or does not have that help to finish the brain's development.

Your child's experiences, nutrition, and stimulation will have an impact on how the brain cells are connected and even which brain cells your child will keep.

The brain of a newborn has almost as many brain cells as an adult brain, but the brain does not function to its fullest capacity until the cells are connected. A newborn has only a small number of connections.

The further development of the brain occurs both as a result of interactions between genetic factors and the way the baby is taken care of.

While your child is born ready for feelings and ready to learn, early environments matter and healthy relationships are essential.

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What are 10 things I can do to ensure proper development for my baby's brain?

  • Get your prenatal care as soon as you know you are pregnant.
  • Always place your baby in a secure car seat when transporting your child in a car.
  • Baby-proof your house.
  • Take care of yourself and develop a support system to help you when you feel overwhelmed and need a rest.
  • Breastfeed and provide healthy food at the appropriate times.
  • Nurture and love your baby by talking, reading and singing to your baby.
  • Be sure to see the doctor for all scheduled appointments.
  • If you need to put your baby in care outside the home, look for providers will take good care of your baby and are licensed and accredited.
  • Do not smoke or expose your baby to secondhand smoke.
  • Place your baby on his/her back to sleep.
  • Bonus: Remember, you cannot spoil an infant by showing too much love.

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What are some environmental things that affect my baby's brain development?

  • Be sure that you are in the best health possible.
  • After your baby is born, nurture (love, feed, read, play with, hold, and speak to your new baby) your child.
  • Make sure anyone caring for your baby (child care providers, babysitters, and friends) shows the same love and attention that you would.
  • Allow your baby to explore the environment safely.
  • Lessen the stress on your baby.
  • Do not take out your stress on your child. If you are too frustrated to take care of your child at the moment, ask someone to help you.
  • If you feel depression, ask for help. Your emotions impact the emotions of your baby.
  • Do not use television as a babysitter.
  • www.zerotothree

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What can I do during pregnancy to help provide for my baby's healthy brain development?

Seek prenatal care as soon as you know that you are pregnant.

Take care of yourself.

Do not smoke and avoid all second-hand smoke. Do not drink alcohol and do not take prescription or non-prescription drugs unless they are prescribed by a doctor. Tobacco smoke (nicotine) and other drugs, such as alcohol, prescription or non-prescription drugs (that are not prescribed by a doctor) can get into your developing baby's bloodstream and change the ways your baby's genes build his/her brain.

The food that an expectant mother eats provides the nutrients that the baby receives while in the womb.

Lessen your emotional stress

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What can I do during the different phases of my child's life to help stimulate and facilitate brain development?

Age 0-6 months

  • Talk to your baby during everyday routines. Changing a diaper, bathing, eatingcan all become "teachable moments," if you use them to talk with your child.
  • Sing songs and read to your baby. Point to pictures and colors as you read.
  • Call objects by name. Your child is developing a vocabulary even though he/she cannot speak yet.
  • Provide a stimulating environment for your baby to look at.
  • Hold and touch and your baby often.

Age 6-12 months

  • Imitate the sounds that your baby makes.
  • Sing songs and read to your baby.
  • Play simple games with your baby, such as pat-a-cake or peek-a-boo.
  • Continue to do all those things you did with your child at age 0-6 months.

Age 12-24 months

  • Read and sing to your baby.
  • Have your child begin to point to body parts.
  • Ask your child for hugs and kisses.
  • Continue to use everyday routine events as teaching opportunities.
  • Watch your child as they become more mobile. Encourage your child to move around a "baby-safe" room.
  • Talk with your baby.
  • Have your child pick out pictures in a book.
  • Play with large puzzles and blocks.
  • Encourage your baby to help undress himself/herself.
  • Dance to music with your baby.

Age 3-4 years

  • Set limits on behavior and explain why they are necessary.
  • Use appropriate words to describe past or future events (today, tomorrow, before, after, next).
  • During story time ask your child simple questions about the story.
  • Encourage your child to sort and match objects during routine tasks. ("Where do the forks go?")
  • Teach your child songs and finger plays.
  • Talk about the sequence of events, tell what comes next.
  • Provide access to a computer with appropriate children's software. Use the computer together.

Age 4-5 years

  • Read storybooks to your child.
  • Ask your child questions about stories and have your child retell stories.
  • Encourage your child to act out stories from books using his/her imagination and different voices for characters.
  • Engage in what if games to encourage your child's own storytelling ("What if you could fly….).
  • Expand the range of computer software available to your child.
  • Arrange trips to the library, zoo, and special events.
  • Play rhyming games with your child.

Welcome to the World: An Overview of Your Growing Child
Florida Department of Education

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What can I do to create a safe environment for my baby's brain development?

  • Be sure to see the doctor for all scheduled appointments.
  • Make sure your baby gets immunizations on time.
  • Put your baby on his/her back to sleep.
  • Avoid placing soft, fluffy bedding such as pillows, blankets/comforters, sheepskins or toys in your baby's crib that can interfere with your baby's breathing.
  • Be sure the slats on your baby's crib are no more than 2 3/8 inches apart.
  • Protect your child from stairs once he/she begins crawling.
  • Avoid scalding (burning with water) your baby by setting the temperature of your hot water heater to 120 degrees Fahrenheit. Always check the temperature of water you are going to place your baby in with a thermometer or with your elbow.
  • Never leave your baby alone in or near water (e.g., bathtub, swimming pools, pet water dishes, buckets, etc.). A baby can drown in even one inch of water.
  • Use appropriate car seats. It's the law, too.
  • Block/cover electrical outlets.
  • Put yourself at your baby's height to test for safety of his/her environment. Remove anything harmful, including kitchen chemicals, electrical cords, and furniture with sharp edges.
  • Remove any objects and toys from your baby's environment that he/she can swallow. Anything that can fit into a toilet tissue roll is a potential choking hazard.
  • Never shake your baby, so that his/her head is rattled.

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What should I look for in early care and education?

  • Good quality early care and education (child care) helps emotional and social growth and the process of acquiring knowledge.
  • Good quality early care and education should be both licensed and accredited ( known as Gold Seal in Florida).
  • The early care and education providers you select should take care of your baby as you would.
  • There should be good communication and interaction between care providers and your baby.
  • How much employee turnover does the center have? (The websites below will give you quite specific guidelines.)
  • www.zerotothree

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Brought to you by The Early Childhood Initiative Foundation and United Way Center for Excellence in Early Education

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