5 Facts About The Baby’s Brain Parents Must Know via @PatFurstenberg

5 Facts About The Baby’s Brain Parents Must Know

A baby’s arrival is welcomed with excitement and apprehension. We prepare for it by buying tiny clothes, a mountain of nappies, furniture to fill an entire room and the boot of our cars — and this is just the beginning. Between antenatal classes and parenting books, no wonder there isn’t any time left for extra information.

Neuroscientists, with the aid of brain-imaging tools, can study the changes that take place in the human brain when we think, read or learn. Their findings shine a new light on how the human brain actually works and how parents can help enhance their children’s educational experiences and life achievements.

Baby Brain Fact #1: First Three Month Of Life Are Crucial For The Baby’s Brain

Full-term babies

The brain of a newborn baby birthed at full term is only a quarter of the total size of an adult brain. Therefore specialists consider the first three months of life as the fourth trimester of pregnancy. It is during these first three months of the newborn’s life that his brain develops enough for the baby to become mature enough to adapt to his surroundings and to begin to socialise.

When infants are born before full term

Inductions were regarded as highly fashionable between the Eighties and until the end of the 20th century. As soon as a pregnancy reached its 37th week (with 40 weeks being full term), it was considered “close enough” and inductions and C-sections were being scheduled. It was the increased number of babies in the neonatal intensive care unit (ICU) that made obstetricians reconsider the meaning of “term pregnancy“.

Researchers noted that the brains of the infants born at 37 weeks were 5 percent smaller than the average. By the third months of life, the difference between the preterm babies and the full-term babies became smaller, but the preterm babies hadn’t fully caught up — their brain size remaining “2 percent smaller than the average” a neurology study showed.

Newborn baby MRI

Image above: The brain scan on the left is taken from a newborn, and the one on the right is taken 90 days later. Credit: Dominic Holland et al., University of California, San Diego School of Medicine

Baby Brain Fact #2: Talking To A Baby Stimulates Its Brain

Talking to babies and even reading to them helps boost their brain power, researchers say, and the differences begin to show as early as two years of age. Chatting with infants helps them pick up the rhythm and the rules of language, and repetition helps them learn vocabulary.

The same principles apply to using facial expressions to communicate with an infant, as this will help them decipher and understand human emotions. At such a young age the prefrontal cortex (implicated in behaviour and personality expression) is not fully developed, so the fear of “spoiling” an infant by giving them too much attention is unjustified.

Baby Brain Fact #3: The Brain Develops During Our Entire Life

The first birthday is an important milestone for the toddler’s brain as well, as it would have reached 60 percent of its adult size. The circumference of the human head will reach 90 percent of its adult size by the age of six, yet the brain will only be fully matured at the age of 25.

Neuroscientists have discovered that the human brain continues to develop — forming new neural pathways and pruning old, weak ones throughout our lives. Also, due to the brain’s plasticity, if an area of the human brain is lost the remaining brain area will, in time, develop to compensate for the missing sector.

Our genetic package provides the basic blueprint for brain development, but the stimulation an infant and child experiences provide the foundation for future learning.

Baby Brain Fact #4: Lantern vs Flashlight Awareness

Although a baby’s brain has many more neural connections compared to the adult brain, to protect them in a harsh world their brain has less inhibitory neurotransmitters.

As a result, they perceive the main picture, but focus less on details, just like a lantern that illuminates the entire room in a diffuse way. By comparison, the adult brain will focus on details, very much like a flashlight that focuses its light on specific details.

Baby Brain Fact #5: DVDs Out, Experiences In

From birth, babies respond to some stimuli and ignore others. DVDs, flashcards — these leave baby unresponsive. What babies love is human interaction, and later on, first-hand experiences.

Keep in mind that babies get bored quickly, as they have a short attention span, so parents need to vary the games. Also, too much stimulation will soon tire the baby.

Interesting to notice is that babies don’t hear as well as we do, which explains why crying is not bothering them!

Also, babies can’t distinguish voices from background noise as well as adults do — so if you want your infant to pay attention to you, it is advised to switch off the TV.

And music? Yes, babies do love music, but this should be approached as an activity, limited by time and cued to baby’s attention span.

* The information in this article is NOT intended to replace a one-on-one relationship with a qualified healthcare professional and is not intended as medical advice.

This article was initially published on Huffington Post SA on 9 May 2018

You might also like to read:

5 Medical Symptoms Named After Literary Characters

5 Simple Steps to Turn Your Boys into Bookworms

 

 

Please follow and share:
0

Children And Screen Time: 3 Myths Exposed via @PatFurstenberg

What is that one valuable item you never leave home without? The one, if you are anything like me, you carry around with you from one room to the next as you move around through your own home? The one you keep within ear reach, even as you sleep.

Yes, it is the smartphone. If you would have only two minutes to leave your home, what would you take with you? What are your most valuable items, except for your immediate family? Is your phone included on the emergency list? Yes? Why so? Because it is a necessity.

The number of smartphone users in South Africa more than doubled between 2014 and 2018 and it is estimated that it will increase by an extra 5 percent by 2022, statistics show. However, the number of times Americans look at their phones each day remained constant during the past three years: 47 times.

The exception is the 18-24 years age group, that checks their phones 86 times per day. Only 16 percent of Americans check their phones within five minutes of waking up in the morning, a 2017 Deloitte U.S. consumer survey shows. Let’s face it; it is hard to resist a device that adds so much value to our daily lives in a way that no single device ever has been able to. Smartphones allow us, almost anytime and anyplace, to call, text, watch, listen, browse, shop and read!

Now think of your young child handling your smartphone; in a safe place where it can’t be dropped … Is the thought of making you anxious? Why so? Is it because your child can damage your mobile device, or because the smartphone can unsettle your youngster? What if we would turn around the image of a kid holding a smartphone and look at its positive side? Will it excite us to see how quickly our young children learn to use the latest technology? What if we shift our focus and look at digital technology as a tool to promote individual growth?

Not all digital media is great, and as parents, it is our duty to constantly monitor the quality of screen time our children are exposed to.

Let’s try to understand the three myths concerning children and their screen time exposure.

1. Screens are forcing children to live a passive life

So many TV shows and games to get kids up and moving, especially shows focusing on animals, friends sharing an adventure and providing learning opportunities. Emerging research shows that children enjoy taking part in active video games more than playing traditional games during physical education. Active screen time during preschool years also helps improves children’s cognitive skills and school readiness, increases their vocabulary and promotes social interaction, research shows.

2. Playing games distracts children from their education

A research conducted in 2018 “found changes in brain activity and increased performance on tests of visual selective activity in subjects who had spent one hour playing the League of Legends video game”. The research team assessed the participants’ visual selective attention before and after playing the game. The conclusion was that the expert game players had more brain activity associated with attention than the non-experts. The expert game players also scored better on the initial visual selective attention assessment.

What if we look at video games from an education perspective? What if video games can teach educators and parents more about our children’s cognitive learning? What if video games can be used to reduce exam stress and the time spent doing tests as well as the time used by the school in assessing the children? What if video games can help teachers focus on individualised learning? Can this be a new paradigm for education? Video games are well suited for individual learning, allowing students to learn at their own pace, under parental control. Games bridge the in-school and out-of-school learning and put the fun back in the study.

For example, the Mathematics Fluency Data Collaborative is a project is a G4LI project led by Carnegie Learning and in collaboration with Game2Learn at the University of North Carolina, the Pittsburgh Science of Learning Center at Carnegie Mellon University, and PlayPower. Experts in mathematical education, cognitive skills, game design and data mining have created a platform for high-quality mathematics games to help students acquire the skills to succeed in mathematical problem solving through gaming.

3. Screens form a barrier between parents and their kids

The greatest benefit of screen time comes only when parents talk to their children about what they watch or the games they played. Screen time can be used as a tool to promote meaningful discussions, a springboard for teaching kids empathy. Empathy and compassion are the foundation of a happy, meaningful life, but they cannot be learned from a book; they must come from emotional situations, and this is where supervised screen time can help.

Not all digital media is great, and as parents, it is our duty to constantly monitor the quality of screen time our children are exposed to. Having a balance is also important, but we must acknowledge that we share the same world with our children, and information technology is a part of our lives.

As parents and teachers, we can raise our expectations about digital media, choose to talk to our children about its content, and show them why it matters and how to use it to their advantage.

First published on Huffington Post SA, 29 June 2018

You might also like to read:

Here’s How To Get Boys To Read In 5 Easy Steps

Please follow and share:
0

Pets — Understanding Your Child’s Affinity Towards Animals via @PatFurstenberg

Pets — Understanding Your Child’s Affinity Towards Animals

How does a child react when interacting with an animal? Smiling, the entire body filled with enthusiasm and exhilaration? Small fingers enjoying and learning from the experience of touching the pet’s fur? Watchful eyes fixed on the animal and, you just know it, questions about to start pouring?

Or perhaps a child may close his eyes to feel the pet he is holding, to become one with it… “I am a horse…” “I am a rabbit…” “I am a lion cub on the African plains…” “I am alive!” Children, just like animals, live in the present; where the heart pulsates and the wind is fragrant, if only you pay attention.

When a child meets an animal, there is a much stronger connection that takes place. It goes beyond the sensory or the visual stimulation of touching and observing. For a child, being in the company of an animal is more significant than the educational lesson adults want them to take from it.

A biological connection is already in place when a child and an animal meet. Be it an animal or an insect, just by being different to us, they a child’s attention –– in most cases, to stir his or her caring and nurturing instinct. Children have it in their hearts: the empathy, the understanding that what is small needs to be protected, as well as the desire and the need to look after it and nurture it.

As Kahlil Gibran put it, “Your children are not your children; they are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.”

Human’s interest in animals is wired into our DNA.

Biophilia” was defined in 1984 by E.O.Wilson as “the innate tendency [in human beings] to focus on life and lifelike process. To an extent still undervalued in philosophy and religion, our existence depends on this propensity, our spirit is woven from it, hopes rises on its currents”. The disposition towards nature and the living is prominent in youngsters. Children flourish when they are outdoors, especially when interacting with living animals.

Children value creatures for what they really are, alive. A kid connects with a ladybird just as well as she bonds with a kitten or a horse. When we take our children to the zoo, the link (unseen, between children and animals) is already in place.

The invisible wire is what keeps our youngster glued to the cage of an elephant, or the aquarium and its penguins. The child has “seen” more than the animal in its natural habitat. He treasures and celebrates having met another living being. And this moment often becomes one of a child’s most treasured memories.

What is different from us should and can be treasured, just because it is puzzling and thrilling and, at the same time, stimulating.

Think about how much children enjoy stories about animals. Why is that? Wild animals live in “shelters” that are different from ours, and which they build themselves! Animals find their own, food and it is often strange-looking and so different from ours. Animals can do so many other things we haven’t seen any human being doing. Animals choose their own special lives, and we are but blessed to be a part of them –– to observe and enjoy them.

If this is not enough, there is also an added benefit to children’s natural bond with living things. Studies show that when a child’s innate love and care towards nature is being nurtured and encouraged, it not only fuels the child’s inner desire to learn, but in the long run, it develops the child emotionally.

Children who are understood and encouraged to care for animals will grow into thoughtful adults with a higher EQ (Emotional Quotient). An individual with a high EQ will be better able to recognise and express their own emotions, as well as the emotions of those around them. They will be able to easily put them into words and analyse them, then react in consequence –– a vital task in improving our social skills and, by extension, the social welfare of each generation.

Initially published on the Huffington Post SA on 5 November 2017

You might also like to read:

Haiku-San, Silver Birds

How To Raise A Child With A High IQ

Please follow and share:
0