One of the most important positive factors that can affect an infant’s cognitive development is bonding. According to the Kids Health website, responding to your infant’s cries and establishing plenty of skin-to-skin and eye contact positively influence her brain development. Additionally, responding to her needs helps to provide reassurance and emotional security. Stimulation and age-appropriate toys and games will help her to understand things like object permanence and cause and effect, and conversation, books and songs will positively affect her cognitive development as well.
Sleep and adequate nutrition are necessary for cognitive development, so if your infant is getting less than 14 to 16 hours of sleep spread throughout the day, his brain development could be negatively affected. He also needs either breast milk or infant formula, and babies deprived of these nutrients could experience failure to thrive. According to Child Welfare Information Gateway, being cared for by a hostile caretaker will impair an infant’s development as well. Just as your baby’s brain thrives in positive environments, it will adapt poorly in negative environments.
Since your baby’s cognitive development begins in the womb, there are positive and negative influences even before infancy. Getting enough rest, eating healthy and avoiding risky foods such as high-mercury fish can help your baby’s brain to begin developing normally. In contrast, dangerous activity during pregnancy, such as drug use, can lead to learning and behavioral problems later in your child’s life.
If you are concerned about your infant’s cognitive development, or if you are aware of negative factors in her development, talk to her doctor. The doctor might be able to help you identify and remove harmful influences and could recommend a professional to help work with your baby in order to boost brain development.
0 to 12 Months
The first year of your child's development is full of changes. Your child will learn new things and improve their motor skills considerably before their first birthday. Your three-month-old should lift her head and chest when lying on the floor, turn her head toward bright colours or a voice, follow a moving object with her eyes and grasp a toy when you give it to her. By six months, your child should be able to hold her head steady, reach and grasp for objects and sit with little support. In addition she should babble, laugh and squeal, especially if you encourage her. By 12 months, her skills should include drinking from a cup and feeding herself with finger foods. Your child should also be able to point toward objects or people, recognise names of family members, crawl, stand alone momentarily, say her first word and understand simple commands.
12 to 24 Months
According to the NNCC, children between one and two years of age are "on the go." They begin to develop a greater sense of independence, love to imitate and, of course, love to walk, run and climb. Physically, they should be able to walk well, feed themselves with a spoon, open cabinets and pick up objects without falling. Intellectual development stages include an increased vocabulary of hundreds of words, pointing to eyes, ears and nose when asked and using "please" and "thanks" when promoted. Stages of social development include being possessive and impatient, throwing temper tantrums, beginning to say "no", enjoying attention, pretend play and showing affection by returning a kiss or hug.
The favourite words for two year-olds are "I do it," "mine" and "no," according to the NNCC. You will see your child become more independent, exploring and interested in other children. Features of physical development include scribbling with crayons, walking backward, squatting and readiness for potty training. The features of social and emotional development include acting shy around strangers, getting easily frustrated, affection toward family members, insisting on doing tasks without help, possessiveness, demanding, persistence and throwing tantrums due to the inability to express herself.
Your three-year-old spends a lot of time observing, imitating and exploring his world and perfecting motor skills. Time and past are relative concepts, and your child does not understand "yesterday" or "tomorrow" as adults do. The stages of physical development include dressing and feeding himself, pedalling a tricycle, hopping and climbing up and down stairs. Stages of intellectual development include talking in complete sentences, repeating words and sounds, and understanding time concepts, such as "now," "soon" and "later." Your little one is also becoming more interested in his surroundings and may ask "why," "who" and "what" questions constantly.
Love and Logic
The Love and Logic philosophy for parenting, founded by Jim Fay and Dr. Foster W. Cline, is a parenting approach based on the notion that children can learn through experience, by making mistakes and by receiving continual reassurance of unconditional love from their parents. The Love and Logic training program is offered in many states through classes and seminars. You can also purchase training materials through the Love and Logic website that cover early childhood development, parenting skills for the preschool years, potty training and teaching children about empathy.
Free Online Courses
Many colleges and universities offer online courses in child growth and development for parents. You can enroll for a free online course through Texas A&M to gain insight into your child's developmental stages. Courses offered include Handling Infants' and Toddler's Challenging Behavior, What Parents Need to Know About Infant and Toddler Development, Healthy Eaters - Nutrition For the Home, Infant and Toddler Social Emotional Development, Making Home a Place for Learning and Selecting Childcare.
The Little Gym
A different approach to parent training for a child's development is to sign up for classes through The Little Gym. Weekly classes are attended by both child and parent and provide an active, three-dimensional learning environment. You will have the chance to support your child in the development of his physical strength, coordination, balance and gross motor skills. You can also gain insight into your child's cognitive development by observing how he interacts with spatial puzzles and number and letter manipulatives. These classes will also provide parent and little one with a foundation for the developing independence of the child. Parent-child classes are offered for children ages 4 months to 3 years.
How Parent Training Programs Can Help
Research conducted through the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services demonstrates that parents who participate in a parent training program are more likely to be successful with raising healthy, well-adjusted children. The department's studies reveal that a parent training program that incorporates specific elements is more likely to result in a beneficial outcome for parents and children alike. Choose a program that teaches about emotional communication skills, teaches positive parent-child interaction skills and that requires parents to practice the learned skills with their child during the training sessions.
Parents Should Care
When you choose an early childhood program for your child, picking one that has a well-trained and qualified staff is critical. Educators who have specific training in the early childhood area can directly help young children when it comes to learning and development, according to the National Association for the Education of Young Children NAEYC notes -- in its "Where We Stand on Professional Preparation Standards" statement -- that early childhood educators should have the know-how to promote development, build family and community partnerships, create a meaningful curriculum and act professionally at all times. Knowing that your child's teacher or caregiver has a CDA means that this worker meets standards for competency in functional areas that are necessary for working with young children, aiding in their development, and providing a healthy and caring environment.
Keeping the Kids Safe
The first goal of the CDA competency standards is, "To establish and maintain a safe, healthy learning environment." Although keeping up with an adequate, or above adequate, safety and health standard is a must for licensed day cares and preschools, the CDA goal speaks more toward the caregiver's ability to meet these requirements. Before a caregiver gets her CDA credential, she must demonstrate that she has knowledge of and can effectively maintain a safe and healthy learning environment.
Developing the Littlest of Learners
The CDA competency standard's goals focus heavily on child learning and development. These goals include advancing development through all of the domains -- cognitive, social, emotional and physical -- and fostering creativity and positive communication skills. A CDA holder should have the early childhood knowledge to create effective lessons and activity plans that foster the child's development and understating of subjects such as math, science or literacy.
Day care workers, preschool teachers and other caregivers don't only work with children. Think about how many times you have to interact with teachers during parent-teacher conferences, open houses, classroom parties or simply at drop-off and pick-up times. The CDA competency goals recognize that families and communities are part of the early childhood environment and emphasize the necessity for practitioners to always act in a positive manner. These goals include establishing relationships with parents and families, acting in a responsive manner toward the needs of the families and having a firm commitment to acting in a professional manner at all times.
In less than 10 months, your baby goes from being a single cell to a fully developed newborn. Your baby’s brain begins developing early, just a few weeks after conception. According to the website First Steps, your baby will make between 50,000 and 100,000 new brain cells every second between the fifth and 12th week of development. That means that prenatal care and nutrition are vital for sound brain development. Illness, chemicals and poor nutrition can adversely affect your baby’s brain.
According to the University of Georgia’s website Better Brains for Babies, your baby is born with more than 1 billion brain cells. However, many of these cells are alone. Babies are born without many of the neurological connections necessary for movement, learning and language. Babies start making connections with every experience they have. Neurologists call this brain plasticity, but parents recognize that their children are sponges for every type of learning around them. This includes talking to your baby, touching her and playing. These experiences wire the brain’s cells together, developing memory, language and coordination.
Toddler and Preschoolers
In the first years, your baby makes billions of neurological connections, many more connections than the child will need. As the child repeats words, actions and experiences, the brain recognizes the neural pathways used. The frequented neural pathways become stronger, while the random, less-used pathways disintegrate. The Purdue University website Provider-Parent Partnership, suggests that this action is much like weeding unnecessary plants from a garden. This is one of the reasons why young children repeat important experiences over and over again. It helps to ingrain the lessons into their brain.
What Parents Can Do
Parents play a critical role in helping their baby develop to the best of her potential. Good prenatal care and nutrition is vital. In addition, parents should keep the child’s environment as stress-free as possible. Stress, like any other reaction, can also be learned in infancy. Instead, fill your child’s day with positive, loving activities. Talk to her. Play with her. Touch her often. The University of Georgia also recommends that you start reading to your baby early. Reading aloud helps the child develop social and language skills.