Did you know that babies really are like little sponges? From the moment of conception, they are learning and soaking up all of the information from the world around them. Their brains are hardwired for learning. In fact, by the time a child is 3 years old, 80% of their brain is developed and has almost twice as many synapses as what it will have in adulthood. 1 Synapses, or neuron connections that pass on information, are pruned early on and what we don’t use, we lose. For this reason, we need to emphasize the importance of early childhood education and teach our youngest from before they are even born. But don’t stress! Teaching our children is much more simple and enjoyable than you think. So, here I will share a few myths and give you better options to teach your baby.
Myth: While in the womb, babies have no consciousness and there is nothing to teach them.
Truth: Learning begins in the womb. Did you know that by the time an infant is born, he or she can distinguish between two or more languages and already shows preference for the language spoken by the mother? They also show preference for the sound of their mother’s voice (as opposed to dad’s or anyone else’s), they can recognize mom’s smell, and they can even distinguish flavors. In fact, the more varied a mom’s diet is while pregnant, the more accepting of new foods babies grow up to be.
Myth: Kids won’t remember things that happen before the age of 2
Truth: Even in utero, trauma can have deep repercussions on a child’s intelligence, personality, and emotional stability. As mentioned above, babies come in to the world already knowing a lot, but did you know that the memories of early life stick with you and affect the development of your personality? Feelings of insecurity, of being unwanted, or a mother’s fear and stress can negatively impact a baby’s brain and development. 2 On the other hand, feelings of security, love, peacefulness, and joy will ensure that infants and young children can focus on reaching developmental milestones as opposed to focusing on fear and keeping themselves safe. So, above all else, it’s important for parents (especially expectant mothers!) create a safe, nurturing, and happy environment for their children.
Myth: You need to start reading to your child when they start to talk.
Truth: You should read every day, even to your infant. The single most important indicator of future achievement and test scored for children is whether parents read to them at home every day. Reading has a bigger impact than the school your child attends, the socioeconomic background you come from, and even the food that eat 3 . But, many parents think that they don’t need to read to their children until they go to school or at least until they start to talk. The facts are, however, that you should be reading every day, even to your infant! Babies pick up on words and conversation and reading to them early on will give them a boost in terms of vocabulary, listening skills, and interpersonal skills. When you read to a baby, simple and short books with a lot of silly sounds and rhyming are best. It’s also best if they can look at your face (their most favorite thing to do) while you read.
Myth: TV, Apps, and technology are great ways for children to learn
Truth: You shouldn’t let your child watch T.V. before the age of two there is a lot of cool and educational programing out there. Computer programs and apps offer an incredible range of information and activities for kids to learn from. However, they are NOT appropriate for children under two years old. Infants and babies learn through social interaction and they will not comprehend or learn from watching TV. In fact, study after study has demonstrated that screen time before the age of two can have a negative impact on your child’s communication and brain development. It can also overstimulate them and deny them the time needed to practice patience and self-entertainment. Remember, you do not need to entertain your baby or older child 24-7! That’s not your job! Giving a baby a box to play with will do so much more than all the fancy gadgets and technology that you can give them, and it will also be good for your pocket book.
The research in early childhood and the intelligence of babies is extensive. Today, we know so much more than we did even 20 years ago. With the understanding that we have, we can see that that we do not need all the modern gadgets and inventions available to use in order to raise intelligent, well-adjusted and healthy babies and children. We just need time, patience, and a lot of love.