A first kiss on the head, a warm hug, and loving words welcome a newborn baby. At that moment parents have the power to jumpstart their baby's brain development and set the course of their baby's life. These hugs and words are just as important the second day, the 50th day, and the 675th day of a child's life, so parents should continue these loving back and forth interactions every day during their routines and activities. These powerful interactions not only bring joy and security, but they take advantage of the plasticity of the newborn's brain and move the baby toward reaching his or her full potential. I wonder how many parents realize the power they have, or how to use this power to help their baby develop. Do they understand how much their newborn baby can learn?
Many think that you don't have to do much with little babies. Just keep them warm, safe, fed, diapered, and happy in their cradles, or swings, and they will be fine. That is not exactly true. Yes, of course they must be safe and warm, fed, diapered and entertained, but also, the very best time to begin learning is from birth to three years old. Babies' brains are wired to accept a lot of meaningful information while they are cared for throughout the day. If babies are not held, cuddled, and talked to, some neurons will be lost forever due to the lack of stimulation that makes connections in the baby's brain. That is not to say that brain development cannot take place after the age of three, but the most effective and lasting time of brain development is in infancy. Listening, vocabulary development, and understanding what they see and hear, will not be learned as easily or successfully after the birth to three years. Extensive research supporting these facts is documented by many, including Betty Hart and Todd Risley (1995); Dr. Dana Suskind (2015) and Michael Gramling (2015), to name a few.
Babies born into poverty often lack active involvement in a variety of these daily routines accompanied by meaningful adult-child "conversations." These babies must experience these routines and hear accompanying talk to help them develop vocabulary and language that prepares them for success in school and life. This doesn't cost a dime. But to be fair, many parents have no idea how important the role this early language learning, affection, and conversation can play in changing their babies' lives.
We need to find a way to reach more parents so they know the power they have, beginning when they first hold their newborn babies. It is no longer just a "good idea," or "isn't that interesting?" It is a necessity if we want to save our children and save our schools!
Gramling, Michael (2015). The great disconnect in early childhood
education, what we know vs. what we do. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.
Hart, Betty and Risley, Todd R. (1995). Meaningful differences in the
everyday experience of young American children. Baltimore,
Maryland: Paul H Brookes Publishing.
Suskind, Dana (2015). Thirty million words, building a child's brain. Tune
in, talk more, take turns. New York, NY: Dutton--Penguin Random
©2018 Karen K Rossi, Ed.D., Learn To Talk Around The Clock®