Why Nurturing Pathways® for Baby's First Year

Baby’s First Year: Brain Development

by Christine Roberts

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The brain at birth has 100 billion neurons that are like seeds awaiting the proper nutrients to become healthy trees. As neurons get those nutrients from their learning environment, they grow roots and branches. The brain’s primary nutrients are responsive interactions with adults, touch, movement, sleep and food.

The brain is the body’s most malleable organ. It dances with nature and nurture in a seamless flow of ever-changing states. Infants spend the first year of their lives "hard wiring" their eyes, ears, taste, touch and body awareness. Their brain, like a seed, comes with the potential for growth. The seed sprouts and grows roots and branches when all of the baby’s senses are stimulated.

At no other time will the brain grow at such a rapid rate, doubling its weight in the first year and achieving 95% of its adult weight by the age of four. Time spent on the tummy strengthens the baby’s body and supports their independent mobility, in addition to developing the brain’s neural connections. As neuroscientists like to say, "what gets fired gets hard wired."


Baby’s First Year: Motor Development


A baby’s delicate neural networks need exercise just as their body does. Budding neural tree limbs need the fertilizer of movement to stimulate the chemical release of proteins that build the brain. Movement that involves push and pull strengthens, stabilizes and organizes patterns of movement. In an economy of design, the very events taking place in the body are taking place in the brain. Just as the shoulders, hips, hands and feet are becoming strengthened, stabilized and organized, so are the neural networks.

Movement experiences carried out on the tummy fulfill the developmental patterns that contribute to a sound body and brain. Along with the enormous physical benefits of movement for visual development, eye hand coordination, developing the arches in the feet and hands, and one’s overall sense of self; physical activity and interactive play are the primary ingredients for sound neurological integration. Tummy time milestones include rolling, crawling, creeping and standing. Tummy time also aids in the achievement of cognitive milestones like speaking first words, increased attention span, and school readiness.

Motor development is cultivated from the prone position. Think of it as ‘growing from the ground up’. If parents and caregivers consciously limit the time babies spend in containers, especially during the early months prior to crawling, the baby will experience less stress on their tummy to play.
 

Baby’s First Year: Activities for Growth and Learning

Babies need lots of opportunities to discover their mobility. Just as a turtle flipped on its shell cannot get up and go, neither can an infant on its back. Our practices create outcomes. The time to put best practices into place is at the beginning of every child’s life, when the greatest long-term gain can be realized.

Tummy Time Tips and Tricks:

  • Infants enjoy tummy time on a soft matted surface with a primary caregiver at the same level. Infants will be delighted with sensory responsive toys like chiffon scarves and musical instruments.
  • Infants placed on their tummies in close proximity to one another will engage in observing their friends. Stay with the infant and support them with your reassuring touches and supportive words.
  • When infants fight tummy time engage them with songs, rhymes and movement while they are on their tummy. The goal is to daily increase time spent on their tummy.
  • Sing rhymes like Itsy Bitsy Spider and run your hands up and down their body like a spider. Put enticing instruments in front of them and tap the rhythm of the music on their bottom, toes and back.
  • Place baby prone on your chest and let them rest on you.
  • Bring their arms in close to their body so they can learn to push up and develop their head/neck strength.
  • Gently support the bottom of their feet with your hands, bending their knees.

This gives them support to push with their lower limbs and helps connect the lower body with the upper body.

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