Tips 8

Build your infant's brain

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Observe, talk, sing and play with your baby. That builds its brain. Turn everyday tasks like meals and nappy-changing into brain-building activities.

Advice

Follow your baby’s eyes and talk about what you both see (“that building block is nice – do you want it?”). Name and accept the baby’s feelings (“it’s OK to get impatient when there’s a long wait”). Ask for help at the clinic if interaction is proving difficult.

The time from conception until the infant reaches the age of two is known as the 1001 critical days. This is when the baby needs good, stable adults around it for the brain to develop as well as possible. Brain-building activities are important, and the advice here may sound a little strange: Play tennis with your baby – it’s good for the brain. Most people then envisage a small tennis ball being hit backwards and forwards by two people with rackets. Back and forth and full activity. That’s exactly what the baby’s interaction with its parents ought to be like in order to develop its brain. Infants communicate actively with adults by transmitting facial movements, babbling, crying, gestures and emotional expressions which are entirely their own. The grown-ups act in the same way, and thereby respond to the child’s communication by returning gestures, sounds, breathing and movements. That’s how interaction between you progresses – back and forth, exactly like a game of tennis. What your baby needs is that you become a good-enough “tennis player” for its brain to develop properly.

  • Babies are very interested in exploring the world, but they can also become tired and worn out. Keep an eye on whether your baby is enjoying itself. When it is, try to see the world through its eyes and talk about what you then observe. If the child points at something, share its curiosity: “Oh, look. Is that building block nice? Would you like it?” When you respond to its initiative, the infant learns that it can communicate with you.
  • Share positive feelings with your child so that they get even bigger and better. Your baby will sometimes prefer just to look at you while being cuddled. Enjoy your baby as it falls in love with your face.
  • When your baby isn’t doing so well and is restless and out-of-sorts, it needs help from you to calm down. Organise its feelings by naming and accepting them. For example: “Ahh, you’re impatient now – yes, it was a long wait for food.” When your baby is displaying strong feelings, it usually wants to be picked up and cuddled.
  • The baby sometimes needs a break from interacting with you. Be patient, and don’t go away. Stay with the child when it looks away from you and wait awhile until it’s ready again. In that way, you strengthen the ability of your baby’s brain to calm down on its own.
  • Last, but not least: you can’t alienate your baby with too much love. When you share joys and have moments when you smile, joke and laugh together, we know this is good for brain-building. Have you noticed that babies can never get enough of games which have predictability and rhythm – like the song Ba Baa Black Sheep or going “boo!”?

Do you find it’s hard for you to “play tennis” with your baby? Do you feel uncertain and stressed out about how to return its “serves”, or feel absent and not quite up to the effort of interacting? You’re not alone. Get in touch with your health clinic - they know you want the best for your baby. They’re good on bonding and interaction between parent and child.

Remember

The time from conception until the infant reaches the age of two is particularly important for its development. During this period, the child needs good and stable adults around it to develop as well as possible. You are your child’s most important brain-builder.

The content on this page has been developed in cooperation with psychologists Ida Brandtzæg and Stig Torsteinson, who are specialists in bonding psychology.

Innholdet på denne siden er utviklet i samarbeid med psykologspesialistene Ida Brandtzæg og Stig Torsteinson, spesialister i tilknytningspsykologi.