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Infants » Newborn Development

Parents as Teachers of Older Children

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Babies survive by using both sides of their bodies and two hemispheres of their brains; then, just doing what comes naturally! The infant body and brain plan every move, every thought. They work together, play together, and give strength to each other, like peanut butter and jelly or ice cream and cake. Think of every infant's body and brain as a never-ending, most incredible merger. Think of famous and brilliant bodies and brains that work together; for example, Einstein, Galileo, Frank Lloyd Wright, or Gandhi.

Then, if you admire these people, remember that every baby is born with exactly the same apparatus. The combination of body and brain takes in zillions of experiences, quadrillions of actions and zooms in and out, remembering every infinitesimal zot of knowledge. What sensory knowledge goes into brains, and what experiences and activity comes out of bodies? Well, if you can figure it out, there is a Nobel Prize with your name on it waiting for you!

Prospective infant studies demonstrate that the human infant partially, if not primarily, determines his own course of development, depending on personality, genetics, environment and constitutional factors we can't even begin to list. Babies listen and look, and out of that tiny body comes eye blinks, stares, babbling and art work. Infants change position constantly, drink milk and eat cheerios, and out comes a talent for writing dramatic plays. Maybe baby giggles or baby tears make infants learn to become more tolerant, kind, or mean and nasty. It is a wonderful, incredible mystery, called child development.

What research does show is that infants seem to produce their own development, but that outside experiences and human beings attached to infants need to provide direct experiences, language and communication, and high energy stimulation. Enriched brains and bodies require contact with sensory information and knowledge, including social and emotional ties to people.

Infants need to be nurtured and stimulated by people who provide interesting objects for babies to see; if that occurs, the result is good persistence and visual attention. If infants are exposed to stimulating sources of things to hear and see at the same time, infants will in fact wait for auditory cues and start to coo and babble, developing their language skills. Infants have skin hunger as well as a hunger and thirst for food and liquids.

When comfortable and gently handled by parents, babies and children of all ages are quick to demonstrate motor skills by kicking, reaching, cuddling, and grasping. Crawling, standing, walking and talking are all physical outcomes that occur, not because adults teach them to walk, but because they are self-motivated to take advantage of those opportunities.

It is true that the more infants have opportunity to move, the more they change position and perform symmetrical movements. These actions increase children's self-assurance and social competence. Movement and thinking go together, another example of the body and brain working together to learn.

Ask Dr. Susan