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The first two years of a baby's life are of utmost importance when it comes to shaping the brain. Babies grow and change so much in these months, and so much takes place in their brains. The environment and inputs given to a baby in his early years have a great impact on his overall development. One such key development is their motor and sensory development. Have you ever noticed that babies, although they can't speak, can well communicate with the environment? Although they cannot do much in the early days but they become capable of much more as time goes by. There are changes happening in the brain all the time.
Brain development is the foundation for all other developments. As the changes in the brain occur, we see those changes in the child in the form of physical, motor and sensory development. The development in the brain is so fast during infancy that it is almost surprising that how a newborn who till yesterday could not even hold his neck firmly, within 2-3 months shakes a rattle, and in another few months is crawling all around. Every single milestone that a baby achieves is directly connected to the development of the brain. Hence it is important to keep fuelling the brain by providing it the required stimulation. Brain at infancy, is highly capable of adapting changes and learn faster- the right term for it is 'Neuroplasticity'. 'Neuroplasticity' causes the brain to perform simple things and be more functional. Technically speaking, there are two parts of the brain called sensory cortex and the motor cortex. These two determine how we interact with the world around. This enhances our reflex action. In babies, these developments take place leaps and bounds in the first two years. Babies get control over their motor skills such as balancing their head, holding a rattle and sensory development such as following a voice or looking at you, when you move across the room.
Perceptual development means receiving, organizing and interpreting sensory input which eventually leads to motor responses. For example, if you touch something cold, your senses will tell you that it is hot and your motor skills will make you take your hand away as a reflex action. Motor development comprises of all the movements made by the body including eyes. As the motor skills develop in babies, they use it to show their sensory responses to understand what motor actions need to be taken. For example, if the floor is wet, a child will manipulate his style of walking and will walk more cautiously. Hence, sensory development and motor development goes hand in hand.
As parents, our role is to provide proper stimulation by providing favorable environment to explore and learn. We spend the maximum time with our babies and knowingly or unknowingly we are enhancing their ability of perception all the time by the little things that we do. Talking of the sensory development, it means enhancing the five senses. The efforts we put as parents in developing our child's senses is visible when we see them excel cognitively, socially, linguistically, physically and emotionally. I let my son touch, smell and even taste random things. Babies learn through their experience of mouthing. Anything and everything makes its way to their mouth. There's no harm in it, this is the way they learn. Our job is to keep things clean and let them explore as much as they want. Food is also a great way to learn taste and textures. Let the baby feel the food and play with different textures. Our job again is to offer and then clean up the mess. Every little thing that we do encourages the baby to explore and learn more.
When you are with a baby, you need to forget the world and be a baby too. Sing songs and rhymes to your little one. However miserable singers we are, babies surely love our voice. Take your baby out, let them look around, touch leaves and flowers. Let them sit on the grass and feel it. Meet people and let your baby see how we get social. We give very less credit to babies than what they actually deserve. We often think that they don't understand. But at a closer inspect, they are growing tremendously every day.
On the motor skills front, we know that babies are born with reflexes, which helps them to breathe, suckle and what a delight it is to see them achieve control over their movements in both ways - gross motor and fine motor skills. Their grasps get better with time and they are able to function more independently. Age appropriate toys and activities are helpful to encourage the motor skills as well as eye hand coordination in children. We read books together, explore toys, bang things together just to get startled by the noise it makes!
As children grow, they go through a series of developments. As parents, it is our duty to be encouraging and provide the child with a learning environment. Paint together, dance together and sing together. These are also the memories our little ones are going to keep for a lifetime. We must create the inquisitiveness for learning and exploring. We are their best guides, but it is great to be guided by these young inquisitive minds. It often results into a world of new discoveries! Did you wish that paints could be non-harmful so that you no longer worry when your bub takes it in accidentally? Then here it is! Watch how to make natural edible paints and let the creative juices flow.
Image Credit: Mother Nature Network