Tips to help healthy brains grow
Did you know your baby’s brain starts developing shortly after conception, and grows to 80% of its adult size by the time they are three-years-old? Here are some tips to help support your child to reach their full potential.
One of the incredible things that happens shortly after conception
, and continues after your baby is born, is the development of their brain.
If you could magnify the inside of your baby’s head, you would see billions of tiny neurons that send signals to each other. These neurons and the synapses that connect them help form the foundation of your baby’s brain.
Your baby’s amazing brain
Like a house, the brain is built from the bottom up. Simple connections form first, providing the foundations for more complex connections later. Connections that are used more often grow stronger, allowing information to travel around the brain faster, while connections that are used less fade away.
In the first three years of life, your baby’s brain undergoes a huge amount of change, doubling in size by the age of one, and growing to as much as 80 percent of its adult size by the age of three.
This rapid growth means the structures of the brain involved in learning, memory and motor control have already been established by the time your baby turns five. These structures and neural pathways help shape the way your child processes information, and influences them for the rest of their life.
Why is a healthy brain so important?
Your child’s ability to learn, their physical and mental health and resilience, is all supported by the brain. And it helps if it’s built on a strong foundation.
If a baby’s brain doesn’t get what it needs, especially in the first few years of life, it can be harder to build the foundation it needs for later development. It can take a lot of time and effort in later years to build new pathways that weren’t established in the very early years.
What makes a healthy brain?
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So how can I help support my baby’s brain development? Start with the simple things, like ensuring you and bub have a balanced and healthy diet
. Some parents consider taking supplements, but it’s important to check with your doctor, especially when you’re pregnant or breastfeeding.
Whole foods, rich in important nutrients, include:
- Citrus fruits
- Cereals, breads, pasta and rice
- Dairy products
- Green leafy vegetables
- Red meat, chicken and pork
As well as ensuring both you and bub have a balanced diet, new experiences — anything from hearing a new song or a nursery rhyme, being read to, or taking a walk to look at trees and flowers — will stimulate your baby’s brain, and help them grow and develop.
Use baby’s awake time to play together, sing, tell stories, make sounds, pull funny faces and tell your baby the names of things around the house as you point to them. Your baby’s brain is designed to learn, and you are their first (and very best) teacher!
Care from you—a loving parent or caregiver—can also help enrich your baby’s brain and promote healthy brain development.