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What's Going On In There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life
- By Lise Eliot, Ph.D

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How to Use Your To-Do's To Boost Baby's IQ


Chances are you want to provide a wonderful environment for your baby to learn and grow. But your life is busy. You have a young child -- a child who needs to be bathed, dressed, fed, and nurtured. And when you're not caring for your little one, perhaps there's your housework, shopping, cooking, and laundry. Luckily, all children learn to talk. It's something that comes naturally, right? Not always. Some children talk late. Some children need speech therapy. And all children need help from their parents to reach their highest potential.

Beginning shortly after birth, a baby's brain begins to undergo magnificent changes. It will actually double in weight and use twice as much energy as an adult brain as trillions of connections or pathways develop between cells.

These pathways will enable your baby to learn and think. Babies simply do not receive enough genes from their mother and father to make all of these pure, un-programmed connections work. Scientists now know that what a child sees, hears, touches, and feels during the early years of life strengthens and shapes these brain pathways.

Many of these pathways involve language skills. Research has shown that children's development of language is crucial to their ability to learn and think, and has a significant impact on their overall educational experience. In addition, it is vital if they are to understand other people and express their own thoughts and feelings, which, in turn, play a role in the development of good relationships and positive self-esteem. Children who are good listeners are usually good readers. Children who are slow to speak are often slow to read. As you can see, a parent's interest and interaction with their child from the moment of birth is
essential as they set the groundwork for future learning.

Instead of cursing your to do's for taking you away from your child, you can turn them into special times of sharing. Daily life affords parents hundreds of opportunities to enhance their child's language skills. The activities in your daily routine can be your tools- your errands around town, your trips to the supermarket, and your chores around the home. The suggestions below will do more then stimulate your child's language. They help guide the loving, close family bonds that human's desire.

Talk, Talk, Talk.  All children listen to learn. The more words they hear, the greater their vocabulary, and the greater their IQ. One researcher from Chicago found that two-year-old children of talkative mothers said twice as many words as the children of mothers who silently cared for their babies.

However, only live language, not television, helps children develop language skills. Experts feel this is because children need to hear language in relation to what is happening around them or it just becomes noise. It must be delivered by an engaged human being, and the child must focus on the speaker and environment.

Even though your baby may be surrounded by conversation from birth on, it is important that you talk directly to him long before he can talk back to you.

Before a child says his first word, he must hear that word many times and understand its meaning. The natural way for your baby to learn the meanings of words is to listen to you talk in relation to the events going on around you. In this manner, he will learn to associate the words you say with the actions, objects, or thoughts you describe. Just because your baby isn't talking yet, it doesn't mean he is not listening and learning.

Talking can and should be a part of everything you and your child do together. Talk to your child about what you are seeing, doing, feeling, and touching as your cook dinner, vacuum the carpet, or sort and fold laundry.

Describe your actions as you make the bed, set the table, or simply pour your child a drink. Talk about the shiny tinfoil and let him see his reflection as you pack sandwiches for lunch. As you dress your child, name his body parts, talk about kinds of clothes and where they go.

If possible, let your child accompany you to the supermarket, post office, or on other errands around town. For safety reasons, you must keep your eye on your child every second, so why not engage his attention with the sound of your voice. At the supermarket, most likely, your child will be sitting in the shopping cart facing you. Think about it: Would you like to sit in a chair facing a familiar adult who had nothing to say? As your push your cart through the produce section, you can find every color, texture, and shape imaginable to describe to your child. As your fill your cart with food, you can fill your child's mind with hundreds of words and phrases. To a young child, the whole world is new. Even the most routine activities can be an exciting and learning experience for him.



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Dorothy P. Dougherty, MA, CCC-SLP, is a Speech/Language Pathologist 
and author of "How to Talk to Your Baby: A Guide to Maximizing Your 
Child's Language And Learning Skills.
" For 24 years, Ms. Dougherty 
has worked with children and adults in school, clinical, and private 
settings. In her book, she shows busy parents how to enhance a young child's language skills as they go about daily life activities. 



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