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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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Stimulating A Baby's Brain

By Dr. Leo Leonidas, FAAP


Twenty nine years ago, when my wife was pregnant, I read from a Psychology journal about the possibility that a fetus can hear. This idea was new then. But during that time, there was already an obstetrician from California who was teaching his patients "How to talk to their unborn baby."

When my wife was about eight months pregnant, I started talking to our unborn baby. I told him that he will be a boy and his name will be Len Al. I put my lips on my wife's belly and called his name. I talked to him both in the Filipino language and English. I did the "fetal talking" every day until my wife was about to deliver.

We were so sure that he would be a boy (during that time there were no sonograms to determine the sex), that we decorated his bedroom in blue and we bought baby clothes for a boy.

On the freezing day of 28 January 1973, my son was born in Bangor, Maine. I talked to him at once and called his name. Every time I noticed that he was wide awake and alert, I talked to him. "How are you, kumusta ka?" Frequently my wife and I talked to him bilingually in Tagalog and English during his first twelve months. We also read to him frequently. Sometimes I read him some of my medical books. When we were teaching him parts of his body, I even used some medical terms when pointing to his anatomy. One of the first anatomical words he uttered was "patella" when he was a toddler. The first two words that he was able to read at two years old were "Subaru" and "Toyota."

When Len Al was one month old, I ordered toys for three to four month olds from Johnson & Johnson. I made it a point to provide toys that were developmentally at least two to three months ahead of his age. I stimulated his brain development by talking and reading and playing with him every time I was at home. It was a fun time for our family when I was challenging his skills. Len Al and I played with a ball when he was four months old. When he was on his belly, I would place a small ball in front of him that he could reach easily. Once he reached for it and grabbed it, I would say, "Good boy," and show him my joy. Then I would move the ball an inch or two farther where he could not reach it easily. Then I would say, "Go get the ball, Len." With persistence, ultimately he maneuvered himself to reach and grab the ball, then I celebrated with joy, "Good job, son!"

In the kitchen, when my wife was doing something, she made it a point to show him the things and objects she was holding. At feeding time, Len Al loved the airplane spoon game. My wife would put the carrots from Gerber on a spoon, and at about 12 inches from his mouth she would say, "Here is the airplane coming," and the spoon would go into his mouth with carrot and all. My wife stayed at home for 12 months with our son.

When Len Al was one year old, we had a 70 year old babysitter, Yolanda, who came to our house to take care of him. Yolanda was his second teacher, and she probably did better than we did at educating him. Both Yolanda and Al had nature walks, apple sauce cooking, and almost no TV.

Our son did extremely well during his elementary grades. He was always in the top of his class, and during high school he got only one "B" and all the rest were "A's." He was summa cum laude at the University of Maine, with a BS in Biology. He was accepted at three medical schools. He graduated from medical school at Tufts University in Boston May 2001. Now Len Al is a first year resident at MedPeds (Medicine and Pediatrics) at Albany Medical Center in New York. We attribute his successful academic performance to our early stimulation of his brain during the first 9 months by frequent talking, reading, playing with blocks, and traveling.

Most parents can make their infants advanced in emotional, cognitive, and language development by recognizing that the most crucial time of development of a child is from pre-natal to the first nine months of life. During this time, the growth and development of the brain is the fastest and in high gear. The earlier the brain cells or neurons are stimulated, the more synapses (connection of one neuron to another) are created. It is the early neural synapses that make us remember, learn, talk, think, count, and create better.



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Copyright Leo Leonidas, MD, FAAP
Assistant Clinical Professor in Pediatrics
Tufts University School Of Medicine, Boston



Child Development

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