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Brain Games for Babies

From Child-Building: Brain Games for Babies by Jackie Silberg

“Peekaboo, I see you.”

When you say these words to a baby, thousands of cells in the child`s growing brain will respond. Some brain cells will make new connections. Some existing connections will grow stronger. These connections form part of the complex circuitry that will remain largely in place for the rest of a child`s life.
The more you play Peekaboo and other games, the better chance for a baby`s brain cell connections to become permanent. On the other hand, connections that are rarely used may not survive. For example, a child who is rarely spoken to or read to in the early years may have trouble talking, thinking, reading, and writing later. A child who is rarely played with may have trouble getting along with people. A child`s brain thrives on feedback from the environment. The brain wires itself with thinking and emotional patterns laid down from experiences.
Every time you sing Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star or play Pat-a-Cake, you are strengthening and expanding the brain`s wiring. Chances are a child submerged in language from birth will learn to speak and think well. A baby, whose coos are met with smiles, rather than a lukewarm glance, will likely become emotionally receptive.The early care children receive has long-lasting effects on how they will develop and learn, how they will cope with stress, and how they will learn to manage their emotions. Infants and toddlers thrive when they receive warm, responsive care. Infants and toddlers can learn a lot through simple, everyday activities. Here are some easy games you can play to encourage that learning:

Games that develop trust and security
Brain research says that holding and stroking a baby stimulates the brain to release important hormones that allow the baby to grow.

Bouncing rhyme – 6 months and older
Seat the child on your lap facing you and say the following rhyme:
I went down town to get me some butter (bounce the baby gently on your knees)
And when I got there,
I fell in the gutter. (Open your knees and, while keeping a firm hold, let the child gently slip through.)

Games that develop language skills
Brain research says that the more words children hear, the more connections their brains will make.

Where`s the Chick? – 15 months and older
1. Hide behind a door and say “cheep, cheep, cheep.” Ask the toddler to find the chick.
2. If the child has trouble, stick out your head or foot so that you can be seen.
3. Hide in a different place and play the game again.
4. Change the chick to a duckling, calf, or other baby animal. Each time make the sounds appropriate to that animal.
5. After a few times, the child will want to hide and make the animal sounds. Note: This game develops listening skills in addition to language skills.

Games that develop fine motor skills
Brain research says that small-muscle exercises stimulate brain growth. Researches have verified the positive effects of finger and hand movements on the brain.

Flashlight fun – 12 months and older
Here`s what you need:
1. Shine a flashlight on different places in the room. Shine it on the wall, the door, the floor, and under the covers, for example.
2. Each time you shine the light on an object, say what it is: “This is the wall.” “This is the doorknob.”
3. Show the child how to turn the flashlight on and off.
4. Let the child shine the flashlight on an object and tell you what it is.
5. Give directions: “Shine the light on the ceiling.” “Shine the light on the window.” The child will understand what you are saying even without being able to say the words.
6. Make a bird shadow on the wall. Cross your wrists with your palms facing you. Extend your fingers (the wings) and touch the fleshy part of the thumbs to form the bird`s head. Move your hands to make the bird “fly.”
7. Look at pictures in a book or a magazine using the flashlight.

Having fun games
Laughter reduces stress, which enables a child to learn better. Brain research says that laughing changes the chemicals in the blood and helps to boost the chemicals needed for memory.

Knees Up – 10 months and older
This is a great diaper changing game.
1. As the child lies face up, say the following English rhyme and do the actions.
Knees up Mary Muffet. (Bend the child`s knee up and bring it back down.)
Knees up Mary Brown. (Do the same with the other knee.)
Knees up Mary Macaroni. (Bend both knees at the same time.)
Take my hand around the town. (Take the child`s hand in yours and move it in a circle.)
2. Repeat the rhyme and change the body parts.
Toes up….
Fingers up…
Arms up…

Games for stimulating vision
Brain research says the neurons for vision begin to form around 2 months.
Stimulating vision will help make the visual connections.

What do you see? – Newborn and older
Stimulate the baby`s vision in a variety of ways. Place a mirror in the crib, or wear a brightly colored scarf when giving a bottle. Hold the baby in your arms and walk around the room touching and naming things: “Here`s a furry teddy bear. How does that feel?” “Here`s a shiny doorknob.” “Look at this blue blanket.” If you spend lots of time holding, cuddling, and playing games with the children in your care, you will be richly rewarded with babbles, smiles, and squeals of laughter. You will also give the children the important learning experiences they need.

You can truly make a difference in the lives of young children.


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