Making the Most out of Your Baby’s First Year by Dr Shaila Callaghan | #WellBeingWednesday

“What do I teach my baby and when?”

Smiling baby after shower

This has been one of the most common questions I have been hearing from new parents lately. A growing body of research suggests that the first few years of life are critical to brain development and, during this period, your child has twice as many neurons (brain cells) AND twice as many synapses (brain cell connections) as adults.

Many research programs have been undertaken to determine the effects of high-quality child care on the development and later behaviors of children. For example, a study published in Child Development, March-April 2000, showed that the children in higher-quality child care scored, on average, 12 points higher in IQ and about 2.5 months more advanced in language skills.

So how can we use this information to ensure we are encouraging our children’s optimal brain development? The following is a 12-month guideline for parents to enable their children to develop the right skills at the right time:

Month 1: Eliminate background distraction (radio, television, washing machine) so your baby is optimally relaxed and attentive to your talking, singing, or other foreground activity.

Months 1-3: For proper neural articulation, emphasize contrasts (light vs. dark colors, low vs. high pitch, simple vs. complex timbre, rough vs. smooth textures). It is interesting to note that children whose fathers were actively involved in the first six months of care scored higher on subsequent measures of intellectual and motor development.

Months 3-5: For visual development, use pictures of baby’s real-world objects (spoons, wagons, cups) as part of play activity.

Months 6-7: Emphasize cause and effect (turn the knob and the door opens), the locations of various objects (“Where’s the doggy? There she is!”), and functions of environmental objects (“What does the ball do? Bounce! See?”).

Months 7-8: Emphasize sound as a signal of impending events – ie. running water signals a bath, a car pulling into the driveway signal’s “Mommy/Daddy’s home”.

Months 9-12: Explore motor and sensory skills and how they combine (turn the faucet and feel the water). Twelve-month-olds can remember behaviors they have observed for thirty seconds to up to one week. By around twelve months of age, infants typically learn one or two new behaviors daily simply by observing people in their environment.

(from Pierce J. Howard’s The Owner’s Manual for the Brain – the ultimate guide for peak mental performance at all ages)

Dr. Shaila Callaghan is a licensed Chiropractor, Prenatal and Pediatric Wellness Expert. She practices in Toronto and can be reached at 416-962-2000. To learn more about Dr. Shaila Callaghan be sure to have a look at