Why Active Babies Make Smart Kids

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Babies who have the right early movement experiences in their first year have better coordination, concentration, memory, behaviour and perception as they get older.

Baby learning expert Dr Jane Williams said a baby’s brain grows most rapidly in the first 12 months of life and this is a critical period for learning.

“Research has shown that the correct stimulation for babies can influence how well they behave, read and learn when they reach school,” said Williams.

“In addition, they have improved confidence, communication and socialisation skills,” she said.

“During this first year the brain grows dramatically, producing billions of cells and hundreds of trillions of connections between these cells.  A baby’s brain actually grows to 64% reaching over half of its adult size in the first 3 months.”

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 10.51.46 AMIt is well researched that during these earliest years of life much of the essential wiring linked to learning is laid down. Paediatrician Dr Meredith Bayfield says that research into brain development clearly shows a child’s success at school is set in the earliest years of life.

“What is not well known is just how much of a dramatic influence parents can have over the number of neural connections that are made by their babies and the resulting strength of their foundations for learning,” said Williams.

“There is an exciting and enormous amount of brain growth that can go on in this earliest year if babies are given the learning opportunities and the opportunity to use their brains.”

“The human brain grows by use and this growth is practically complete by six years of age.  This doesn’t mean we can’t learn after this age, it simply means that the quality of learning available to us will depend primarily on the foundations we have acquired in our early years.”

Screen shot 2013-06-18 at 8.28.21 AM“As the brain grows, the millions of connections that are made between the message highways – neurons –tell the brain about the body and the environment in which the baby is growing. The number of these connections, how well those messages are transported along the neurons, how strong the connections are and how much information the brain can interpret from the messages will be influenced by several key environmental experiences:  movement opportunities, sensory stimulation, emotional security and diet,” explained Williams

“The biggest difference to the number of resulting connections is made in the first year of a child’s life,” she said.

“During the first year, brain cells are busy making millions of connections. The connections peak at about one year and in a process called ‘pruning’, they are eliminated if they are not used. The connections that babies regularly use are the ones they keep.”

So how can we help a baby to “use” their brain?

“Movement is one of the key experiences that promote learning for babies,” said Williams.

“Babies’ brains grow through movement. Introducing the correct movement experiences into your baby’s daily life from the earliest months will have a profound influence on their brain growth and neurological organisation,” she said.

“Fun and loving movement activities will stimulate intellectual, physical and emotional growth providing solid foundations for a future of learning, health and happiness.”

05 brain and triangleBabies are born to move and programmed to develop along a specific sequence of physical milestones. It’s a step by step process. Each stage provides them with the experiences necessary for the next developmental level of achievement. These milestones correlate with stages of brain development. Alongside the development of movement skills, other key areas of brain development are being stimulated and readied for future learning. Read more here: Recent Research Demonstrates the Importance of Early Movement Experiences to Academic Achievement.

Screen shot 2013-06-23 at 2.50.05 PMWilliams points out: “Importantly, we need to remember not to ‘hurry’ a child through the developmental process. The brain needs lots of time, experience and practice to ‘wire up’ every new motor skill it learns. These movements and the quality of the movements within each stage of development will determine the amount of brain growth.”

“What is of great concern is that babies of today have greatly reduced opportunities to move play and develop and this can severely impact their developing brain and healthy development.”  One of the issues contributing to this issue is the over use of ‘containers’ into which babies can be placed.”  Read more here: Beware Over Use of “Containers”! Why Babies Need the Freedom to Move.

The Correct Movement Experiences

“The correct early movement experiences are easy, natural and fun and any parent can do them with their babies,” said Williams.

Screen shot 2014-03-26 at 12.24.53 PM“Parents are a child’s first, most important and best teacher.”

For the most part, the right kinds of movement opportunities involve good old-fashioned one-on-one parent/carer and baby interaction.

Some of these are:

  • Tummy Time: On their tummies babies will develop neck, back, arm, leg and eye muscles that enables them to gain control over their body movements -so important for brain development. See our free Tummy Time video here.
  • Baby Massage: Massage and loving touch have terrific positive effects on baby’s brain and body, as well as ensuring babies form secure attachments essential for healthy emotional development. See our free Baby Massage video here.
  • Baby Exercises: These are fantastic for stimulating the pathways in the brain that form the foundations for later physical competence as well as connecting parts of the brain that help with thinking, understanding, learning and remembering.  Most importantly, babies love them! See our free Baby Exercise video here.
  • Music, Dance, Songs and Rhymes: Music and rhythm develops a baby’s listening, speech and language skills, providing building blocks for the future development of reading and writing. Rhythm is also vital for smooth coordinated movement essential for sports and mathematics. See free Music and Rhythm for your baby here:
  • Baby Balance Activities: Babies who have been given regular balance stimulation in the early months of life display improved coordination, posture, balance, control of movement and the ability to learn new activities quickly and efficiently. See our free Baby Balance video here.

In addition to playing an active role in your child’s learning ability, simply loving and nurturing your little one will also do wonders for their brain development.

GymbaROO for Babies from Birth: 12 FREE online BabyROO videos

“We believe that every parent has right and the need to have access to this important information. This is why we, at GymbaROO, have made a free online series for parents,” said Williams.

“We’ve called it the “Active Babes Smart Kids” series. It is a world first, online video series that explains to parents exactly what to do with their babies to give them the best start and the correct stimulation to lay down the foundations for later learning. The series is full of information, specialist advice and hundreds of loving activities for parents to join in and to do with their little ones,” she said.

“The series comes highly recommended by paediatricians, doctors, early childhood experts and the Maternal Child and Family Health Nurses Association and we are thrilled that there are already over 40,000 parents and babies enjoying and benefiting from the series!

“The most wonderful part about it all is how many babies more will be getting off to such a great start. The future for these babies is looking very bright.” Read here: Why GymbaROO / BabyROO kids excel, academically, on the sporting field and in leadership positions.

Find the entire free series here.
Watch the Active Babies Smart Kids introductory video here!

Dr Jane Williams (PhD, BMgt, CertTertTeach, RN) is the Director of Research and Development at GymbaROO. She lectures extensively worldwide and is an Adjunct Senior Lecturer at the School of Nursing, Midwifery & Nutrition, James Cook University, Townsville. She has been working with infants, children and parents for over 30 years and is one of Australia’s leading experts on child development. More on Dr Williams here.


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