Just remember to Look, Say, Sing, Play
Look at what your baby’s focusing on and how they react
Brain-building all starts with taking a cue from your little one. Look to see what they find interesting or funny, copy and react to what they do. You could think of it like a game of tennis – going back and forth between the two of you.
Say what you’re doing and copy the sounds your baby makes
Talking to your baby, or copying when they babble, is an easy way to build their brain throughout the day. Even talking about simple actions as you do them is a great place to start. Try adding silly voices and use expressions to bring your words to life.
Sing along to your favourite tunes or make up your own
You don’t need to be a karaoke champion to pull this one off. Try using familiar tunes and changing the words to describe things you’re doing. It might take some getting used to, but give it a go and find your groove.
Play simple games and see what your child enjoys
You don’t even need toys for this brain-building skill. Try playing peekaboo, mess about with bubble bath, or even turn sorting laundry into a game! Over time, you can add playful moments throughout the day.
How does brain-building work?
During your child's earliest years, their brain makes 1 million neural connections every single second. Positive, supportive experiences with parents and other adults are important to their brain development.
But it’s not about just singing or talking at your baby. Brain-building happens when you and your little one are interacting with each other. It’s about taking a cue from them, and reacting to what they’re doing. You could think of it like a game of tennis – going back and forth between the two of you.
Try out these tips
Colours we like
Tell your child about the colours you like and why: “Yellow reminds me of a sunny day.” “Red makes me think of my favourite flowers.” Watch where they’re looking and tell them about some of the colours they’re looking at and what they make you think about.
When your child hears you connect colours to memories, they’re learning more about you and how you see the world. You’re not only helping your child learn to make connections, but also helping them begin to shape the story of who they are.
Laundry hokey cokey
Invite your child to help put items like socks IN and OUT the laundry basket. Say the words IN and OUT to describe your actions and see how your baby reacts as they learn these concepts. You could even try singing – a bit like the hokey cokey. Notice what your baby finds interesting, are they pointing at the basket? Respond to what they do.
Young children like putting and pulling things in and out of containers. Using this interest to help you get a chore done also helps them learn the concepts of IN and OUT, and to organise their understanding of the world.
Ask your child if they want to look out the window and be a Window Watcher. Follow their gaze as you point and say what you guys see. Show them where you’re looking. Create names for what’s out there and talk about what each thing does.
When your child is going back and forth with you about what each of you sees, they’re learning from you. Naming what you’re looking at will help your child increase their vocabulary in meaningful ways.
Be playful with your expressions, and invite your baby to look closely at what you do. Pick up your spoon, take some food and say, “Mmm delicious,” and put the spoon down. Take tiny bites and have them do the same. Then invite them to do something and you copy them. Really look at how your baby reacts, and respond to them.
This back and forth game helps your child learn to pay attention and remember so they can repeat your actions. They need these thinking skills to learn information and use it. Plus it can encourage a picky eater to eat!
When you’re changing your child’s nappies, make funny noises and see if you can make them giggle or coo, then giggle and coo back at them. See how many times you can go back and forth. Follow their lead and have a conversation with faces and sounds.
By following your child’s lead and also responding, you’re building the connections their brain will need for conversation and language later on.
Stories and suds
Tell your child stories or sing to them in the bath. You can tell them about favourite family memories or make up stories with them as the main character. Bathtime stories and songs make bathing easier and more fun for both of you!
When you tell your child stories and sing songs, you’re sharing the importance of language and music. They’re hearing all kinds of new sounds and words. They’re also making connections by listening to your stories and songs in a fun and real way.
When you’re brushing your child’s teeth, look in the mirror together. Talk about how your teeth are the same and different from theirs. For example, you have more teeth, and bigger teeth, but you both can make funny faces. Follow their lead and talk about what they notice.
Comparing things that are the same and different will help your child sort their experiences into categories and make connections—skills that are important in reading, maths, and science in the future. This also builds their connection with you.
Wait for it…
When singing to your child, stop at the same spot in the song each time and then start again in a silly way, using a funny voice. Watch what they do as they wait for the song to start again. Try making the pause in the song longer or shorter.
Children are interested in anything that is new or unexpected, so this game is a great way to engage your child’s focus. This pattern of building excitement and then calming down is a playful way for you to support your child’s early ability of self-control.
As you get your child ready for bed, think of a favourite childhood song or a current slow song and sing it softly. When they respond, respond back, adding the sounds they make to your song. Keep adding in to your remixed version until they become drowsy.
When you and your child respond to each other, going back and forth, both of your brains are activated by this experience. They learn best when they feel safe and loved and these moments together prepare them for a lifetime of learning.
Vroom™ is an initiative of the Bezos Foundation which helps parents build their baby’s brain, right from birth.
Their early learning experts have created hundreds of brain-building tips, which have already been used by 900,000 families in the USA. And we’ve teamed up with them to share those tips in the UK.
Work or volunteer with parents and children?
Visit NSPCC Learning for Look, Say, Sing, Play resources for your work with parents and children.
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