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How to boost your baby’s learning potential during play

The golden age of learning is from birth until a child is three years old, so it’s really important to make use of this time, writes Shiaoling Lim.

Learning doesn’t need to be formal, or necessarily structured, it’s really a matter of maximising what you are already doing with your baby, and in those early years, parents are the best teachers.

In the first three years of life, the right hemisphere of the brain is more dominant, and that’s why babies learn so quickly.

Here, information processed is more image-based and learning is easily absorbed.

From three to six years, we start shifting and using the left hemisphere, which is more language-based and processing tends to be more serial – processing and learning is slower in comparison.

Here are some easy activities parents can do with their babies and toddlers at home to maximise learning potential during play:

Eye muscle training: Use a puppet and get the baby’s attention – then encourage them to follow the puppet with their eyes as you move it from left to right, up and down and in semi-circles. As adults, our vision narrows, this exercise can help retain a baby’s wide field of vision.
Play with different textures: Expose your baby to the five senses to stimulate the brain and provide them with language, just make sure to be consistent with the words you use so they can understand. If you call something “hot” always use that word, rather than substitute words with the same meaning. Try using comparisons – so rough versus smooth or hot versus cold.
Sensorial activity: A lot of toddlers can grasp things, but it’s in their palm rather than fingers. To work on fine motor skills, try to get them to pick up the object with a pincer grip and put it in a box – start with big objects like fruit, and work your way down to smaller objects, like a cotton reel, as they improve.
Memory training: From 12 months you can start to train the memory. Tell your baby a story using flash cards and see how many they can remember – they may not be able to speak yet but observe their eyes for recall. A five-year-old should be able to remember 50 cards.
Visualisation exercise: Toddlers are great at imagining, so work this part of their brain with props and scenarios that appeal to the five senses.

Shiaoling Lim owns the Shichida Education Centres in Sydney and Melbourne and recently launched Shichida at Home.

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