Studies: Babies' first months
April 17, 1997
crucial to brain development
Web posted at: 5:32 p.m. EDT (2132 GMT)
From Correspondent Pat Etheridge
WASHINGTON (CNN) -- When does an infant's capacity for
learning begin? The answer to the age-old question may lie in
new scientific evidence that indicates the experiences of
babies' first days and months have a decisive impact on their
brains and on what kind of adults they will become.
"The first three years of life are incredibly important,"
Julie Clark, a former teacher and now full-time mother of a
2-year-old girl. "We know now that babies are really in
desperate need of stimulation."
And Clark is putting her words into action by working with
her baby, Aspen, on a daily routine of mind-enhancing games
that could spur critical connections in the baby's brain.
Clark has even developed a video, Baby Einstein, believed to
be one of the first videos for infants aged 1 to
12 months old.
Hugs, songs and bedtime stories
Clark's motivation stems from scientific studies that have
revealed infants' brains to be as sophisticated as the most
advanced computers, a vast sponge able to absorb complex
information. Hugs, songs, bedtime stories and playtime all
help promote a healthy childhood.
A report by the New York-based Families and Work Institute
found that during the first three years of life, the vast
majority of the brain's synapses -- or connections among
brain cells -- are formed. The ways in which parents and
other caregivers relate with children during that formative
period directly affect the child's emotional development and
their ability to handle stress as adults, the report
Stanley Greenspan, author of "The Growth of the Mind," said,
"A baby comes into the world with their brain only partially
formed, and Mother Nature leaves it to caregivers to finish
Spreading the word
The task now is to disseminate the information to the public.
President Clinton and the first lady hosted a massive
symposium Thursday dedicated to "talking about baby talk."
Other groups, like "I Am Your Child," are working to spread
Movie director Rob Reiner appeared on CNN and spoke of his
work with "I Am Your Child." He said the group's job is
"letting people know that what happens to their children in
the first three years of their lives in terms of their brain
development is critical."
"It is the critical time period when the brain develops and
grows to 90 percent of its adult size," Reiner said.
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