There are stages of cognitive development for babies, which are also long and complicated - even though it starts before they’re born, it will carry on developing well into their teenage years.
From the moment your baby came into the world, they were ready to learn, and, provided they are stimulated by the sights and sounds around them, their brain will work like a little sponge, soaking everything up! Every time your baby looks at your face, they are in fact, stimulating the area of their brain that processes visual information, and they’ll get better and more efficient at it as time progresses.
Your baby’s brain and nervous systems are immature when they’re born and that’s the reason that they don’t move around a lot in the early days, or recognize where they are and what’s around them. The most developed area of their brain at birth is the part which controls all of their basic reflexes, things like crying and suckling, as well as breathing, blood pressure and heart rate. But they’re developing really quickly and by the time your baby is 3 months old, their brain has already matured so much that some of the automatic reflexes they were born with, like grasping and spontaneous crying, have started to disappear.
The development of memory is a fascinating subject. The area of the brain that manages this is not fully mature at birth and undergoes a lot of development in the first 2 years of life, which is why long-term memory improves around 2 years of age. This means that the ability to remember develops over time but it seems that babies learn fast! When they’re only 10 days old, your baby can remember the way you smell and by the time they’re 3 months, your baby will recognise you by sight.
Of course, good nutrition is essential for your baby’s brain development, especially during the first 2 years .Fat is an important source of essential fatty acids and some fats also provide long chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (LCPUFAs) DHA and AA , that are important in brain, eye and nervous tissue development.
Your baby is born with the inherent capacity to learn but they need a stimulating environment so that their abilities can fully develop.
The first few experiences in their life are a big event for them! For example, at this stage, the area that controls your baby’s vision and recognition is not very mature and in order to develop it, your baby needs to see a variety of objects. By the age of 4 months, they’ll have learned to repeat, over and over again, actions that make interesting things happen, so for example, they’ll learn that if they reach out and touch the mobile hanging above their cot, it will move and they’ll be able to see different things. Clever stuff!
During the first six months of life, changes occur that enable your baby to form connections in their brain more quickly. Interestingly, this happens most quickly with the neurons that are responsible for touch, which is why your baby can touch and feel things before they develop memory skills. However, as the area of their brain which controls memory also develops, their memory skills will improve and by 4 months, they’ll be able to recognize you, even among a group of people.
Breastmilk contains these LCPs, as well as all the other nutrients required for brain growth and development.
At this stage, the area that controls your baby’s vision and recognition is not very mature and in order to develop it, your baby needs to be exposed to and see a variety of objects. With continued stimulation, that is, as you and your baby spend time together and you show them different things like toys and books, their vision improves a lot and by 8 months they’ll be able to see as well as you.
By the age of 7 months, your baby will respond more to human voices than to non-vocal sounds and they can start to distinguish the emotions that your voice reveals, such as anger and happiness.
Breastmilk contains nutrients for promoting brain growth and after weaning you should continue to provide good sources in your baby’s diet.
All of the experiences they have in their first 12 months play a huge part in the development of their brain. At this stage, the area that controls your baby’s vision and recognition is still maturing, and in order to develop it, your baby needs to be exposed to and see a variety of objects. The more time you can spend with your baby, sharing experiences and looking at different things together,reading books and playing with different toys, the better. That way, by the time they get to 12 months, they’ll be able to see the world just like you do.
Babies need a high level of fat in their diet at 10-12 months.
Now they’re a toddler and you can no doubt see on a daily basis how many new things they’re learning. They really are like little sponges, and will soak up everything they see, hear and do.
Around 18 months, the area that helps to control your toddler’s memory has reached full maturity. Conscious memories get stored in the brain and the amount of time a toddler can remember things for increases. It’s funny to think that your toddler will soon be doing things that they might be able to remember in years to come, although all little ones are different and they all develop at their own pace, that’s why some people can remember back a lot further than others .
The areas of the brain that control emotions, like whether your toddler is feeling anxious or calm, mature early in life and are also very sensitive to how you respond. Your toddler will eventually learn how to handle and manage their feelings themselves if you respond consistently, and with patience .
Although toddlers are growing more slowly than when they were babies, they still need a lot more calories than adults, relative to their size. This means fat is still an important part of their diet, as it provides the richest source of Calories.
Foods like oily fish - mackerel, salmon and sardines are a great source of omega-3 fats and should be included in the diet every week.
The areas of the brain that control your toddler’s emotions, like whether they’re feeling anxious or calm, matured early in life and, as you’ve probably noticed, are very sensitive to how you respond! Be patient - your toddler is trying to learn so many new skills and it’s no wonder that they get overwhelmed so often. They will eventually be able to handle and manage their feelings themselves if you respond consistently .
Your toddler’s conscious memories get stored in their brain and the length of time they can remember things for is growing all the time. By the age of 3 or 4, although some are younger, some are older, you can expect your child to be making permanent memories .