Activities for Gifted Children: From Birth to Five

— American Association for Gifted Children
Updated on Jan 25, 2012

Baby's brain

Scientists say a baby's brain is a fascinating bundle of neurons just waiting to be hard-wired into the intricate circuitry we call the mind. The wiring of the brain begins at birth and continues until age 10 or 12 when it is wired for life, according to these findings. Some scientists believe that with the right stimulation at the right time, you can help to increase your child's brain power from the very start.

1. "Windows of opportunities" in a baby's life are crucial.

The early years are precious windows of opportunity. Parents have the best opportunity to influence how their children think, feel, and behave, before that time. There are activities and play things that will help your child capitalize, in the best possible way, on a window of opportunity.

2. What are some of these "windows of opportunity?"

a) The first window is the LANGUAGE DEVELOPMENT window. Zero to 2 years old is when this window is most wide open, but it does extend to 10 years old. This is a very important window because the child is learning his or her primary language. Parents should also do everything they can to hold the child close so that the baby can see where the sound is coming from and speak to the child in rhymes, in song, whispers, and silly voices. Take joy in speaking to them.

There's evidence that pop-up books are the best way to get your child used to reading. They stimulate the child's senses. These can have a life-long influence over the child's attitude toward reading. There is dramatic proof that the first couple of years are the crucial years in a child's reading life.

b) The second window of opportunity is VISUAL ABILITY. It opens at birth and closes at 2 years of age. To make full use of this window — put interesting things in the baby's line of sight, like a mobile. Make sure their eyes are always looking at something interesting. After 6 months, put something near the crib that they can look at, but not out of reach; this will help develop hand-eye coordination.

c) MOTOR COORDINATION is another window. Zero to 5 years. At the youngest stages, begin to hand the child toys to hold. Rub them in the palms of their hands and give them a feel for it. Also repeat their uncoordinated movements back to them, but in an approving manner to reinforce that behavior.

Guidelines for parents

1) "Respond to a child's cues and clues." A child, no matter how young, gives you indications of how he/she is feeling. Observe how a child's eyes move when looking at you or objects.

2) "Talk, read and sing to your child." When speaking, communicate face-to-face. The baby needs to see your eyes in interactions. And you should always include the baby, even if the baby doesn't appear to be interacting. If you are carefully observant, you will see there is a change in facial expressions, or the child will move a bit, when you are reading. This is an infant's language. You should respond to it."

3. "Use discipline as an opportunity to teach." Be specific about what jobs the child should do. Don't say, "clean up," in a general way, ask the child, "to put away the stuffed animals." Or "put the socks in the hamper." The child feels empowered by this, and you will not have unrealistic expectations.

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