The Parent Trap: Can You Really Speed Up Your Child’s Development?

Baby holding a book and looking at the camera
Category: Bookbug

It seems that almost everywhere you look, there are headlines, marketing messages and books that claim to make your baby smarter, speed up their development and offer them age-appropriate visual stimulation. As parents are bombarded with messages at every turn, how do you know which ones to trust? And is it all as easy as general marketing would have us believe?

The first thing to remember is: take everything with a pinch of salt

I think the first thing to remember is to take everything with a pinch of salt. A lot of these key messages are either designed to entice you to buy something, or at the very least, read the article from Twitter or Facebook. And while the messages are often rooted in fact, they’re often a sensationalised version. So although a certain activity may speed up brain development, it might be by a very small amount.

To think critically about the claims made by media and marketing, it’s important to know a bit about how brain development happens, and what babies need from adults. At birth, a baby is born with all the brain cells it needs through life. It’s through interaction – especially reliable and repetitive interactions that the baby starts to use the experiences to build the connections in the brain and also to shape their view of the world. The repetition is key, and the more frequently an event happens in the baby’s brain, the stronger the connection in the brain is reinforced.

The important thing to remember is that every interaction and every moment is developing a child’s brain. In order to help this, and ensure that babies are developing healthy brains and a feeling of security, they need reliable, loving interaction from adults. Simple things like chatting, reading, playing peek-a-boo and singing are supporting healthy brain development.

Every interaction and every moment is developing a child's brain

So while a book may claim to support and stimulate, any book can do this – though it is true that babies prefer high contrast.

It’s great to see science, and the importance of brain development, making its way into mainstream media. But I often worry that it’s being used as a marketing trick. The best way to speed up brain development and create a healthy child is to tune in to what they’re interested in, play simple games and have a chat. They’ll reap the benefits of these simple, nourishing interactions for the rest of their lives.


Want to find some new books, songs and rhymes to share with your baby or child? We've got lovely book lists for all ages, songs and rhymes and free Bookbug sessions all over the country. Why not check some of them out?


Image credit: Milo and his Book by Donnie Ray Jones, courtesy Flickr Creative Commons