The first three years of a child’s life are crucial – it is a time of rapid brain growth, fuelled by early social experiences with parents and other caregivers.
Starting from birth, our little ones develop brain connections through their everyday experiences. These connections are built through positive interactions with their parents and caregivers and by using their senses to interact with the world.
A ‘serve and return’ interaction between children and parents is one of many key experiences that help shape a child’s developing brain. This is called sensitive and responsive parenting. An example of this is responding promptly and consistently to your baby’s cries, while moderating your tone, words, and facial expressions to match their feelings (e.g. “I understand this makes you sad”). This comforting response cultivates trust with your child and encourages emotional self-regulation.
It’s amazing isn’t it, how a simple interaction with your little one can help develop his/her brain connections?
How the social connection with your baby can promote cognitive development and learning
In fact, right from birth, babies send us signals to interact with them through cooing, smiling, and crying. Babies are also bidding for our attention when they point or make eye contact. As adults and caregivers, when we respond with warm and accepting behaviors, this back-and-forth interaction provides an optimal social environment that helps to develop babies’ basic sensory and perceptual skills. It also lays the foundation for more complex language, reasoning, and planning skills.
This may sound complex, but you are, in reality, stimulating your baby’s brain every time you do any of these simple things:
- Show love
- Talk and sing to your baby in a kind, expressive voice
- Respond to your baby’s requests without hesitation
- Touch, hold, and cuddle your baby
- Read to your baby
- Help your baby explore their surroundings
You, the parent, are your baby’s best learning tool.
A strong parent-child connection is the best foundation for children to acquire good communication and learning skills. This is why research done by the Baby-LINC lab is so important. The Baby-LINC lab is led by Assoc Prof Victoria Leong and comprises two international research teams based at the University of Cambridge and at Nanyang Technological University in Singapore.
They have a range of studies that investigate how parent-child interactions and babies’ early social interactions support infant brain development and the healthy maturation of important mental skills like executive function, learning and creativity.
Executive function skills are the mental processes that allow us to focus, plan, remember instructions, accomplish tasks, control impulses, and manage emotions. Our little ones aren’t born with these skills—but they are born with the potential to develop them.
Here’s what they have found so far:
- When mums and babies engage closely during interaction, their brains can become temporarily synchronised or coupled.
- When babies brains are coupled more strongly to their mums, they are more receptive and ready to learn, and also more ready to communicate.
Baby-LINC lab uses a novel method called ‘dyadic-EEG (electroencephalography)’ for their research.
EEG is a non-invasive, widely used technique for measuring brain activity. Dyadic EEG enables them to measure brainwave signals from babies and adults at the same time, while they are communicating and interacting with each other.
Do note that EEG is safe for both babies and adults. In fact, the Baby-LINC lab in Cambridge was the very first in the world to successfully use dyadic-EEG with young babies as young as nine months old.
Mums, your participation in this research is crucial
The Baby-LINC Lab needs mums and babies in order to study the mum-baby social connection and answer all these interesting questions about how the early brain develops and how children learn.
They are currently looking for mothers and infants aged 6 months to 3 years old, with no developmental disorders or learning difficulties.
Mummies, your participation in this research is crucial. There are some perks involved too! Here are some benefits of participating in this research:
- Free play and short games or tasks between mummy and baby
- Infants may also get to play with special toys designed by Baby-LINC lab engineers!
- EEG measurements for infant and mother
- Mothers will get to actively participate in most activities with their babies and sometimes, even take the role of an experimenter!
- Participants will be reimbursed for their time
The research will be conducted at the NTU Lee Kong Chian School of Medicine Novena Campus (11 Mandalay Road).
Mums, if you are keen on participating in this research, please visit this link or scan the QR code below, or email [email protected] to register your interest now!
Also, look out for exciting BabyLINC events coming up in late 2022!