By Octavia Lindlahr
We live in a culture where “stimulation” clearly receives a negative response. Many pediatricians and experts will often label a baby who cries often or for prolonged periods of time “over stimulated”. However, we often give the brain little credit in this regard, and it should be acknowledged that stimulation and multi sensory play offer undeniable value to the overall development to the infant brain.
The brain, being the amazing and miraculous “super computer” that it is, will inevitably process the stimulation it receives and regulate it accordingly. This important transmission of data and information of external cues serves as a conditioning of sorts as the infant enters into their new environment and the outside world.
Historically, scientists have believed that the brain’s wiring was complete at birth, however, new research now suggests that the brains of these young infants is efficiently and effectively accommodating and nurturing some 10 billion active nerve cells. We are clearly brilliant at birth!
These nerve cells are busy connecting with each other to create neural synapse activity to promote thought, emotion and physical movement. Scientists now say that the capability of those neural connections depends on whether the infant receives proper stimulation. It is a scientific confirmation of what seems like common sense, however, it is not well known or understood by everyone.
It is important to remember that what a baby sees, what a baby hears, even what a baby feels, is most useful when fully “experienced”. We effectively accomplish this through “play” and multi-sensory interaction.
When infants are introduced to the specialized learning technique of “sensory stimulation”, the brain archives the data and stores the details of that experience. This offers the infant brain a “library” of thoughts, reference, learning, and even emotion. Some infants are not wired to be sensory oriented, and this combined use of senses offers a head start in a long road of sensory integration. Because we live in a “sensory” world, this helps the infant to adapt to his or her surroundings.
An effective way to teach infants incorporating multi-sensory play is through a three-tier learning sequence (Three Tiers of Learning). The first tier shows the infant how something is done. The second tier shows the infant that they can do it themselves, and the third tier allows the infant the freedom to participate in the activity independently. For example, one may engage in the following sensory activity:
• Tier One: Parents would move the colored ribbon streamers over the infants head in a movement from left to right
• Tier Two: Parents would place the streamers in the infant’s hands, holding them if need be to assist
• Tier Three: Parents would let go of the streamers and allow the infant to hold/move them independently
Streamers are moving to the sound of the music to promote internal rhythm setting. This activity is also beneficial for visual tracking and development of the grasping reflex.
In tier one, parents are demonstrating the action, allowing the infant to later learn and mirror them. In tier two, parents are showing the infant that they can mimic the actions they just witnessed and observed. In tier three, infants are encouraged to explore on their own, and are offered the freedom to learn independently.
This model for learning is appealing to the brain because it captures all the facets of how human beings learn best. In our fast-paced world it is good to remember that not only is your infant wired and ready to learn, but they thrive on personal experience especially when that interaction involves loving, hands-on parents. Remember, you truly are your baby’s first and most effective teacher!
Octavia Lindlahr owns and operates a Child Development Center in Woodland Hills called “Outside the Box”. OTB is an educational and developmental program for infants 8 weeks to 5 years old. Her program focuses on multi-sensory learning techniques and promotes interactive learning for parents and their children. For more information, see http://www.otbee.com.