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  • Writer's pictureRaelene Ostberg, M.Ed.

Building Baby's Brain Power: Ensure All Infants Blossom!

Updated: Jan 30

Newborns have the same heart as adults, all of the same components, just smaller. They have identical lungs, functioning just as yours, only a fraction of the size. But, the brain? These little humans do not have a duplicate brain.

During the first two years, approximately 70% of the infant's lifelong brain development is occurring and will literally carve the structure of the brain. This unique and critical window is an opportunity to ensure infants develop the brain pathways needed to thrive...not only today, but well into the future. Read on to discover several top tips for helping promote brain development, access resources including videos and articles, and foster the literacy skills needed to help the infants you care for truly thrive. We are even including a video and free song-sheet with fun brain-building infant and toddler chants that will foster all areas of development. Scroll down to access the materials right away!

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Many caring adults invest in toys, videos, or other robust experiences to help the infant thrive. But, do you know what the very best, most effective brain builder you can give an infant is? Time and responsive interactions with you! YOU are the gift! The way you engage the infant and the experiences you provide over the first two years will literally shape how the brain grows and forms.

Before my first child was born, I read you're supposed to talk to babies. And I pondered, why would I talk to my baby? Babies don't talk back! After delving into infant brain development research and having years of observation and interaction in infant and toddler classrooms, I realized, clearly…They do! Even very young infants have distinct preferences and attempt to communicate those with caring adults. Older infants are even honing their ability to decipher which humans might be helpful or hurtful ! (Hint, they prefer those who assist rather than those who hinder others). And, they most definitely do respond and “talk back” when adults interact! It does oftentimes, however, take a savvy adult to read the messages and a ton of patience to give the infant the time and space to needed to do it.

The reality is, what adults do will make a huge difference in how the infant’s brain forms and the capacities the infant develops. And, it is not only what they do, it is also how they do it. Providing quality interactions and “talking” with babies not only helps bolster their brain power and language capacities, it also helps build their self-esteem and learn to trust their environment.

To learn more about how the infant’s brain develops and tools to promote communication skill, scroll down toward the end of this blog.

  • Look! One magical step in promoting brain development is to tune into what the infant is inspired to learn about. To gain the important “joint attention”, notice where the baby is gazing. What does the infant seem to be interested in? If they're looking at their hands and then attempting to eat those little nuggets, this is the sensory learning experience that is drawing their attention. Take note and then…

  • Follow! What are they doing? Start to consider and tune into the infants desire in that moment. See the world from the infant’s perspective. What might be interesting about one’s fingers and the hands attached to them? How does it feel to eat these fingers? What might they be learning?

  • Talk! Say what it is you see them doing?! “Oh, I bet those little fingers are squishy. Maybe you taste some salt too. SQUISHY! FINGERS! NUM” Every word you say is going into their brain, they’re hearing the sounds. The more words they hear, the larger the store of words they will have later.

  • Take Turns! Remember, infants need time to process what has been said. Experts believe it may even take 60-90 seconds or more for the infant to decode the verbal and nonverbal messages you send. Give up to two minutes or more, adding your encouraging cues that show you are waiting, and watch as their brain takes in what you may have said and coordinates to develop a response to you. By even six weeks old, the magical infant will be able to formulate a response to coo back to you.

Through this process known as “serve and return”, babies are learning to trust adults and that learning is enjoyable. When you take the time to hear, feel, and understand an infant, you build the bonds that stimulate wonderful neural connections, bolster learning and the brain pathways needed to thrive, and foster a sense of self-esteem and being loved.

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Wonderful Resources to Learn More and Share!

Check out this short video with numerous infant and toddler songs to stimulate neural connection, build your relationship with the infant, and foster a love of learning (and have fun while you are at it!)

Baby's Brain Power Handout
Download PDF • 856KB


What do baby's think? Expert Alison Gopnik, in her wonderful Ted Talk, illustrates how these tiny human scientists are making advanced calculations and testing their own hypothesis! Check out this video to learn more about "What do Baby’s Think?" (She is WONDERFULLY FUNNY TOO!)


Using the "Serve and Return" to : Building the Brain Circuitry

5 Steps for Brain-Building Serve and Return: Harvard University's Center on the Developing Child provides insightful articles and other resources including this great article "5 Steps for Brain Building Serve and Return":


VROOM - Video showing the cycle of building communication skills in infants and toddlers through




*Take Turns


Check out the other Vroom Brain Builders other tools, APPs and resources:


Zero to Three is a spectacular research-based website with an entire area full of resources (videos and articles) regarding brain development and promoting early literacy.

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Through it all, never forget, what you do makes all the difference!

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