When your little one is born, their little brains are ready for any information that you can provide them with. That information can help them develop strong problem-solving skills, as well as help them physically and emotionally as they grow from newborn to toddler and beyond.
We wondered which parts of your baby’s brain helped them get to this point where they are running around, laughing, and saying “Mama” and “Dada”? We decided to take a closer look at their little brains and figure out which part does what and how you can help their development from day one.
Let’s get started
The frontal lobe of your little one’s brain, which is located right behind their little foreheads is responsible and typically handles of their thoughts and the voluntary behaviors such as walking, talking, some emotions, and problem-solving. Between the ages of six and 12 months is when the majority of the development takes place.
It’s during this time that they start to move around much more and also start to make many more speech-like sounds. Also during this time, the left-hand and right-hand sides of their frontal lobe are starting to control different things and reactions to certain things.
For example, the left-hand side of their frontal lobe controls language. When your little one starts to babble, it will usually be the left-side of their brain lighting up like a Christmas tree.
On the other hand, the right-side of their frontal lobe controls their ability to judge distances, their visual memory, and their responses to music. If their favorite lullaby is playing or if they cannot get enough of items that will fit in mommy’s plastic bowl, that is the right side of their brain taking control
The frontal lobe of your little one’s brain can mature in spurts and can also take years to develop. As they get older, new functions will start to develop. These developments can happen throughout their childhood and beyond.
There is research that makes the suggestion that girls develop the left side of their brain first, while the right side is developed first in boys. While they both catch up to each other, both have a long way to go to fully develop their frontal lobes.
A child’s brain is so active during their childhood that the average 5-year-old uses half of the calories they consume each day to fuel the brain’s activity.
With the frontal lobe being responsible for so many different things that your child will do, there can be some very big milestones that they will achieve during their development. Some of these include:
Long before your little one utters their first word, they are learning how you and other adults use it to communicate as well as the other rules that come with languages. To make sounds when they are little, your baby will use their tongue, lips, palate, and any new teeth coming through during their first couple of months. It isn’t long after that you may hear your first “mama” or “dada” come across their lips and tears to your eyes.
When your child first comes home, their little legs aren’t strong enough to support their body standing upright just yet. But even at such a young age, they will push back against a hard surface with their feet if you hold them upright under their arms. While this is a reflex, they will only do it for a little while, it also shows an ability to learn and over the months that follow, their leg muscles will continue to develop and strengthen, leading to them mastering rolling over, sitting up, crawling, and then their first steps. Get the camera ready!
Some of the most vital senses your baby has, such as taste and touch are controlled by the parietal lobe of their brain, which is located near the crown of their head. This lobe also controls their hand-eye coordination, the ability to recognize objects, and some visual recognition which can help them understand what they are looking at.
The development of this area of their brain can greatly benefit from stimulation from the world around them. Every time they play with a toy that makes a new sound or has different textures on it, that interaction helps to stimulate, strengthen, and grow their parietal lobe.
The parietal lobe controls your baby’s sense of taste. While they are born with a predisposition for sweeter tasting foods, even though the tastes that they received from the amniotic fluid while they were in the womb had more of a variety. This is why your baby loves the taste of your breastmilk so much.
Breastmilk is a naturally sweet food for them and while the AAP, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that either breast milk or formula is your little one’s only source of nutrition for their first six months, after that time, if they try a food with a sour or bitter flavor, they are likely to pucker their lips much in the same way that adults do.
The parietal lobe can have some major milestones that your little one can reach during their development. Let’s take a closer look at some of these milestones:
Learning to grasp objects lets your little one learn how to play as well as reaching out for their favorite toys, stuffed animals, or bottle. The ability to grasp and hold items in their hands is a major first step in their development leading to them being able to feed themselves, reading, writing, drawing, as well as personal self-care.
From day one, your baby’s eyesight will allow them to take in the world around them and will aid their physical, mental, and emotional development. While this occurs a little bit at first, they will eventually learn much more about the world around them. A baby’s eyes are physically able to see at birth, it can be a lot of new information for their brain to process right away. This means that their view of the world stays a bit fuzzy for a while. As they grow, clarity comes to them and the world around them opens more and more.
Your baby learns quickly, even though they cannot speak a language or fully understand what you and others may be saying. It has been shown that even while in the womb they start to listen to their parents’ voices. Once they are born, they start tuning into what you’re saying, trying to make sense of it. Even learning about some complicated topics such as love, trust, time, as well as cause and effect.
Located at the back of their head, near the nape of their neck lies the cerebellum. The cerebellum’s main responsibility is to help control your little one’s balance and muscle coordination. In other words, this area allows your little one to make progress from rolling over, to crawling and eventually walking around the house.
In addition, the cerebellum also helps to coordinate the motor and sensory functions of their body. This means that when they move around, the cerebellum combines the signals from your baby’s other senses and helps them figure out what they are feeling.
While all parts of your baby’s brain are important, the cerebellum is like the support team for the rest. It also helps with higher brain functions such as learning music and languages, as well as processing social cues, which is believed by some experts.
There is research to suggest that abnormalities located in the cerebellum can play a part in causing autism in children. Autism is a developmental disorder that can be associated with social and communication development.
The cerebellum is responsible for many things in relation to your child’s development. We wanted to highlight a few of the milestones they can reach here for you to give you a better idea of the cerebellum’s importance:
When your little one is first born, they have little control over their head because their motor skills and neck muscles are weak. Within their first year, they will develop this crucial skill little by little. This skill is the foundation for all of their movement later on including sitting up and walking.
At about a month, they will probably be able to lift their head and hold it up in a seated position at 4 months. By the time they reach six months, their head and neck control muscles should be strong and steady.
Your child’s view of the world when they are first born comes from either laying on their back, stomach, or when you are holding them. When they are able to sit upright by themselves, it can give them a whole new perspective on the world around them. Things that were not in view before, suddenly are, giving them something new that they want to interact with.
Once they have strengthened their back and neck muscles to a point where they can hold their head upright and won’t topple over because they are putting their legs in a place that prevent that, it’s only a matter of time until they are crawling, standing, and eventually walking.
The occipital lobe is one of the least developed lobes when your child is born. Responsible for your child’s vision and visual recognition, the lobe is located near the back of their head. When your child is born, your baby will be nearsighted, only able to see between eight and 15 inches away. Typically, they can make out light, shapes, and movement, but everything else is pretty fuzzy at first.
Understanding what they are seeing can be difficult for your newborn as the neural pathways haven’t matured enough. With the right stimulation, either by seeing your face or toys with bold, contrasting colors, by the time they are eight months old, their vision will be as good as an adult.
Your baby’s occipital lobe has a very important function in the overall structure of their brain. Their sense of sight can be not only an important development milestone but a life development as it opens the world to them. We wanted to point out some of the milestones you can look forward to:
From birth, your child’s eyes are and will be the way they see and perceive the world and things around them. The information that they take in can aid their physical, mental, and emotional development. While the information that their eyes will take in will be a little at first, it will eventually lead to the discovery of how big their new world actually is.
While at birth their vision is limited to shapes and colors mostly, over the first six to eight months that they are alive, their vision will gradually develop to a point where they can see almost as well as you can.
Named for its location near your child’s temples, the temporal lobe is in charge of your baby’s hearing, language comprehension, and sense of smell. The first sense that develops when your child is born is their hearing. Within minutes after being born, loud noises will startle your child and cause them to cry. The reason for this is because before they are born, much of their physical development has already happened.
The temporal lobe partners with the amygdala and your baby’s hippocampus so that they can start learning, remember information and can also enable emotional responses. Their sense of smell also develops early on in your child’s life. A newborn will respond to smells on their first day, smiling at sweet smells and making faces at unpleasant smells such as rotten eggs.
The temporal lobe is in charge of many of your little one’s most important senses. This, in turn, means that during their early life, there are some milestones that they can reach, which we wanted to focus on:
Within the first two years of life, your little one will learn to talk. However, way before they say their first word that brings tears to your eyes, they are learning how you communicate and the rules of language. Beginning by using their tongue, lips, and palate, along with any new teeth coming through to make sounds. Soon after they begin to babble, those sounds will become real words like mama and dada.
Your little one’s sense of hearing is the first sense to develop even before they are born. They will use their ears to take in huge amounts of information about the new, exciting world around them. Shortly after being born, they will receive a screening test for their hearing and should receive one during each visit to their doctor for a well-being exam.
Good hearing allows them to learn the language being used around them and also helps to develop their brain further. Determining if there are issues with your child’s hearing as soon as possible is so important so that their development isn’t affected at all.
While its the last on our list, the brainstem is the most developed area of the brain at your little one’s birth. Located at the top of their spinal cord near their neck, the brainstem is in charge of all of their inborn reflexes, such as crying, suckling, and startling. It also regulates their basic life functions such as breathing, blood pressure, digestion, heart rate, and rapid eye movement (REM) sleep.
The brainstem works in partnership with your little one’s amygdala, otherwise known as the emotional center of the brain, to handle their feelings, including anxiety and also while they calm down. This matures very early and is very sensitive to their parents’ feedback.
The brainstem is one of, if not the most important parts of your child’s brain. It is responsible for many things, but one of the most important is that it can help with your baby getting a good night’s sleep. We wanted to take a closer look at this development with you.
Just like you, sleep is an important aspect of your little one’s life. When they are a newborn, they will sleep a lot, around 16 to 17 hours a day. While this may seem like a lot, babies don’t sleep for much more than a couple of hours at a time, day or night during the first few weeks of their life.
This can make for a lot of sleep for your little one, and many sleepless nights for new parents. While as a new parent or if this is your second child, you’ll be up quite a few times during the night to change, comfort, and feed your new little one in the first moments of their life.
After going through the description of the different areas of your little one’s brain, many parents may wonder how they can help their little one’s brain development. We wanted to provide a list of different activities that you can do with your child to help them grow physically, mentally, and emotionally.
- Eye Contact
- Introducing Smells
- Responding to Your Child
By doing these with your child, you can not only create a connection and a bond stronger than anything, but you can also help give them the experiences and development needed to help them grow big and strong.