Windows of opportunity, like house windows, only provide fresh air when they are open. A closed window of opportunity is like a wall in a house. Well, actually, procrastinators can see what might have been possible by studying a lost opportunity window, but once a window that offered choices is closed, there’s really not much point…unless we are looking for a stiff dose of regret. Uh, no thanks.
So as not to make this a random rambling, I’ll get to the point.
We’re talking babies here. OUR babies. YOUR babies. EVERYBODY’s babies. Our precious futures and the future of the world are presented to us as little bundles of possibility on Day One of each child’s life. Each baby is a crawling, babbling wee life force that too few of us understand as an open window of opportunity. I say “window,” because the life-long potential that is likely to be manifested by those gurglers is importantly shaped by what goes on for them prior to age 5. And conversely, what doesn’t happen for them during that brief period is as important as what does.
Love, affection and care are the bare basics of what we can provide to babies if we expect them to physically survive. To help them flourish and increase the chance that they’ll enjoy a wonder-filled and rewarding life requires intentionality when it comes to nurturing the gray matter between their tiny ears, because babies’ brains provide the nexus for the development of their potentials. The corresponding window of opportunity exists within their first 60 months of life when 90 percent of their brains’ development occurs.
Brains don’t develop randomly or in some formulaic way. Brains develop in direct response to life experiences and the environmental stimuli with which they engage. The part of the brain that gets stimulated gets stronger—the window opens wider. The part which doesn’t get stimulated withers away; this signals the window closing.
Parents already have a lot on their plates, but having information about brain development can help them make the most of the small, everyday moments in their children’s lives to keep those windows wide open. There are three small, sure-fire ways to help babies develop language, critical thinking and connection to the wonders of the world. Ready?
Picture books. Reading together. Genuine conversation. It’s that simple, but here’s the expanded version.
Picture books offer children, even those in remotely isolated families, experiences, ideas and visions that are not readily available through other means. So, parents…GET to the library. Talk with a children’s librarian about book choices and what to do with the books that are borrowed and taken home. Do it every week. Check out a half dozen books and take them home to read and enjoy.
Reading together presents babies and young children with rich eye and ear stimulation for the development of strong concepts about the world and its wonders. Further, lap reading helps little ones connect books and literacy with loving closeness and warmth, an impression that will carry over to a positive relationship with libraries.
Genuine conversation about what is in those books and how a book’s characters, settings, events and ideas connect with everyday life enriches children’s vocabularies, nurtures comfort with the complexities of strong language, and develops comfort in sharing, asking questions and problem solving.
The message for new parents is this: babies can’t wait for the help they need to prepare their brains for school and life. The brain window of opportunity is open now, but closing fast. The time is now. Go to the library!