Your Child’s Health: Stimulating a child’s brain through meaningful interaction

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CLEVELAND-- Parents who want the best for their child need only to look to themselves.  Brain development starts on day one with the parent being the child’s first teacher. Brittney Thellmann-Coyne and one-week-old Blake are having more than just a mommy and son moment. "I feel like interacting one on one is more.  They know who you are.  They understand a lot more," she said.

Dr. Erin Frank, pediatrician with Rainbow Babies and Children's Hospital agrees. She says constant, meaningful interaction is the best thing for a child's brain development. "Talking to them, singing to them, reading books even from day one is a really good thing. It stimulates their brain to hear the different words, different colors,” she added.

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Dr. Frank says keep your baby close to you and what they need to see since their vision is not so good when they are so young. “Lots of children’s books have different colors, different textures.  There are mirrors so babies can see their reflections -- all of those things are meant to catch the baby's interest and so they a whole variety of different sights that help promote brain development,” she said.

Parents should have a variety of books on-hand.  Dr. Frank suggests parents keep reading to their children as they get older.  That’s what Indica Graham has done with her son Mario who is now three. "We read.  I read to him from inside of my womb until now, present day.  A lot of just interaction, like hands-on stuff," Graham said.

Dr. Frank says exposing your child to different types of music is good.  But, she agrees with the recommendation of the American Academy of Pediatrics to avoid TV until after age two.     "The key thing you don't want to replace any of your time as a parent interacting with your child with screen time.  The bright colors and the lights and sounds will often be entertaining to baby. It doesn't replace the brain development that they would be getting from interacting from human beings."

Dr. Frank could not stress more the importance of parent and child time together. “So, cuddle time, play time, anything like that with a parent is really one of the key things they need for brain development,” she said.

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