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Learning in Families Together: Infant Brain Development



Authors as Published

Karen DeBord, Virginia Cooperative Extension Specialist, Family and Human Development; Reviewed by Crystal Tyler-Mackey, Extension Specialist, Community viability, Virginia Tech

The brain is just waiting to receive and connect signals to form the kind of person the infant will become.

Parenting Secrets

  • Infant brains are referred to as “plastic,” meaning they can be shaped.
  • Every part of the brain is shaped by experiences.
  • There are certain windows of time when development occurs. For example, there is a time when vision connections develop in the brain.
  • A newborn’s brain grows to about 80 percent of adult size by age 3 and 90 percent by age 5.

Together Time

Infants prefer human interactions, such as with your face, voice, touch, and smell.

  • Talk to your baby, coo and soothe, sing and rock. Stroke his or her cheek and kiss his or her soft head.

Play Time

Children will pick up many behaviors of the adults around them.

  • Using loud voices teaches children to use loud voices. Using soft, warm touches teaches children to do the same.
  • If children see patience in adults who are looking for solutions to problems, they will see that learning is a process with many steps.

Learning Time

Infants begin to make connections in the brain based on what they hear and see.

  • Read with your baby. Talk and listen. Have a conversation — even using babble sounds!
  • Be silly. Children respond to exaggerated sounds and motions. 

For parents who want to learn more:

Zero to Three –

Better Brains for Babies –

10 Steps for Healthy Brain Development –

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Publication Date

June 4, 2019