Studies show that babies can learn even inside the womb! By the 28th week of pregnancy, your child has perfectly functioning hearing and can even pick up the sound of horns, music, and your voice. Ultrasounds even show fetuses ‘startling’ whenever they hear a loud noise, or turning towards a light source.
Here are some ways to stimulate your baby’s brain during pregnancy. The good news is that these activities aren’t just ‘educational’—they’re a good way to bond with your baby and help make Daddy feel involved. The poor guy doesn’t feel the kicks and swirls the way you do, but with these games, he can also be part of your baby’s development.
Smart baby tip # 1: Talk to your baby as much as you can.
Your baby may not be able to understand the words, but experts on fetal brain development say that he can pick up voice patterns and rhythms. In fact, newborns are able to pick out a mother’s native language from assorted tape recordings. There’s also loads of anecdotal evidence of how a baby—just minutes after it’s born—will turn to the voice of Mommy and Daddy.
Smart baby tip # 2: Sing a special lullaby.
Many studies have proven that babies can remember, and recognize, songs that they heard in the womb. They’ll quiet down only if they hear that lullaby—or kick their feet in excitement! Ultrasounds also show that six-month-old fetuses sway in synch to the rhythm of their mom’s singing.
Smart baby tip # 3: Read a favorite book.
Landmark research conducted by the University of South Carolina proved that babies love bedtime stories. Mothers who participated in the study were told to read a Dr. Seuss book during their pregnancy. After these mothers gave birth, scientists played tape recordings of several people reading both Dr. Seuss and a randomly selected story. The babies showed a definite preference for their mothers’ voice, and Dr. Seuss!
Smart baby tip # 4: Play music.
Babies love all music, but experts who studied fetal reactions to different kinds of songs found out that they preferred rhythms that were similar to a mother’s heartbeat (which is about 60 beats a minute). Mozart and Vivaldi fit the bill—Beethoven and Brahms, however, had ‘erratic’ rhythms that actually upset some of the babies. Rock music is also discouraged, since the amniotic fluid has a tendency to magnify the sound.
Smart baby tip # 5: Introduce different flavors
Can babies already taste your food? One study shows that they can detect subtle flavors. Experts added a sweet solution to amniotic fluid, and the babies swallowed more—they liked it! When they added a sour solution, the babies slowed down their rate of swallowing.
That being said, stimulation is just one aspect of brain development. Good nutrition during pregnancy can also help nurture your child’s intelligence. Studies show that folic acid and omega-3 fatty acids (found in ‘fatty fish’ like tuna and salmon, as well as tofu) help prevent neural tube defects and are essential in building brain structures (like myelination).