It is assumed that there are baby acquisitions that must be duly prepared, set in motion, stimulated and finally conquered. All in an effort of constant acquisition, the fruit of a thorough preparation and education.

What the above question translates is that the most recent current of thought is in force which tells us that the brain has inexhaustible potentialities and that paths between neurons (synapses and neuronal transmission) which are not stimulated are permanently eliminated, irremediably truncating infant development. Unstimulated babies would have suboptimal development in relation to their initial potential.

This is absolutely true. And it is frightening! And that is why I, too, am part of this generation of parents who have tried to stimulate their baby as much as possible.

We must not forget that the neurons of newborn babies can establish up to a thousand synapses (connections) per second. This is so important that even the tiniest babies can be stimulated at their level from day one. Stimulation of the small baby must be integrative between body movement and sensations. Above all, it must be produced by the baby himself: it is not enough for babies simply to be held in your arms or in the cot.

The example of bilingual babies

The classic example of this is that a 4-month-old baby has the ability to distinguish between different languages and integrate them into his brain. So innate is this ability that it is safe to say that babies have no native language until they are 8 months old, at which point a sort of brain differentiation takes place. If the child is exposed to two or more languages during this period, it will integrate them naturally generating 2 or more mother tongues (and this is not only possible, it is natural).

This is a classic example of stimulation! Children who learn languages at a pre-verbal level do so in such a way that they become bilingual, without confusion of languages, only and only with a discrete expressive delay.

Is it impossible to learn a second or third language after the age of 8 months? Of course not! But the truth is that the formal learning of another language, after this age, uses completely different brain areas and is much more dependent on concentration and abstraction capacity, so it is not recommended before 7 years old.

Despite the optimism inherent in the realisation that we are as stimulated as we are, we have a certain setback: the belief that the sky is the limit. It is not true. Unfortunately, it is not true. And here we return to the older belief, in force for much of the 20th century, that a child’s genetic determinism determines their potential. And just as we inherit Grandma’s blue eyes, we also inherit the age at which we learn to defy gravity and take our first steps, or inherit the age at which we (finally) master the art of sphincter control and stop peeing and pooping in a nappy.

As the committed and responsible generation of parents that we are, the question often arises:
CREDIT: NATHAN DUMLAO / UNSPLASH

And the strange thing is that, at least in part, this is also true. There is a developmental plan that is specific to each child, but there are some universal principles. Let’s see: however much we stimulate our newborn baby to learn to walk, he will only be able to do so once he has acquired some previous skills, such as holding his head, controlling his trunk, being able to sit up, and eventually crawl.

Therefore, stimulation is important, yes, I totally agree, but it clashes with what the baby, within each stage of development, will actually be able to do. There is a biological plan of development that has certain rules; all stimulation does, within each stage of development, is to optimise to the maximum the acquisitions made. And there is no point in stimulating an acquisition outside the period in which the baby or child is predisposed to its acquisition.

For example, the human being has teeth that are designed to chew food. The passion for chewing, within development, has a window of opportunity between 7 and 9 months. If it is not properly stimulated, we will have a baby and certainly a child, who in the early stages will prefer to chew their food.

It is logical that when we reach adulthood, regardless of whether or not we were stimulated during that window of opportunity to appreciate solid food, we will all end up giving up soups and porridges as the basis of our diet. In short, if stimulation makes a difference: yes! Whether stimulation can elevate us beyond our merely human capabilities? Not likely.

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