As humans, we are born with billions of brain cells or "neurons". These neurons connect or "synapse" to create networks like the branches of a tree. Our genetic code and early human experiences dictate which branches will become strengthened and ultimately, determine the way our brains will be organized and structured for the rest of our lives. In very simple terms, this is how the brain grows. How do we optimize this process? The answer is also very simple: massage & play.
BABY SPA RATIONAL:
More than eighty percent of human brain growth occurs during the first 5 years of life and brain cell growth occurs at a decelerating rate which means that the most rapid brain development occurs during the first year of life. Infancy therefore, is a critical time of development that shapes who we will become as human beings.
- An infant's first and primary mode of communication is touch. Dr. Lawrence Schachner, M.D. and professor of Dermatology at the University of Miami School of Medicine says "Our research suggests that touch is as important to infants as eating and sleeping. Consistent loving touch triggers physiologic changes that help infants grow and develop, stimulating nerves in the brain that facilitate food absorption and lowering of stress hormones, which results in improved immune system
- Beyond the physical effects of infant massage, the bonding that occurs between caregiver and child are well documented in research literature. Many researchers including Harlow, Klaus, Bowlby, Field, and Rice agree that "caregiver-infant bonding and attachment is critical to an infant's physical survival, emotional well-being, and psychological health" (2).
- Twenty-first century healthcare is also taking note, incorporating infant massage into neonatal protocols. Tiffany Field, PhD of the Touch Research Institute in Miami found that preterm infants who were massaged gained 47% more weight, became more responsive, and were discharged from the hospital six days earlier on average (3).
- Research studies and "expert" testimonials reinforce what every parent instinctively knows: infants need our loving touch.
Research has established that brain growth is dictated and shaped by human experience and that play is a vehicle through which a growing child can enhance or diminish inborn potentials (4).
- These studies reinforce what we already know about play - it is a natural human tendency that shapes our experiences and development as human beings.
- In addition to physical potential, play is being linked to long term social, cognitive, and school-related performance.
- Movement patterns like crawling and creeping are correlated with long term reading and learning proficiency. This brain-body connection lies in visual focusing distances, midline orientation, and hand-eye coordination skills used during early crawling and creeping. These motor skills stimulate visual acuity and tracking from approximately the same distance that a child will utilize for reading and writing (5).
- In related research, it has been observed (Pavlides 1987) that a high percentage of children with reading and learning disabilities (i.e.: dyslexia) skipped crawling and creeping during infant development (6)
- Imaginative play also directly relates to important school-related skills including social development, language acquisition, literacy, and reading comprehension (7).
- McClure, V. Infant Massage: A Handbook for Loving Parents , Bantam Books (2000).
- Lappin, G. & Kretschmer, R. Applying Infant Massage Practices: A Qualitative Study. Journal of Visual Impairment & Blindness (June 2005).
- Field, T., Schanberg, S. M., Scafidi, F., Bauer, C. R., Vega-Lahr, N., Garcia, R., Nystrom, J., & Kuhn, C. M. Tactile / Kinesthetic stimulation effects on preterm neonates. Pediatrics, Vol. 77 (1986).
- Sutton-Smith, B. The Ambiguity of Play , Harvard University Press (1997).
- Goddard, S., Reflexes, Learning, and Behavior: A Window Into a Child's Mind Fern Ridge Press (2002).
- Pavlides, O. & Miles, T. Dyslexia research and its applications to education. Wiley Publications (1987).
- Bergen , D., The role of pretend play in children's cognitive development. Early Childhood Research and Practice, Vol. 4 (April 2002).
Caregiver Links & Resources
- Children's Play: The Roots of Reading by Zigler, Singer, & Bishop-Josef (2004).
- Infant Massage: A Handbook for Loving Parents by McClure (2000).
- Your Amazing Newborn by Marshall & Klaus. (1998).
- Your Self-Confident Baby by Gerber & Johnson (1998).
(All listed resources available onsite at Play 2 Grow Atlanta)
Now you know why we