This post was first published here

I’ve often looked into my 7 month old daughter’s eyes and wondered what was going on in that little brain of hers. The more I’ve read and researched the more I’ve learned…quite a bit! Science and studies show that the first five years of life is when the brain grows the fastest. It’s a brand new world for these little ones and they are discovering and learning things all the time.

My daughter looks around the room inquisitively. She reaches for toys within her grasp, she stares longer and focuses harder on new things she hasn’t seen before. She puts nearly everything in her mouth to see if it can be eaten. She recognizes and smiles at the important people in her life (Mom, Dad, brother and family) and often is slow to warm up to brand new people she hasn’t seen before. This is how she learns and this is how she builds the essential connections her brain needs to function in our world.

As a Dad I play a huge role in this brain development by engaging with her. Talking with her and asking her questions, even though she doesn’t give much of a verbal answer, exposes her to language and models the back and forth of conversation. Labeling toys and things she sees with their names helps develop vocabulary and helps her start putting things into categories. Placing toys in her vision, but just out of reach, forces her brain to problem solve and try to come up with a way to tell her body how to move to achieve reaching the toy.

The early years are critical for a baby’s quickly developing brain. It’s my job as a Dad to do everything I can to encourage and support this development by offering new challenges to help her learn and grow. Not only are these experiences and challenges great for brain development, but the bonding time with my daughter is pretty amazing as well!

This is fatherhood…