14 Chapter 1
The Infant Brain
Every lullaby, every giggle and peekaboo triggers a crackling along an infant’s
neural pathways, laying the foundation for what could someday be a love of
art or a talent for soccer or a gift for making and keeping friends. We know
that babies who are hugged and feel loved and cared for are much more likely
to grow up confident and optimistic. Each sound, sight, smell, taste, and touch
physically alters the rapidly developing brain. And these changes forever
influence how children perceive the world, the languages they will speak, and
their capacity and ease for learning new information as adults. All that from
working with infants? You bet. What’s the best thing infants can experience
for greater cognitive and physical growth? You should know the answer—you.

The positive interactions with other people in children’s early years play an
important role in their development. An infant’s best toy is you!
With Great Caution
winning ways
Unfortunately, in situations
where children are profoundly
deprived of human contact and
love, critical areas of the brain
remain underdeveloped.

More on the Infant Brain: What Do They Really Know?
Although infants are born wired for vision, hearing, touch, smell, and taste,
their experiences in infancy and throughout childhood complete the neuronal
circuitry. What do infants really know? How can we, as educators, help them
learn, grow, and, most importantly, develop a positive foundation for a lifetime
of learning? Here’s what you need to know about the senses:
Touch Touch is such a crucial sense that the area of the brain responsible for
touch perceptions, the primary sensory cortex, can process tactile sensations
by the fourth month of gestation. Skin nerves appear at week ten. At birth,
the sense of touch is so developed that a baby will prefer soft flannel to rough