It's been said that it's never too early to start learning. Some individuals have taken this literally and start early education before the baby is born. While it never hurts to start early learning activities while your baby is in the fetus stage, more time should be spent on teaching your child once he becomes responsive to activities around him which begins around 12 weeks after birth.
The Fetal Brain
According to Fetal Psychology, an article published in the October 1998 issue of Psychology Today by Janet L. Hopson, there's intelligent life inside the womb as early as nine weeks even though many people believe life begins only at birth. John Hopkins University psychologist Janet DiPietro says in the article that "nothing neurologically interesting" happens at birth and the entire process is "a trivial event in development."
Studies by DiPietro done through the use of high-end monitoring gear showed that a 32-week old fetus in the third trimester behaves just as a newborn would as far as feeling and dreaming. This is a full five to eight weeks before the baby is considered term and prepared for the world.
Research done by others in the medical profession show that what has been defined as "the roots of human behavior" develop mere weeks after conception. At nine weeks the fetus can react to the vibrations of loud noises. By the end of the first trimester the fetus can suck, swallow, yawn, suck, feel and smell. By the end of the second trimester the unborn child can see.
Studies indicate a fetus has the ability to learn. For example, it may initially react to a loud noise for the first few times but doesn't once she gets used to it. Studies in the 1980s by psychology professor of the University of North Carolina, Dr. Anthony James DeCasper, show that a baby has already learned his mother's voice before birth.
The overall conclusion that was reached is that the unborn fetus may not respond to actual words, but does response to the rhythm of stories and voices.
So, What Does This All Mean?
Scientific studies, in a nutshell, seem to support a pre-birth early learning initiative in moderation. The key word here is moderation. As the article Fetal Psychology says: "Just because the fetus is responsive to certain stimuli doesn't mean that it should be the target of efforts to enhance development. Sensory stimulation of the fetus can in fact lead to bizarre patterns of adaptation later on." But talking to your unborn child or even reading to your unborn child won't do any damage and will help him or her recognize your voice.
Early Learning After Birth
Many provinces and states have an early learning coalition which focuses on encouraging education in children of preschool age (although not necessarily babies) up until the age of eight. The focus of these types of organizations is to produce early learning games and other opportunities for children to learn. Often programs are available at free-of-charge and stimulate social skills and hand-eye coordination in children.
Good daycares also practice early learning techniques, but as a parent it's up to you to do the research to determine which facility is best for your child. Sometimes information about some schools and daycares, like Imagine Early Learning Center in Arizona, USA, are available online. But the best way to make a decision is to visit the place, the teachers and talk to other parents.
Early Learning Toys
The best types of early learning toys are ones that engage a child's imagination and creativity. The toy should promote motor skills which can be started from about three months and onward. Examples include wooden stringing beans, balls and climbing structures as your child gets older. As your baby reaches approximately eight months and the toddler years problem-solving strategy toys like blocks and puzzles are a good choice. Musical awareness toys like a rattle, finger bells or drums can be used at a young age.
There are many places where you can get quality early learning toys. British company Mothercare offers a wide selection of colorful toys that will engage your child from three months and on. Toys can be bought online and it's easy to narrow down your search by age category.