New space promotes brain health for babies

A new space in Downtown South Bend is all about promoting brain health and development for newborns.

Little Noggin's Nook, part of Healthworks! Kids Museum is designed for newborns up to age 4.

The space encourages parents to learn wtih their kids through a hands-on, interactive sensory experience.

Within the nook is an area for infants with heat and snuggle space to learn safety and security.

There is also lots of crawl space, a ball pit, colors, and textures, all of which the instructors say will establish emotional and developmental connections to the world.

Different cause and effect toys like blocks and tunnels help develop the brain to recognize risk-taking and self-regulation.

"Science over the last couple years has found that how adults play with children in the first four years of life, builds all of the life skills that they need to do well in school, to collaborate with others, to be good team players, to establish emotional connections. So this space is really about how easy that type of play is and what it does to build a child's brain," says Director of Memorial BrainWorks, Debra Raybold.

Raybold says the nook requires parents be present with their child.
"We really want parents to be on the floor playing with kids and kind of seeing the world through their eyes," she says.

But an instructor is there through parts of the day to talk with parents who have questions about brain function and ideas. Her role is to instruct parents how to learn through play.

"I'd like to say parents will leave here feeling more comfortable with the things they can do to help their children learn, to help the child's cognitive brain development just through talking with their child, playing with them. Letting them explore the outside, just everyday activities," says Erin Mueller, an early childhood educator.

And Mueller says it's important to remember fancy products won't build the brain more than hands-on experiences.

"We want parents to know they don't have to go out and spend lavish amounts of money on department store toys to help their children learn to play," says Mueller.

The Little Noggins Nook is open the same hours as HealthWorks! from 9am-4pm Tuesday through Saturday.

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