The first few months of a baby’s life are key to brain development and future health and well-being. Did you know that 80 percent of a child’s brain develops by age 3?

Reading, talking and singing are exercises for a baby’s brain. These activities prepare them for a lifetime of learning. Research shows that talking to a child every day can reduce stress and strengthen relationships.

Here are 5 ways to get started:

  • Describe your favorite animal to your child. Add sounds and movement to help them guess.
  • Snuggle up and read a bedtime story. When reading, add in movement and sounds to go along with the book.
  • Sing a song to your child. It can be one of your favorite songs growing up. While you’re singing, move your hands or body to go along with the song. Sing the song a few times to see if your child will repeat the words or the movements, too.
  • Sing the ABCs with your child. If your child is speaking, have him say each letter. As you sing, name the words that start with that letter.
  • Describe what you see. When you’re in the car, on the bus or train, or walking with your child, point to what you see and name it!

These 5 activities are just a handful of fun suggestions from HealthPartners and the YMCA of the Greater Twin Cities. The two organizations recently teamed up to create a Boost Your Brain booklet. In addition to giving parents ideas for engaging activities, the booklet also includes a chart on how the brain develops in the first three years. It gives examples of how to promote healthy brain development at different stages.

This month, the YMCA and HealthPartners are launching a pilot to see how well parents respond to Boost Your Brain. YMCA team members at the St. Paul Midway YMCA and the Eagan YMCA locations will give the booklet to parents. The teams will then gauge how helpful the tool is for them.