Workshop Looking after baby’s brain


  • Increase understanding of how babies’ brains develop and how parents can help.
  • Understand the role and critical importance of the first attachment relationship.


Ask the group:

  • What are things that could harm baby’s brain?

Brainstorm and record their thoughts on whiteboard or chart paper.

If not already included, add the following:

  • exposure to drugs and alcohol
  • toxins (like lead-based paints)
  • second-hand smoke
  • poor diet — not enough good fat in baby’s diet to make myelin (the insulation for brain cells)
  • shaking baby
  • lack of sleep (parents or baby!)
  • baby left in unsafe places
  • baby exposed to anger and violence
  • not enough attention or interaction.

Ask the group if there’s anything here that they might need to think about changing for their baby. They do not need to share these with the group.

Visual demonstrations

‘Never shake a baby’:

  • Fill a balloon with a small amount of water and tie the end.
  • Fit it inside a clear jar with a lid.
  • Shake the jar
  • What happens?

This helps to show what happens to the brain when a baby is shaken roughly, and the permanent damage that can be done to a child.


This is the fatty coating that wraps itself around the axons (the part of a brain cell that sends messages within the brain). Bring a piece of plastic-coated wire as a simple example of how this myelin sheath provides the necessary insulation on axons. The sheath ensures the electrical and chemical signals are transmitted quickly and efficiently along the neurons.



  • Balloons
  • Clear jar with lid
  • Plastic coated wire
  • SKIP Whakatipu booklets, ‘Te hinengaro mīharo’ sections

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