As many of you know, this week (6-10 June 2016) marks the beginning of Infant Mental Health Awareness Week, which follows on from the Mental Health Foundation’s Mental Health Awareness Week which this year has on the theme of relationships.
Their mission this year is to highlight the importance of Building Babies Mindswhich lays the foundations of good mental health in the formative years of a child’s life and in the context of babies and their relationships. Due to other commitments such as developing our brand new show Yes Sir, I Can Boogie, we’re sadly unable to give this week the performances it deserves but we still felt it was important to highlight how crucial this sort of work is to all the infants in our lives.
At Replay Theatre Company engaging and developing the creative minds of infants has been a huge passion of ours for the past few years, and highlighted in two of our most successful shows which we took as far west as New York City and as far south as South Africa – Babble and TiNY respectively. We also created the world’s first BabyDay last year in Belfast – in which we helped bring over 90 distinctly different arts events to over 15,000 families with children aged 0-3 years old all over the city.
Dr Suzanne Zeedyk, friend of Replay Theatre, explains how important engaging with a child’s brain can be after birth. Though being one of the most vital organs it’s also one of the only parts of our body which isn’t fully developed upon birth, be it physically and emotionally.
“We now know that brain development occurs more rapidly during the early years than will ever be the case again. By the age of three years, approximately 90% of the final brain mass is in place. As much as 70% of final brain mass is in place by the age of one year. This means that a massive amount of growth goes on even before a baby can walk or talk!
Thus, the best time for shaping core emotional pathways in the brain is during the early years, before the age of 3 years. This doesn’t mean that it’s all over by the age of three. Brain development continues until the early 20s, and even then it still has massive capacities to change and adapt.
But the brain will never again adapt as quickly and robustly as it does during the early years. That’s why it is so essential babies have good experiences of emotional connection from the time they are born. Those experiences are being biologically wired into their neural pathways, their unconscious memories and their personality.”
About Replay’s work with babies…
Replay loves the idea that the brain is constantly changing and developing in those first few years. And we believe that if those years are so important, they should be chock-full of experiences which are imaginative, fun, inventive, soothing, stimulating and beautiful. Which is why we made these …
Babble was developed in collaboration with local Belfast nurseries and followed on from Replay’s highly successful early years piece, Wobble (created in collaboration with Assault Events in 2011).
A vocal wonderland made from live voices and video, Babble was one of the first shows performed inside Replay’s brand new special Bubble – a magical new portable indoor performance space.
Building on the enormous success of Babble, Replay created a brand new baby show which was small enough to pop up in a day nursery. TiNY came with its own magical theatre space and was performed to just a few babies at a time.
Full of magical sounds, lights and textures, TiNY took our very youngest audience members on a fantastical journey full of wonder and surprises! Our youngest audience member came during our tour of South Africa last September at literally only a few hours old!
BabyDay was an extraordinary event that captured the imagination of the whole city. With art in the streets, music in the air and families everywhere, there was a real festival feel and Belfast was one big bundle of joy! 15,000 people went to over 90 events in more than 20 venues right across the city.
BabyDay was more than a fun day out. It was about hope. It was about the future. It was about the family that Belfast could be.
Replay believes that art at the heart from the very start can help babies connect with their parents, their peers and the world around them, and we are determined to keep creating exceptional experiences for babies, wobblers and toddlers which help lay the groundwork for life-long mental health.