As your child grows, they will learn how to speak, how to walk, and how to do many other things that most parents take for granted. Brain development occurs in tandem with the development of their body—and it’s important to understand how this process works so you can help boost your child’s brain development if necessary. In this blog, we’ll give you the advice of prominent neuroscientists so you can determine what factors are key in boosting your child’s brain development and what factors should be avoided.
The brain is malleable and responsive until late adolescence. It’s crucial that parents create an environment where children have plenty of opportunities to learn and explore as early as possible—which is why things like playtime, verbal encouragement, and time for naps are so important. You can also foster neural development through toys that stimulate imaginative thinking or teach problem solving skills (see below). The difference between stimulating a child’s brain development with toys or not is truly a big deal, since cognitive skills (including reading, writing, math, etc.) translate into higher academic performance at school.
Although early childhood education programs differ in their approach, most agree that parents should be involved and invested in their child’s development. Programs that include more parental involvement are more effective than those that don’t; often, parents who take part in home visits with educators report better experiences for their children. Although it can seem intimidating at first, joining a program early and becoming involved is crucial for a good experience for both you and your child. Parents who join an early education program can also benefit from networking opportunities with other parents and educators—that way, they can share strategies as well as gather information from others who have been through it before.
The quality of education your child receives
The foundation of a good education begins in early childhood and lasts through adolescence. One way to support that is by enhancing your child’s brain development, which you can do by focusing on these three key areas: nutrition, cognition, and movement. Here are some neuroscience-backed tips for optimizing each category during different stages of life.
Nutrition Tips from ages 0-2: For proper brain development, it’s important to ensure optimal growth and physical health during early childhood, when neurons are proliferating at an explosive rate. To nourish those cells with good nutrients (and reduce stress), consider taking these steps daily: Talk/sing/read to your baby as much as possible from birth onward—it not only increases vocabulary but also helps babies develop strong attachment relationships with their caregivers.
Exposing children to new languages early in life
Neuroscientists have found that exposing children to new languages early in life has benefits for brain development and could help prevent cognitive decline as they age. In particular, it appears that certain kinds of language learning that is done in childhood affect how you process speech sounds, according to Dr. Elena Nicoladis, an assistant professor of neuroscience at Dartmouth College. The key appears to be doing language learning when you’re a child—so if you want your kids’ brains to benefit from new languages, try exposing them as young as possible. (If it turns out your kids don’t like it or aren’t interested, then nothing’s been lost.)
Encouraging Creativity and Independent Play
There’s an established body of research showing that exposing children to new languages early in life has a beneficial effect on brain development. One study even found that bilingual toddlers had advanced executive function and better communication skills than monolingual kids did. In later life, bilingualism has been shown to have a protective effect against dementia. So, while it might be less convenient, don’t think of introducing your child to a second language as something you need or want—think of it as essential for their healthy development. You can read more about how important it is for your child’s brain development here: 3 Ways Second Languages Improve Young Brains .
Having an active social life, with friends and activities outside the home
Strong social relationships are linked with physical and emotional well-being. Also, children who have a good support system tend to do better in school and are less likely to engage in risky behaviors. Children can also learn valuable life skills from their friends, such as how to solve conflicts peacefully or how to make good decisions about drugs, alcohol. Research also shows that active children tend to be healthier than kids who spend most of their time indoors.
If your child is having trouble making friends or fitting in at school, look for community programs that promote teamwork or invite him or her out for team sports like basketball, soccer or baseball after school. You can also encourage your child to take classes or join clubs that increase self-confidence, like choir or drama. Regular exercise boosts blood flow throughout our body, which helps nourish muscles and speed recovery. It may also reduce stress and improve sleep quality – both big bonus points for proper brain development! Take a class together – even if you’re not interested in learning yourself – it will bring you closer together when something you BOTH enjoy is being worked on.