One of the most amazing things I have learned about early childhood brain development is the first years are the most important. Early infancy through the first few years of life the brain is the most flexible and prepared to learn. That is why it is so much easier for young children to learn foreign languages. Vital brain connections are being strengthened and made permanent by experiences a young child learns. Early experiences have profound effects on the formation of brain synapses.
In our home, we get creative. Toys can get boring for young kiddos, fast. We find ways to make toys out of household goods. Pillows become an obstacle course, spoons and lids musical instruments, and water and measuring cups a delightful sensory experience. My daughter loves feeling rocks, leaves, and dirt. There are so many fun ways to teach children about the world. It is endless!
The beautiful thing is it is not difficult to help a child learn effectively. Many of the most impactful ways of guiding a child to learn are things that can be done every day without effort. Mindfulness is all it takes. Here is a list of ten ways to help the brain grow in a child’s first three years.
1. Read as much as you can to your child. Any reading helps, whether it is your favorite novel or a children’s book.
2. Allow your child to experience “free play”, where your she can taste, touch, feel, smell and see various objects. This helps your child experience sensory and motor exploration which aids brain growth.
3. Interaction with people and objects is one of the best tools for brain development.
4. Music! All kinds of music stimulate the mind and is enjoyable to babies and toddlers.
5. Touch is a powerful experience that literally sends signals to the brain to grow. Allow your child to touch various textures, shapes, and sizes in objects.
6. Integrate as much communication and conversation into your child’s life as possible.
7. Stable relationships in the home give the child the peace and freedom to focus on learning.
8. Safe and healthy environments are the best areas for free play and new learning experiences. This reduces the stress of the child and parent while the child is learning.
9. Calm and predictable caregivers assure the child during times of new or risky learning (like the first time going down the slide at the park!).
10. Most importantly, make learning a joyful experience! When learning is fun, it is one of the most fulfilling and rewarding gifts you can give your little one. Try not to stress about making everything right or doing things by the book. Learning is a continuous, spontaneous process.