Brain research shows that the experiences children have, or do NOT have, create actual physical effects on the way the child’s brain develops. Below are suggestions for activities that will encourage positive brain development. Try them this summer and have fun “growing your child’s brain.”
- Have conversations with your child. This is the best way to help your child build vocabulary. Conversation, remember, is a two way exchange.Read to your child, and have conversation about what you read.
- Share experiences with your child. That doesn’t have to mean spending a lot of money for special outings. Let your child help you cook. Go for a walk together and stop to look at and talk about things along the way. Blow bubbles and try to catch them. Catch lightning bugs. Plant a garden. Visit the library. Let your child choose books to check out and see you choosing books to read for yourself.
- Give your child the gift of time. While there are so many exciting opportunities available for children, be sure that you are also scheduling down time for your child. We all need time to imagine, to reflect, to dream, to process. Also, if we constantly provide activities for our children, we rob them of the opportunity to learn to entertain themselves, which is the root of initiative, problem-solving and inventive thought.
- Encourage imaginative play. There is no better plaything for a child than an empty box. That’s because it can be anything, a jet plane, a house, a monster trap, a castle, a stove, a wild animal cage. The possibilities are limited only by the child’s imagination. Pretending that a box is something else is actually a pre-reading exercise. The box represents something, just as letters put together represent, or stand for something. Imaginative play strengthens executive function. Executive function is more important than IQ for predicting school success.
- Limit screen time. The jury is still out on how much is too much, but common sense says that the time children spend glued to a screen is time they are not actively engaged in the many other things they could be experiencing.
- Give your child opportunities to investigate and interact with the natural world. Many children actually have “nature deprivation”. Research shows that putting your hands in dirt actually relieves stress! Water and sand have the same effect. And we just thought making mud pies was for fun!
- Let your child see you using reading and writing: “I’m making a list so I can remember what I want to buy at the store.” Or “I’m sending a note to Aunt Susie to thank her for the birthday present she gave me.”
- “Crossing the midline” means touching one side of the body to the other side, for example touching your left foot with your right hand. When children do activities that cross the midline, they are actually building connections between the left and right hemispheres of the brain. There is a limited window of opportunity during childhood when this benefit is available; it doesn’t work for adults.
- Give your child some responsibility. Even young children can help fold clothes, set the table or feed a pet.
HAVE A GREAT SUMMER! Miss Barbara