I often hear people promoting healthy living and good nutrition for children. I like to add in building a healthy brain! Brain development is one of the most important features of early childhood. Brain building is at the heart of what we do as caregivers, parents and adults who interact with children.

When my children were young, someone asked why we took a trip to the zoo since my children were too little to remember it. While it made a great memory for us as parents, I also recognized how important those “forgotten” moments were going to be in my children’s brain development. We often hear about the importance of prenatal brain development. Just as important is the development that occurs during the first years of life. By the time children get to school they have begun building their brain connections. I call this brain building. Every moment and every experience creates meaning and connections. The more times we allow babies, toddlers and preschoolers to explore and use their senses, the more connections they are making. These are the foundations for learning that will occur later.

If brain development is so crucial, what can we do for children birth to school age to build up their brains? Start by looking at the brain building moments we are already giving children. Every routine and experience is creating connections. An infant cries and someone comes to give care. A toddler pats water to watch it splash. A preschooler tries on a silly hat. All of these are creating brain connections. Start with things you are already doing and see how you can expand the learning.  

Here are a few ideas for brain building activities you can try this summer:

  • During outdoor play, fill small containers with sand, water and soil. Allow children to explore. Bring them out at a later time with a toy or object added to them.
  • Place Velcro on a book or other surface to create a sensory activity.
  • Pick a theme song. Singing a repeated song helps build vocabulary. It can be a song for clean-up, welcoming children or signaling a routine such as rest.
  • Plan some brain building trips. Getting young children outside and involved in field trips are crucial parts of the early brain development years. If people wonder why infants and toddlers are included, let them know about brain building. Many of us can thank our early experiences for our developed brains!

We want to see children build as many connections as possible during the early years. Brain connections will begin to streamline later in life. Creating quality environments now, will have a forever impact on the children in our lives.

 

Tags: brain development , brain connections , early childhood , growth , foundations , learning , summer activities , quality environments

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