Your child’s brain grows at an explosive rate during the first three years of his life. During these critical brain-growth periods, long, thin nerve pathways grow inside the brain. These are wirings that connect and carry electrical impulses from brain cell to brain cell. The resulting network, which grows daily in the young brain, forms the neurological foundation of skills that your child will use for the rest of his life. Experiences after birth, in conjunction with your child’s genes, determine the eventual wiring of the human brain.
Existing connections eagerly await new experiences that shape the neural networks for language, reasoning, problem solving, and moral values. New experiences build upon established patterns and create new patterns and networks for more learning. Connections that are used repeatedly will become permanent. Those that are not used get discarded.
You can help your baby jump-start his brain development by engaging in brain boosting activities with him. When babies are new to this world, it isn’t very difficult to pique their interest.
Children remember experiences that have an emotional component. Gentle, loving fun combined with responsive language from you creates an atmosphere in which learning thrives. It is important for you to bond with your child in these activities. Things you do together enhance his learning and it is something that play-alone high-tech toys like tablets, video games, tv and others can not offer.
Here are some brain-boosting toddler activities and games that you can play with your toddler:
- Let your little one take the lead. If your little one would prefer to bang blocks together rather than read a board book, let him do that. What seems like a simple activity can develop hand-eye coordination and might even turn into a rhythmic concept. If your baby is playing with blocks and balls, try sorting them by colour and talking about the colours.
- Provide necessary structure. Once open to a new suggestion, try focusing baby’s attention on a structured activity for a few minutes. This is a great opportunity to read a book together, put on a puppet show, work on a puzzle, or play hand games like Itsy-Bitsy Spider. It is important for children to learn how to follow along with cooperative activities and this is a great introduction.
- Let playtime happen organically. A baby can find magic in almost any household item. When you are changing baby’s diaper, play Peek-a-Boo. If you are folding laundry while baby is busy unfolding laundry, turn over the laundry basket and use it as a drum. If you are cleaning the kitchen, designate a cabinet with baby-safe pots and pans and let baby explore. If you find fascination in the everyday things, baby will too!
- Talk to your child. Ad nauseam. Label everything baby sees and ask tons of questions. Don’t forget to give baby a chance to respond—they will start very soon! By giving weight to baby’s opinions, you are fostering the self-confidence baby needs to develop cognitively, socially, and physically.
- Give baby independent playtime. Even if it seems like little one is staring blankly out the window, that mind is working at the speed of light. Perhaps he is listening to the birds chirping outside and beginning to connect that sound to the “tweet tweet” in a favourite animal book. This might be a good time to fold laundry or take a much needed breather. Feel free to start a dialogue with baby during independent playtime even if it is still mostly a monologue.
- Keep your child active. If your child’s energy seems to be bursting at the seams, play games that will exhaust some of that exuberance. If baby wants to dance, put on the music and so your cardio workout. If baby would rather play with toys, build towers with blocks and let baby play demolition. A great way to teach cause and effect.
Remember to keep playtime fun and pressure-free for everyone. Be gentle on yourself and remember you are the perfect fit for your baby, and you will provide the ideal environment and introduce brain boosting activities for your baby’s unique development!