Building A Better Brain

Published on March 14, 2012 by in Physical Development

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Children’s brains develop in some very cool ways, and this post will discuss how we can enrich that development.

A baby’s brain comes to the world with billions of cells, but few neural pathways connecting them. It’s like having an entire civilization appear with almost no infrastructure. From birth through 6 years old, that’s essentially all the brain does: build neural connections like a champ.

It’s true that genes create the neurological “building materials”, however it’s the environment that largely determines how a child’s brain develops. Parents have a massive influence on which brain cells are connected, how many connections are made, and how different areas of the brain link together. It sounds intense, but what it really comes down to is nutrition, new experiences, physical activity, responsiveness, and above all how parents express their love.

Nutrition. We hear it all the time, and it’s true. Balanced nutrition in early childhood is essential to healthy growth, development and behavior. The nutritional choices you offer young children create the habits and foundation of life-long food choices. For a good visual guide with suggested food groups and proportions for 2-8 year-olds, click here.

New Experiences. Early experiences literally change the architecture of a child’s brain. The number and types of neural connections formed are directly related to how much sensory stimulation children get.  Any opportunity for kids to smell, listen, taste, touch and see is food for the brain. New and varied experiences on a daily basis make learning fun and do wonders for beefing up the neural circuitry!

Physical Activity. Children need movement. Every part of their growth is sustained by physical activity. This not only helps them develop strength and muscle control, it also enhances the brain-body connection that determines coordination and balance. Did I mention it also helps with behavior, blood flow to the brain and the ability to concentrate? Big thumbs up.

Responsiveness. Young children depend completely on parents and caregivers to meet their physical and emotional needs.  When these needs are not met children develop under greater amounts of strain, which produces stress hormones in the brain that inhibit their ability to learn, trust, and try new things. Point being: kids need to feel loved, safe and cared for.

Expressions of Love. What children need more than anything else are positive expressions of love. Talking, playing, singing, reading, sharing experiences with family and physical affection do more for children’s sense of safety, self-confidence and brain development than anything else.

In a nutshell, these are the five things we can do every day to enrich and support the development of children’s brains. To hear stories and examples of different ways to do this, look for the new Podcast page coming soon!

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