The first three to five years of a child’s life are said to be the most crucial in their mental development. The rate of growth in a child’s brain will never be duplicated like it is in these tender, formative years. A parent’s job of nurturing their child’s growth starts at birth. Here are some simple ways that everyday parents can help to cultivate and encourage positive brain connection and progression.
Creating Healthy Connections
Early influences are the most essential influences for your child’s emotional and mental development. Sincere bonds are foundational to their emotional health – model love. A child’s first relationships are critical to the connections that tie together their overall well-being. Countless studies prove the value a mother’s affection has on the welfare of a child. This model for love nourishes a child’s natural need for growth and stimulation.
Skipping screen time
Study after study shows that screen time for young children is not healthy for brain development. Yet many parents ignore the research, or think picking “educational” shows, like Sesame Street, will somehow make up the difference. The truth of the matter is, our brains actually wire toward unhealthy stimulation the more time we spend in front of a screen. We lose cognitive and creative ability the more screen time we allow. This type of two-dimensional, passive learning fails to engage and grow the vital connections your child’s mind desperately needs.
As hard as it is to “Just Say No to TV”, the alternative of books is so much more stimulating and healthy for mental development. It not only fosters brain growth in an engaging way, it fosters emotional bonding and connection as well, which triples the benefits of brain stimulation. Think of your child’s brain as a sponge, and how the right conditions and environments can cultivate growth more rapidly. Keeping your child’s mind active by reading actually increases their learning potential. It combines healthy connections between their emotions and their imaginations.
Foster authentic, quality activities
Don’t settle for “busy” time. Give your children opportunities to be creatively stimulated rather than time-wasting activities meant to passively occupy them. Children don’t need flash or extravagant; quite the opposite, actually. Simple, thoughtful items and environments allow a child’s brain the space to stretch and flex. Their sense of wonder is natural and when it is given the gift of unburdened time to grow, it will do so at a quality pace. Don’t dumb things down for your child; neither should you bog them down with textbook jabber.
Avoid Toxic Stress
Keep your child’s environment as calm and consistent as possible. Cortisone, the chemical released during stressful or violent situations, is dangerous to a child’s brain. Be consistent and responsive to your child when they are experiencing stress. Highly stressful and/or negative environments hinder memory and neurological connections.
Track and communicate milestones with your child’s pediatrician. Keep in mind that every child is different and expert milestones aren’t the end all. However, being aware of natural guidelines at each stage and age can be helpful. Maintaining regular check-ups and building healthy lines of communication will help you to see big picture growth or delays in an effective manner.
Embrace light switch moments
Those “a-ha!” episodes your child often experiences as they explore the world should be celebrated whenever possible. When you see the lights go on in your child’s brain, embrace it. These stepping stones are positive enforcements for further connections as their minds grow. When children associate positive emotional reactions with learning moments, their brains respond by making more connections. Nurturing relationships and positive encouragement foster mental development and keep your child’s brain happy and healthy.