As the holiday season fast approaches, many of us get caught up in the whirlwind of business that so often accompanies this time of year. On top of work, there’s family to host, meals to cook, and shopping to finish, but this Thanksgiving, remember to focus on what matters most—your little ones. This time won’t be wasted—spending just a few extra minutes a day providing one-on-one attention can help your baby, toddler, or school-age child with incredibly important brain development.
Mind Blowing Development
According to the to the American Society of Pediatrics, when babies are born, their brains contain 100 billion neurons—the same number of stars contained in the Milky Way galaxy! In their first years, babies grow trillions of brain-cell connections, called neural synapses, which require constant nurturing. If theses synapses don’t connect in early childhood, they will be lost by adulthood. And amazingly, a toddler's brain has twice as many neural connections as an adult's.
Parents can foster brain development and help connect theses synapses through daily care of their infant. For example, a child's brain grows as she or he sees, feels, tastes, smells and hears. Each time the child uses one of the senses, his or her brain begins making neural connections. New experiences enhanced by repetition strengthen these connections, which shape the way the child thinks, feels, behaves and learns now and in the future.
The primary caregivers provide the best opportunity for brain development. By simply singing, rocking, holding, and providing nutritious food to your baby, you’re contributing to brain growth. Still there, are numerous ways you can go above basic care to ensure you’re setting your baby up for optimum brain activity.
The Importance of Play
One of the key ways parents can contribute to brain development centers on adult-child playtime. Although sibling and peer playtime also provide opportunities for your child to learn, something extra special happens when parents spend the time to play with their children. According to Psychology Today, “Parent-child pretend, and physical play is linked with the child’s competence, gross motor skills, peer group leadership, and cognitive development… Interactive play can also help a child learn how to regulate their emotions better. Lastly, providing your child with an ‘enriched environment’ through play can lower their stress chemicals.”
Clearly, playtime serves an important role in providing your child with the necessary skill sets for managing life and learning new skills. Use these ideas to help you structure playtime with your little one.
- Role playing: Formally described as “dramatic play,” this type of play allows children to accept and assign roles in a variety of scenarios, and then act them out. Children must explain what they’re thinking, which builds language and communication skills. They also must engage in a type of abstract thinking—as children use their imagination to create a make-believe world or reenact real-life scenarios, they are learning to problem solve and develop complex thoughts.
- Play with your hands: (patty-cake, peekaboo, this little piggy). Babies and toddlers respond well to learning simple sequential games.
- Sing songs together: Songs like “The itsy-bitsy spider” integrate motion with music and help your baby integrate sounds with large and small motor actions. Songs also enhance your child's learning of rhythms, rhymes, and language patterns.
- Read together beginning at birth: Reading with your children provides an opportunity for you to re-visit some of your favorite childhood storybooks and explore new lands and adventures together. Reading also greatly supports your child’s brain development. In 2015, The American Academy of Pediatrics released a study describing the importance of reading to your kiddos—especially before Kindergarten. “Behavioral evidence has shown that children who are read to, especially before school entry, experience stronger parent-child relationships and learn valuable language and literacy skills.”
Whether you have a new baby, a toddler, or a school-aged child, all will benefit from these brain-stimulating activities and so will you! The brain releases the hormone oxytocin in both mothers and fathers when they engage in playtime with their children, and oxytocin plays a major role in parent-child bonding. So, throughout the craziness of the holidays, set aside time to focus on enjoying your kiddos—they will feel extra special, and you’ll make memories that last a lifetime.
Bambino's Baby Food cares about you and your child. That’s why we provide valuable insight like this article. It’s also why we use nothing but the best in our products- All of our products begin with ingredients grown in Alaska's pure, natural and untainted soils by certified organic and natural farmers, specifically for Bambino’s Baby Food. Our natural ingredients are never pre-frozen and go directly from the farmer straight into our meals. We guarantee parents quality and convenience. Our mission is simple: Real food parents can trust, and flavors children will love.