Though every child is born with genetic potentials, which is an internal factor that lies within the child’s body; the brain development of a child is something that is determined more by external events that occur in the environment they live in. The 8 best ways to stimulate brain development during early childhood discussed here can be adopted and practiced in almost any environment.
While genes fuels the formation of synapses (connections) in the brain, the environment fine-tunes the brain by fostering the synapses to decide on the type of connections to be retained or maintained, and the type of connections that needs to be pruned. In other words, the synapses that are used more often (repeatedly) get stronger and stay ingrained in a child’s brain.
Here are the 8 best ways to stimulate brain development during early childhood
1. Enhancing Development of Memory
Brain development in young children can be fostered by enhancing their memory potential. There are many research studies that conclude that children have the ability to form a strong and stable memory to interact with and learn about their environment.
Before learning the many ways of aiding children to develop their memory, it becomes important for you to know the four different types of memory.
- Explicit or Declarative Memory
- Short-Term Memory
- Working Memory
- Long-Term Memory
While Short-term Memory, Working Memory and Long-term Memory are indeed present in a child, they do not really come into existence during the early childhood stage.
Explicit Memory, also called Declarative Memory. It is explicit memory that a child starts to exhibit in the first three years of life, and of course it is present even in newborns.
For example a three-day-old child shows preference for the mother’s voice. However explicit memory again has got two subtypes namely:
- Semantic Memory
- Episodic Memory
Semantic Memory is nothing but recollection of facts. For instance, by looking at a football the child kicks, grasps and throws it as he can understand the fact that the ball has meant for playing.
Episodic Memory, as the name indicates, is the memory that deals with the recollection of experiences. For instance, by playing with the same ball for certain number of times with an adult, the child is in a position to recollect the experiences, and therefore uses the ball only to kick or throw it.
Short-Term Memory, something that all of us have, is memory that gets stored only for a short while, and lasts approximately 15 to 30 seconds.
Working Memory is like a computer’s RAM (Random Access Memory), and is needed for behaviour regulation and problem solving.
Long-Term Memory is memory that is stored indefinitely.
A newborn’s memory starts in a relatively fuzzy manner but grows slowly over their preschool period. Toddlers (1 to 3 years) have only half of short-term, long-term and working memory capacities as adults, and it improves as they grow with age and practice.
The development of memory is a slow process during the early childhood years (0 to 6 years) and it cannot be accelerated beyond the speed or pace as decided by nature. However there are three memory fostering strategies can indeed help the child to improve his/her memory potential:
- Asking the child to tell a story is one of the best strategies to stimulate brain development. Storytelling is a powerful tool for self-discovery communication and of course memory.
- Making the child repeat certain idea or skill, the synapses gets strengthened in the brain.
- Using associations of connections and acronyms to make an idea more memorable.
2. Development of Logical Reasoning
It is normal for children to make decisions by incorrect or incomplete logic and reasoning during their early stages of development. However it is the responsibility of the parents, caregivers, teachers and facilitators to provide proper instruction, guidance and encouragement to help them make decisions with the right logic and reasoning.
Some of the activities that helps stimulate brain development during early childhood are:
Counting objects is a good brain exercise meant for children, especially those who are three years and older. Though the child may have difficulty in understanding the concept of counting, it is imperative to provide adequate (counting) related learning opportunities for the young mind.
Spotting The Difference
Encourage children recognize patterns by providing them activities to identify their similarities and differences.
Perform Sensory Activities
Hands-on activities using colours and objects with various textures help stimulate the senses, and are absolutely powerful for the working of the little brain. Such activities help accelerate the formation of synapses, thereby sending and receiving information at a faster rate.
Teach to Ask Questions
Once children get to explore and experiment things with their senses, it is very normal for them to start asking so many questions, so much so that every sentence of theirs will start with “Why?”
You should however remember, that though it may sometimes get annoying to see them asking too many questions, it is very important to always encourage them and never, ever, discourage them from asking questions. In fact, you should also take the efforts to help them in asking the right questions.
How to teach them? You ask the questions you want your child to ask. It’s that simple. Children learn what they see and hear. In due course, they’ll know what questions to ask.
Encourage to Solve Everyday Problems
For every simple everyday problems faced by the child while you’re playing or performing any activity with them, challenge them by asking them an alternative solution for a particular problem being faced. This can stimulate their brain and make them respond to challenging situations better.
Of the 8 best ways to stimulate brain development during early childhood, development of logical reasoning can be considered the best among the best.
3. Emotional Development
Emotional intelligence or maturity is a crucial indicator for a well-adjusted member of the society. The reaction or response to emotions serves as an integral part of every developing brain. Sometime shortly after birth, the child starts to react to others’ emotions.
It is important to create a loving and trustworthy atmosphere for the child by encouraging them to treat others in the same way as they would like to be treated. The most important element to be emotionally intelligent for any human being is empathy, which is the ability to understand the way someone else is feeling about a particular situation or happening in their life.
Parents, caregivers and teachers should remember an important fact that the development of emotional intelligence depends on the way that the child is being rewarded, reprimanded or punished. That’s why it becomes very important for them to understand the important milestones of emotional development that the baby goes through, so that they can respond to the milestones appropriately.
The following are the emotional development milestones from birth to 4 years:
Emotional Development Milestones from Birth to 4 Years
- By two to three months, the infant starts to smile socially and would even cry with the intention to grab your attention.
- By nine or ten months, the short-term and long-term memory is much improved as new synapses get formed. The establishment of the foundations of long-term memory is what makes the child react to the feeling of separation anxiety.
- By eighteen months to two years, the child understands the concept of right and wrong. The understanding, along with the improvement in language and vocabulary, provides a better context for the child to not only explore one’s own emotions but also relate to the emotions of others. It is at this time the foundation for emotional skills such as empathy, interpersonal and intrapersonal intelligence is established.
- By three to four years, the child becomes social with other children. When the right guidance, they learn to share toys and take turns in playing games with their peers.
It becomes crucial for parents, caregivers and teachers to understand the origins of emotions in a child, and provide the necessary and trustworthy environment to be emotionally intelligent. Age 4 to 5 is also the time to teach children to label their emotions and express them fully and openly.
4. Development of Language
The beauty about early childhood phase is that just a little assistance given can have a quick progress in the development of speech and language in a child.
Board books and fun stories from early childhood literature can provide additional support for the child’s growing area of the brain that is specific to language domain. Reading to the child, when started early, can foster excellent language development.
By around 18 months, every child experiences a sudden spurt of growth in the area of the brain that is specific to language development. That’s the reason why they rapidly expand their vocabulary during this period – a period like no other. It therefore becomes a responsibility for parents, caregiver or teacher to introduce their child to as many words as possible.
This is also the right period for a child to be exposed to bilingualism, which is learning two languages at the same time.
Benefits of Bilingualism
- Improves cognitive skills
- Facilitates effective communication with more people
- Delays the onset of dementia (during the twilight years of life)
- Provides a broader perspective to explore and express ideas
5. Facilitating the Child for Better Social Interactions
Human beings are basically social animals. Social interactions, therefore, have got a significant effect on the development of the human brain. That’s why every parent, caregiver or teacher should provide adequate activities for children to get actively engaged with people around them, as it stimulates the language center in the brain.
6. Enrolling Your Child for the Preschool Program
Though it is not mandatory for children to be enrolled in a preschool program, several studies have concluded that children who are enrolled in preschool are good in their cognitive skills with improved readiness capacity. The research also observed that children who were enrolled in a preschool had very minimal risk of developmental delays compared to those who were not enrolled.
7. Proper Diet
There are two key reasons why diet plays a prominent role in brain development of a child:
- The brain requires more energy and balanced nutrients to develop and work properly
- The early childhood period, by itself, is the period of rapid overall development.
This makes diet with adequate supply of nutrients such as proteins, vitamins and minerals much essential for a child, especially during early childhood period.
8. Providing the Atmosphere for Physical Exercise
The overall health of the body is highly correlated with the health of the brain. Exercise during early childhood period is therefore important, as it improves the cognitive function in a child. So make sure you encourage an active lifestyle for your child by involving him/her in sports and other play/physical activities.
The development of the brain in a child is influenced by many factors, including the child’s relationships, experiences and environment.
However, by adopting and implementing the 8 ways to stimulate brain development during early childhood; the parent, caregiver, teacher or preschool facilitator can play a crucial role in fostering the right activities that helps the child’s brain grow in a healthy manner.
Disclaimer: The content in this page and across this website are for informational and educational purposes only. In case of any concerns about your child’s growth and development, please contact your professional child healthcare provider.