Children are like a sponge in their early years. In the first 2000 days of their lives, they learn more than they will ever learn in the rest of their lives. These initial years lay the framework of a child’s brain. During this period, brain undergoes an exponential growth. Hence, this is supposed to be the most crucial period for child’s wholesome Brain development.
That said, a lot of activities and toys are now available for early years. Also there is more emphasis than ever in the classrooms and at home, to provide the best educational activities to children.
Intelligence is not Limited to School Grades
Brain development is not limited to academics alone, it is in fact much beyond academia. Think about it! Would you rate a child who knows his numbers and alphabets smarter than a child who has great puzzle solving skills but no knowledge of numbers and letters? I guess not! A lot has been documented and researched about this already. The truth is, intelligence is not limited to classrooms and educational activities.
Intelligence is vector, not scalar!
But sadly, this is what intelligence has been reduced to in the current uber-competitive environment. Eager to give their children a head start in life, parents often exert too much emphasis on the academic skills forgetting basic tenants of brain development.
So, here are a few brain exercises that do not require any prep or toys and are far fetched from school curriculum. These simple family activities will ensure wholesome brain development making it strong, healthy and ready to learn and grow.
Brain Food your Child Needs
1. Cuddle Time: Maslow’s hierarchy of needs clearly states that safety and security are the first basic needs of the human race. Babies and young children who are not yet capable of protecting themselves depend on their parents to take care of this need.
Studies suggest that loving, cuddling, and responding to your child has a strong effect on building this security blanket. Only after this primitive need is met, brain can develop. This also explains why children from low-income groups have smaller brains (as seen in MRI) compared to their richer counterparts. So, engage in this loveable brain activity to help your little one grow smarter.
2. Meaningful Interactions: This is one brain activity that really lays the foundation for learning. Children learn a lot by listening to languages. What distinguishes early language development is whether you are engaging in a conversation or a monologue. Babies cannot talk but there are ample cues they give, leading to meaningful interactions.
For older children, parents must practice listening skills before they expect to be heard. When children are engaged in these types of conversations they learn fundamental social skills and also, how to build relationships with others. All these are tell tale traits of intelligence.
3. Weave Stories: You don’t need aids to make up stories. Rather encourage your child to narrate her day to you sequentially. That is the most interesting story any parent would want to hear.
To build this skill, start narrating your day to your child from an early age. This simple brain activity aids children immensely in recalling information, making sense and drawing connection between the event that occurred during the day. Thus, helping build their brain muscle.
4. Explore the power of Free Play: No other form of play can be as rewarding as free play. Children who engage in free play from an early age grow up to be more independent and curious. Free play encourages creativity, out-of-the box thinking and flexibility to adapt and change.
Researchers at University of Colorado conducted a study on young children which indicated that children who spend less time doing structured activities display higher levels of executive functioning, and vice versa. The best part? This is a no prep, free of cost brain activity.
5. Engage children in Kitchen: Cooking is a great brain building exercise as it blends many different skills. Young children need to learn to make connections between theory and real-life application. The idea is to learn to read, follow the directions, pay attention to details and put instructions into use. Cooking a meal does just that.
6. Play board games together: Board games are not only great for family bonding but also for stimulating your child’s brain. When children and adults play together, children learn by watching their parents and hence get better at the game compared to when playing with their peer group.
Children learn to concentrate and plan their moves when they play games like Ludo, Othello, Chinese Checkers. Thus grasping important lessons in cause and effect and strategy making. These games also work at sharpening memory and concentration skills as players need to remember the rules and watch out for their opponent’s moves.
7. Get them moving: Enroll your child in an active sport or a fitness class. Exercise is a great brain activity. Young children can learn a lot from sports. Playing as a team, discipline and fair play are just a few of the benefits. Just like exercising is great for adults, it is for little kids too. It helps increase the blood flow to the brain, thus allowing new brain cells to grow faster and neurons to connect better.
8. Read Together: Reading is a great family activity. Think of it as an experience and indulge in it everyday. Set a designated time for reading. Children learn new words, expressions and how to correlate text with illustrations.
9. Give autonomy: Children can learn a lot by doing things for themselves. Resist the urge to help them out every time and rather encourage them to think of their own answers to the problems.
Ask them questions, seek their suggestions and feedback to fire up their thought process. Instead of answering their questions straight away, give hints to help them arrive at an answer. Let them make mistakes and learn from them.
These simple, easy activities go a long way in formulating your child’s personality and learning style. Brain building and learning should not be restricted within the walls and constricted to only certain activities or ways. Boundless brain development happens when you bring learning in every day moments.