By Scarlett Mattoli, MSc, MBPsS, MAC
Chief Advisor for SPRING
As parents, we have the huge responsibility of helping another human being develop. This development begins with the brain from birth. While every person has a brain, no two are alike. SPRING knows this is important to keep in mind when raising our children, and wants to help you better understand brain function so you can provide the right stimulation.
The brain already has 100 billion neurons at birth, but they are not very well connected yet. They can’t do a whole lot for us until they are further developed. Our neurons communicate with each other through neural pathways that act like very long wires. These wires allow for communication between our brains and bodies so we can interpret everything our senses pick up from the outside world. As our children grow up, they get a lot of stimulation from the environment, which helps strengthen these connections and make new ones. Practicing the same things over and over again strengthen our neural pathways even more. If you don’t use it, you lose it! Stimulation and care help our brains develop better and keep it running.
There are optimal periods in our children’s development for vision, auditory, cognitive, sensory, motor and linguistic function. It’s crucial to support our little ones’ learning during the first five years of life, while encouraging their natural curiosity about life. At around two years of age, neurons become linked up at a faster rate than any other time of normal human development. This is why two year-olds run around repeating actions and insist on doing it themselves. They feel very happy after completing a new capability with success, and parents should applaud them. Parents who provide emotional support and support for learning opportunities see healthier communication patterns. This leads to well-adjusted primary students and less-stressful teenage years. Who can say no to that?
So, what can you do as a parent? Starting off, touch your child! This first sensory experience develops closeness and better links up senses with the brain, and allows the development of other senses more quickly. Talk to your child and be a model for their language development. Emotional development starts at home, so smile at your little one every chance you get. Children who don’t get their emotional development from home are less likely to develop functional social skills. Play with your child to help the transition from parallel play to cooperative play in their toddler years.
A lot of learning and responsibility comes with being a parent. Knowing how you can support your child’s development is one of the first steps in helping him or her develop real brain power. For parenting resources, activities for children, and more visit SPRING.
Scarlett Mattoli, founder of psychology consultancy Psynamo Limited, offers advisory services on issues surrounding normal development and learning differences of children.
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