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Early brain development & learning

 
Early childhood experiences impact and determine how the brain develops. Find out how we can help to stimulate our children’s early brain development and learning, and help them reach their full potential.
Early childhood experiences impact and determine how the brain develops.

Find out how we can help to stimulate our children’s early brain development and learning, and help them reach their full potential.

 

A child's brain


Where would we all be without our brains?

This incredible mechanism controls every single thing we do, from eating and drinking to thinking, learning and experiencing emotions.

A child is born with 100 billion brain cells and 50 trillion connections. During the first few months the number of connections they have multiplies by 20. Each brain cell can connect with as many as 15,000 other brain cells.

A 3 year old child has twice as many connections as an adult and if they are not used, they wither away. By the time a child is 5 years old, 90% of the brain connections will be formed.

There will never be a time in a child’s life when the experiences and opportunities they have will be of greater importance than during their early childhood years.
 

Early brain development & learning


The brain is the control centre of our body, but how can we help our children’s brains to reach their full potential?

Early sensory experiences create new connections between brain cells and repetition of these experiences strengthens them.

The number of brain cell connections increase or decrease, depending on the environment and the experiences that a child is exposed to.

Children continue to learn throughout life, but they do not conquer new skills or recover from stumbling blocks as quickly and as easily as in their early years.

It is therefore important to provide children with the best opportunities for learning and growth during the early years when their minds are most prepared to absorb new information.
 

9 Ways to stimulate children’s brain development


Children need to be exposed to a continuous stream of new information and experiences that are challenging and allow them to extend their thinking and understanding.

They should experience a variety of approaches to learning, as well as opportunities to interact with different types of learning media.
 
Examples include:
 

1. PLAY

 
  • Play is not only fun, it is the fundamental way that children learn.
 
  • Use games, toys and educational resources that children can relate to in their natural environment.
 
  • Children will engage in play for much longer with resources that are familiar from within their natural environments.
 

2. TALK

 
  • In order to get  brain cells moving, start talking. Young children absorb every word. The more you share, the more they learn.
 
  • What you say is not as important as how you say it and the tone and expression you use.
 
  • Young children need to hear full sentences in order for their vocabularies to grow.
 
  • Assist your children by using words to help them better understand the world around them, including words that help to describe feelings, objects, and every day things.
 
  • Instead of saying, “Look at the helicopter” say, “Look at the big red and white helicopter flying up high in the clear, blue sky.”
 
  • Try to answer all of your child’s questions. If you cannot, the value of finding the answer together using books or the internet, is immeasurable.
 

3. READ

 
  • Reading or looking through books with your child is essential, but asking questions and creating discussions around what you read or the pictures seen is a great way of extending your child’s learning and thinking.
 
  • Should you read to newborns and infants? Absolutely, a child is never too young or too old to be read to.
 

4. MUSIC

 
  • Music engages all areas of the brain and stimulates numerous elements of brain function.
 
  • Children should experience many different kinds of music, especially rhythm, rhyme, and repetition in music and songs.
 

5. ART

 
  • Art engages a range of the brain's areas that help extend children’s sensory, cognitive, emotional and physical learning.
 
  • Children should receive many opportunities to draw, paint, build, craft and create using different types of media.
 

6. MOVEMENT/EXERCISE

 
  • Exercise that causes the heart to beat faster is beneficial for children’s physical development and helps to improve their mood.
 
  • Scientists have recently discovered that for a period of time after exercise has taken place, the body produces a chemical that allows the brain to be more receptive to learning.
 
  • Physical activity and movement stimulates brain growth and helps essential brain connections for learning to take place.
 
  • Regular exercise and participation in a variety of physical activities are vital for healthy brain development in children.
 

7. LOVE

 
  • Supportive, loving relationships are food for healthy brain growth in children.
 
  • Children learn about caring relationships and how to handle stress from you, so if you are stressed, your child will be too.
 
  • Your child needs you to love them, comfort them and encourage them.
 
  • Recent research has discovered that 30% to 60% of the brain's development depends on heredity, while 40% to 70% of development is based on interactions with the environment, including relationships with others.
 

8. NUTRITION

 
  • Ensure that your child eats foods that stimulate brain function and growth, these include green vegetables, nuts, fish, fresh fruits, lean meats and dairy products.
 
  • The daily intake of vitamin and mineral supplements could also be beneficial, particularly for fussy eaters.
 
  • Encourage your children to drink plenty of water throughout the day, as it helps children to concentrate as well as maintain their energy levels.
 

9. SLEEP

 
  • While children are asleep, their brains are actively processing the day’s information.
 
  • During this process the child’s memory is strengthened, and new skills and tasks are reinforced.
 
  • It is therefore essential that children get enough sleep and the recommended amount of sleep for young children is 9 to 10 hours per day.
 
The development of a child's brain holds the key to the child's future. The early years have an everlasting affect on the development of young children's brains, however these early years also go by very quickly.

Play, talk, read, sing, laugh, dance, create and have fun with your children.  

Encourage healthy eating and enough sleep, but most importantly show your children how much you love them, in as many ways as possible.

By helping your child's brain to develop, you are nourishing your child's lifetime potential.
 

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Source: Article written by Emma Loggenberg. Emma runs a company called Tuputupu Kids and has recently completed her Master Thesis in Educational Psychology. She also has a Graduate Diploma in Teaching and has completed advanced courses in Play Therapy.
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