Anyone who has ever been around small children for any length of time will be in constant awe of how much they change each day – new habits, personality, memory, speech, etc. Their brains are developing and expanding during the first two years, while they learn their language and motor skills, faster than they will ever develop again. It is during these primo years that introduction to foreign languages is the most beneficial, since they are still learning their native language and won’t know the difference.
Trying to start accelerated learning before the age of two is not going to produce as much benefit as it would between the ages of 3-5, since their memories are still developing. That is why most people can’t remember anything before the age of two. The 3-5 age groups brain cell growth is beginning to slow down, and new connections are being formed.
As toddlers take in all that is going on around them they are stretching their brains to develop more language and cognitive skills. They are learning the ability to solve problems, picking up cognitive skills, and finding their individuality. Their are becoming more coordinated, and becoming more independent. It is the time when they are open to new adventures and experiences.
“Kids should be out there exploring and getting ready for their next important job: going to school,” says developmental pediatrician Michele Macias, MD, spokeswoman for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and chairwoman of their developmental and behavioral pediatrics department.
To aid them in their development, and help them with memory and concentration, it is important that parents work alongside them to engage them in learning. Children learn by observation and imitation, so spend as much time as possible with your child. Let their imaginations run free and encourage interaction with adults and other children their own age in order to learn how develop social skills. “A child who doesn’t develop well socially could be the most brilliant person in the world in terms of IQ, but their poor social skills can make them less successful in terms of health, school outcomes, and even jobs,” Macias says.
“The simple exchange of language and ideas is a much more important brain builder than putting your child in a million different activities,” says Macias. “Studies have shown that parents and children reading together improve literacy by sharpening vocabulary and language skills. It also leads to discussions that help a child better understand what they are reading.”
Don’t try to structure to much for them, preschoolers have fabulous imaginations. Allow their minds to wander, let them ask question and pretend. Allow them to expand their minds by role-playing and dress-up activities. “Much like reading, make-believe lets kids practice things they might not actually be able to experience in real life,” Macias says. “For instance, when your preschooler smashes one toy car into another and then sends their toy ambulance in to the rescue, or sends their helicopter to rescue their stuffed animal off the cliff that you call a kitchen countertop, they’re absorbing and rehearsing crisis management in a very safe setting.”
Do puzzles and short simple games with them that are age-appropriate. Teach them crafts. These activities help them to develop patience, self-control and concentration, as well as work on their motor skills. It’s important that you don’t let them win all the time (although it doesn’t hurt once in a while to build up their confidence); they need to learn that they will not always win, and how to accept defeat graciously.
There is nothing wrong with playing educational electronic games, and certain videos and educational television programs can benefit them. Not all television is bad for a child, nor are video games. Wii games are interactive, and can be played on different levels that can include other family members. Carefully screen what they play and watch, and don’t let it become a babysitter in place of interaction with the child and you.
Don’t overload your child with activities. Allow them to find ways to amuse themselves. Make sure they are having fun. You may be amazed, but you will be having fun too — and build up your own brain cells. Too many activities could backfire, according to Macias. When a child gets frustrated and tired they tend to take out their aggravation by acting out.
Simply put, being there to answer questions and interact with your child puts them steps ahead of many of their peers.
Authored by Ron White, memory speaker.
WebMD Feature – How activities such as playing, reading, and learning languages stimulate your preschooler’s mind, by Shahreen Abedin: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/preschooler-brain-boosting-activities