The first three years of a child’s life are crucial for brain development. During this time, the brain weaves a network that establishes the foundation of neurological skills that your children will use for the rest of their lives. It’s definitely a precious period in more ways than one.
According to renowned physician and educator Maria Montessori, the learning that a child accomplishes in the first three years places his brain capacity at genius level. It would take an adult about 60 years to achieve the same progress that a baby does in just a couple of years.
This crucial time must certainly be supported. You want to ensure that your children thrive in every way. As closely as you monitor their height and weight growth, you must do the same with their brain development. More than monitor, you want to assist it to encourage optimal progress.
This raises the question: “What can you do to enhance a toddler’s brain development?”
Nourishment with Brain Food
The brain is actually a very hungry organ, so it’s important to ensure that you feed it with the nutrients that are best for it. What are these and where can you source them?
- Omega-3 Fatty Acids are essential for brain growth and function. Some of their excellent sources are fish (salmon and tuna), beans (kidney and pinto), and berry seeds.
- Choline helps memory development. It is abundant in egg yolks.
- Vitamin E protects nervous membranes. It is found in peanuts and oats.
- Thiamin helps the brain and nervous system use glucose for energy. It is also found in peanuts.
- Fiber helps regulate the release of glucose, which the brain needs for energy. It is abundant in whole grains, especially oats.
- B-vitamins nourish the nervous system. Some good sources are whole grains and dairy.
- Zinc makes the brain function at full capacity and helps with memory. It is present in oats and beef.
- Vitamin C keeps brain cells strong and healthy. It is abundant in colorful fruits and vegetables.
- Protein is essential for brain growth. Two of its most popular sources are meat and dairy.
- Iron helps with concentration. There’s plenty of it in lean beef, black beans, and soy.
Brain Stimulation with Experiences
In the early years, your child’s brain has existing connections eagerly awaiting new experiences that will form the neural networks for reasoning, problem solving, communication, and moral values. Connections that are regularly used become permanent while those unused are discarded.
What can you do with your toddler to ensure that the important and relevant connections are retained? Here are some activities that will put those connections to good use and help jumpstart your child’s brain development.
· Counting Exercises
Sing or recite counting rhymes together. Count out actual objects around you. Teach your toddler to count in sign language.
· Pretend Play
Provide toys that help them understand the world around them. Some good options are a toy kitchen, a toy shopping cart, and a baby doll. Without toys, you can make do with whatever’s on hand. You can play dress-up, house, doctor, etc.
· Solving Puzzles
Let them stack nesting cups, figure out peg puzzle boards, and work out a shape sorter. There are plenty of educational toys that challenge little children’s problem solving capabilities.
· Sensory Nature Walks
Stroll around the neighborhood with your toddler. Point out interesting objects. Pick rocks and sticks. Smell leaves, flowers, and bark. Listen to the sounds of the wind as well as those of the birds and bugs. If you’re a knowledgeable forager, you may even let them taste some berries and flowers.
· Sound and Motion Activities
Sing fun action songs like “The Wheels on the Bus.” You can also copy the sound and movement of animals and machines.
· Story Time
Whether you tell a story from memory or read a picture book with them, the exposure to speech and language helps them develop their own.
Encourage talking. If your toddler is already very verbal, stock up on patience and prepare yourself for the non-stop questions. Get ready to answer a never-ending succession of “whys.”
Mental Prowess of Little Minds
You’re probably already doing your part in enhancing your children’s brain development, so just continue to feed them brain food and engage them in brain-boosting activities. Also, be sure to appreciate and enjoy displays of their mental prowess and their amazing capacity for learning.