Do I have to be an expert in order to help my child’s brain development?
When you hear talk about brain growth and activities that will help your child’s brain development, it might sound quite technical and off-putting. Thoughts of ‘does this mean I need to do a course on child brain development’ and ‘this all sounds a bit too complicated and not for me’ may run through your mind and make you want to run a mile! You are already up to your eyes in just looking after your child – how on earth are you expected to cram in anymore? The simple truth is that as a caring parent you are probably already doing far more than you realise to encourage your child’s brain to grow and develop! You are probably;
- just not realising that you are doing it
- not appreciating how what you are doing is helping your child’s brain to grow
So what sorts of things are you doing which are actually helping your child’s brain to grow. You may well be surprised…
Singing a nursery rhyme?
Now, we’ve all sung simple nursery rhymes to our young children lots of times. Sometimes in our sleep! But, have you ever realised what a positive impact you are having on your child’s brain development through this simple activity? Just by understanding a little bit more about how the brain grows, you will be able to extend a simple rhyme into a brain building activity for your child. The following example is best aimed at a child who is about 18 months old and above – this is when their brain is beginning to be ready for this type of learning. For example, you will be helping your child with;
Number - ‘Three blind mice’ is all about…. wait for it…. 3 blind mice! (Told you it wasn’t rocket science!!) Just by showing your child 3 fingers when singing the song, it will encourage their understanding that this number of fingers means 3 and 3 is a number that has a consistent symbol and a consistent number of objects associated with it. This is going to help with your child’s understanding of number as they grow. Keep doing it whenever you sing the word ‘3’ and your child will begin to link the two ideas together. If your child starts to understand what a number means, and they begin to realise how numbers relate to one another, they will find it easier to learn about more complicated concepts such as addition and subtraction. The foundation needs to be laid now so that it is strong and secure – making future learning easier.
You can extend the learning by pointing out anything that involves 3 objects as you go about your day; when you go shopping, you may count out 3 apples to buy; when you are putting away your child’s tee shirts in the drawer, you could count out 3 of them; you could put 3 potatoes on your plate for dinner etc. All of this will help your child to understand the ‘threeness’ of three – what the number 3 really stands for. Again, once your child grasps this concept of what a number really represents, it will help them with future mathematical understanding. You will be helping them to build a strong basis for their progress in this subject.
The rhyme is also about;
Language - Science has shown that repetition of a word will help lead to word recognition – so by singing the song you are helping your child with their language and literacy development. If your child develops a wide vocabulary and an understanding that words have meaning, then they will be well on their way to learning to read in the future. Sally Blythe Goddard explains in her book, The Genius of Natural Childhood, that singing with a child is "an essential precursor to later educational success and emotional wellbeing." [i]
Communication, reading and writing; If you are feeling energetic, you could add some actions to the song, so that your child can associate the actions with the words and this will help with their understanding of the individual words. This type of activity will help your child develop their communication, their reading and their writing skills. It may just seem like a bit of fun, but it has a purpose.
As if that isn’t enough, you will also be helping your child develop;
Emotional connection - Singing with a child will help to build an emotional connection with them, especially if they start to sing with you. If a child has a strong bond with you this will help with their emotional security and attachment. If a child feels safe and secure, they will be in a much better position to learn and develop. Children who are anxious find it much harder to learn than children who are happy and secure.
It is quite amazing how a simple activity such as singing a nursery rhyme has the potential for so much learning. You just need to look for it.Singing a rhyme or song can teach so much; language, number, emotional control, connection and communication.
Why does this matter?
You will be making a positive impact on your child’s brain development if you engage with your child and give them lots of interactive experiences.
You are your child's first teacher. Every song, book, cuddle, walk, shopping trip or play time in the garden provides opportunities for children to build a strong foundation for their learning. You will be helping them to develop skills which will last them for a lifetime. Understanding how you are helping them helps you!
If you have found this article interesting, and helpful, then please share it with others. If you want help to understand how your activities help your child or want ideas for different activities to do with your baby then why not download our app.
[i] Goddard, S. (2011). The genius of natural childhood. Stroud: Hawthorn.