Helping kids build better brains

Filed under: Development/Milestones: Babies, Toys

Like most parents, we often feel conflicted over whether we give our children enough to help their early learning be positive and to permit their young brains flourish. Is it worth it to cut down on other things in order to purchase the latest toy or to provide lessons on musical instruments? It can be a puzzle, particularly when faced with what are often the win/lose situations we encounter each day.

A recent study provided some encouragement. In an age where toys and lessons are aimed at children from infancy to ensure proper and advanced development, it's hard to sort out the best way to help your children's' brains develop at the optimum levels and speeds. A new policy paper helps put those worries to rest. The gist of the paper is this: the most fundamental aspect of brain development for young children is having a stable relationship with an adult who adores the child. "It's all about playing with your child," said Eric Knudsen, Ph.D., the Edward C. and Amy H. Sewall Professor in the Stanford University School of Medicine in describing a paper in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. "A child's eventual ability to learn calculus or a second language", he explains, "starts with the neurons that are shaped by positive interactions with nurturing adults".

The piece, written by Knudsen and three other members of the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child including Nobel Prize-winning economist James Heckman, Ph.D., helps ease parental guilt over the toy buying frenzy that inevitably accompanies childhood, while reassuring parents that proper toy purchases lead to smart economic policy. Ah, we can now feel less guilty in not providing the latest toys to our children and, instead, purchasing new tires for the car!

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.