From an early age, children’s brains are programmed to learn, unconsciously soaking up sensory impressions from the world around them like a sponge. However, research into brain development has shown that neural pathways are only strengthened in those areas of the brain that are stimulated. So while learning new things, mastering new skills and honing the brain’s abilities is almost effortless for your child, this development does require encouragement.
Passing up the opportunity to teach skills in the first few formative years will result in a longer learning period later on, as evidenced by the difficulty many adults have learning a new language or to play an instrument. How can you maximize this crucial learning stage? Try these five ways to spark their interest:
Language: Don’t use baby talk with your child. Be thoughtful about what you say and try to teach them the correct names for everything around them. A strong vocabulary is a key element in the formation of a child’s intelligence.
Refinement of the senses: Young children tend to be very sensitive to tastes, sounds, touch, weight, smell and what they see. Encourage them to observe the world around them, helping them recognize and name familiar shapes, patterns, objects and living things.
Spatial relationships: Forming cognitive impressions about relationships in space, including the layout of familiar places, generally happens between the ages of four and six. Challenge your children to look for patterns, find their way around your neighborhood and solve more complex puzzles.
Music: The more you expose your child to music, the more likely they are to develop pitch, rhythm and melody. Sing along to the radio in the car, put on music to dance to at home and make instruments out of common household objects.
Manners: Children learn polite, considerate behavior if they see it modeled by the adults and other children in their lives. Discipline should involve teaching the appropriate and polite way to behave, not simply punishing them for misbehavior.