Building Your Child’s Brain

Experts with Akron Children’s Hospital are sharing valuable tips on how parents and guardians can positively impact the growth of a child’s brain.

Officials explain that babies use their five senses (touch, taste, smell, sight, and sound) to explore their world. As they develop they begin to understand the basic function of things (“If I push this button, the pony will pop out of the barn!”).

As preschoolers, they take the knowledge and combine it with a growing imagination to come up with fantasy scenarios about why and how things happen. As kids go through these magical years, fantasy will move to reality as they further fine-tune their understanding of the world.

Officials note that pretend play lets kids try out new roles for themselves and allows for creative problem-solving. It also helps them deal with another hurdle of the preschool years: intense emotions. Baby dolls might be put in “time out’ and scolded for actions suspiciously similar to your little one’s latest offense. An imaginary friend (who’s a bigger troublemaker than your child ever could be) might conjured up to help your child deal with feelings of guilt and remorse following a moment of lost control, such as hitting a playmate.

Experts add that self-control is a tough skill to learn, and pretend play helps kids practice it as well as play out the frustration it creates.

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ENCOURAGING IMAGINATIVE PLAY

  • Go along with it. When kids leap through the air and tell you they’re flying, don’t tell them they’re only jumping. Instead, feed the fantasy: “Wow, you’re so high up! What can you see on the ground? Maybe you should take a rest on that nice puffy cloud.” Or even better, start flying with them!
  • Choose old-fashioned toys. Blocks, dolls, arts an crafts, and molding clay are all toys that require creativity and therefore spur imagination.
  • Limit electronic toys. Whether it’s a handheld entertainment system or a “junior” laptop, try to avoid toys that need batteries. Experts with Akron Children’s Hospital explain that creativity is stifled when the toy, rather than the child, directs the play.
  • Read to your child. And while reading, ask mind-opening questions: “If you were the caterpillar, what would you eat?” and “What do you think will happen next in the story?” Officials explain that this not only encourages imagination but promotes language skills and fosters an interest in books.
  • Schedule downtime. Officials also note the importance of making sure kids have free time every day to play on their own. Aside from encouraging creativity, it teaches them to use their own resources to amuse or soothe themselves.
  • Limit screen time. Akron Children’s Hospital officials also recommend that you limit screen time. When kids watch a movie, they explain, or even an educational program, they experience someone else’s make-believe world instead of exercising their imaginations. Experts recommend that children over age 2 watch no more than 1-2 hours of quality television per day.

OLDER KIDS

Experts add that the time in childhood when kids begin to form a conscience, differentiate between right and wrong, and act not just on impulse but because something is the “right” thing to do is called “the age of reason”

Officials note that the age of reason explains why many second-graders are masters at sharing – they can consider the feelings of others. And it also explains why monsters that once lurked under the bed have suddenly disappeared. A child this age realizes that since he never saw the monster, it probably does not exist.

According to reports released by Akron Children’s Hospital, as kids continue to grow, their imagination and creativity will translate into art, music, creative writing, and help with critical thinking. The critical thinking that inspires kids to dig deeper for information and grasp more complex ideas is their next key skill. It’s the tool that will turn them into decision-makers and problem-solvers who will make you proud as they mature into their teen years.

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