When our children are born we automatically have dreams of them becoming another Einstein, or someone who will make great advances to our world. What can we do to give them a leg up and help them on their way to greatness?

We know that genetics plays a part in developing our brains, but there are a number of things we can do, as parents, to help our children make the most of what they are given. The first few years of a child’s life establishes a pattern of behavior that will be forever set in their brains, and hopefully can be passed on to the next generation as well.

We start out at birth with a certain number of brain cells that form connections and networks as we learn. Over time some of these connections die off or are lost, but if we continue to stimulate our brains we can grow new ones. From birth until age 2, children’s brains are expanding daily. They are developing language and motor skills at a rate faster then they ever will again. Between ages 3-5 that growth begins to slow down and different connections are being formed within the brain regions. Toddlers begin to take in all that goes on around them, and their brains are developing language, cognitive and problem-solving skills to be able to maneuver and communicate. Their bodies are also learning coordination, and they are now able to aim and shoot when playing soccer and kickball.

According to a study by the Kellogg Foundation in Battle Creek, Michigan, early child development and learning begins in the home. During this crucial time of development you can keep those connections sparking by encouraging your child to explore and ask questions. Finding answers on their own, with guidance and interaction with adults, allows your child to learn to deal with challenges and how to problem solve.

The Kellogg study found that children need to interact and read with their parents. It helps to build language and communication skills, and they should be encouraged to ask questions. A number of studies since then have reinforced this idea, that although we inherit our brains from our ancestors, how we use them can changes everything.

As we grow our brains undergo many changes, and can form new connections (synapse) based on what we are learning at the time. If we read more, hold conversations that engage our brains in different areas, and ask a lot of questions our brains are constantly making new connections that form new networks.  Children who sit in front of a television screen can learn, but the lack of interaction does not encourage them to think on their own, but simply to repeat what they hear. They do not ask questions and only accept what is offered them from the television. These children are way behind in the development of language and vocabulary skills.

“The simple exchange of language and ideas is a much more important brain builder than putting your child in a million different activities,” says Macias, a pediatrics professor at the Medical University of South Carolina.

Early childhood is the perfect time to learn to explore and use their imagination, but they will not do it on their own. They need encouragement by their parents, which leads to better communication with their parents later on, as well as developing their brain connections. “Books that tell a story, and ones that teach counting, ABC’s, sorting and matching, and similar core concepts are perfect for this age,” says Gallagher, who is an associate professor of child and adolescent psychiatry at New York University’s Child Study Center.

Use books as a basis, but move on to explore the house and yard for leaves, bugs and other creatures. Look at holidays as a time to teach them about their ancestry and culture, and about that of others. Allow them to get their hands dirty, and you do it too. All children are born with curiosity, but if it’s not encouraged it dies out, and if you keep it going they will never lose it.

I am Ron White, Two Time USA Memory Champion, memory training expert and memory keynote.




WebMD Feature – How activities such as playing, reading, and learning languages stimulate your preschooler’s mind, by Shahreen Abedin: http://www.webmd.com/parenting/guide/preschooler-brain-boosting-activities