Your child’s brain grows at an explosive rate during the first three years of his life. During these critical brain-growth periods, long, thin nerve pathways grow inside the brain. These are wirings that connect and carry electrical impulses from brain cell to brain cell. The resulting network, which grows daily in the young brain, forms the neurological foundation of skills that your child will use for the rest of his life. Experiences after birth, in conjunction with your child’s gene, determine the eventual wiring of the human brain. Existing connections eagerly await new experiences that shape the neural networks for language, reasoning, problem solving, and moral values. New experiences build upon established patterns and create new patterns and networks for more learning. Connections that are used repeatedly will become permanent. Those that are not used get discarded.
You can help your toddler jump-start his brain development by engaging in games and fun activities with him. Everything you do with your toddler - playing, talking, eating, walking, reading, cuddling, and singing help jump-start his brain. When you use your imagination with him, for example, you help his brain to make “imagination pathways” of its own. Children remember experiences that have an emotional component. Gentle, loving fun combined with responsive language from you creates an atmosphere in which learning thrives. That's why it is important for you to bond with your child in these activities. Things you do together enhance his learning (among many other benefits). This is something that play-alone high-tech toys like tablets, video games, tv and others will not be able to offer
Below are some brain-boosting toddler games and activities that you can play with your toddler. It is grouped into specific skills that are being exercised. Although a specific skill is highlighted, typically, each game involves developing a combination of skills. Also these activities are meant to provide ideas and inspire you to come up with others. Feel free to make variations on these games. For example, "Trip to the Garden" can be a "Trip to the Beach", or "Trip to the Park". Just make sure that you play with your toddler in a safe environment using safe materials.
Babies begin their problem-solving lives with basic cause-and-effect reasoning and flexibility. By the time young children reach toddler age, their problem-solving skills begin to mature. They learn curiosity, patience, working towards achieving a goal, and gaining confidence in their ability to reach a solution.
One and a half and above
Use building blocks to make simple structural patterns such as 2 blocks with one above, three in a row set of blocks, and so on. Playfully ask your toddler to copy the pattern. Afterwards, ask him to make his own pattern. Show your toddler that you are having fun copying his pattern. Make the patterns more complicated as your child becomes more skillful in figuring out how to build block structures based on your pattern. Eventually, you can also allow him to play freely with building structures.
One and a half and above
Give your toddler nesting toys or toys of different sizes that can fit inside each other. You can also use different size bowls, cups or toys that you create from cardboard boxes. Play with your child by showing him that the toys can be fitted within each other. Take the nested toys apart and encourage your child to nest the toys himself. Start with few nesting objects, and gradually add more.
Nesting game teaches your toddler about size differences, and solving problems through logical reasoning.
Two to 2 and a half
Draw colorful shapes or animals in cards and make an exact pair of each drawing. Start with 3 or 4 pairs. Turn the cards over. Open one card for your toddler. Ask your toddler what the drawing is, and tell him that you will be looking for the same drawing. Open the rest of the cards one by one, and ask your toddler if it is the same one as the open card. If he finds a pair, give it to him, then open another card and ask him to look for its pair. Repeat until all cards are matched.
Each time a child is stimulated to think, either new neural pathways are formed or existing ones are strengthened. Challenging activities in a loving environment create optimal learning experiences.
Play puzzles with your child. Puzzles involve reasoning, discrimination, and muscle control, which all challenge the developing brain.
For 2 and a half years and older.
Cut shapes made of colored paper, and make a board with have drawings that fit the shapes. Make your child match the cut-up shapes with the ones on the board.Another idea is to get large colorful and engaging pictures of a simple object from magazines. Cut them in four and ask your child to put the picture back together again. To make the puzzle more challenging, you can cut the picture into more than 4 pieces, or in irregular shapes. You can also mix-up cut-outs from 2 pictures.
For 2 and a half years and older.
Collect pictures of things or draw pictures of things that are opposites such as big and small, hard and soft, up and down, inside and outside and so on. Paste the pictures in cards. Talk to your toddler about the concept of opposites. Mix up the cards on the table. Pick up a card and describe what it shows “This is something big, where’s something that’s small?”
2 Years and Up
Reread a story book that you read before to your toddler. Before turning the page, ask your toddler what she thinks, is going to happen next. If she needs help, give her a hint as to what happens next. If your child still cannot remember, just tell her “Let’s find out” and turn the page, then talk about what happens next. You can also read a new book and make your child guess what happens next in the story.
Learning to pay attention and focusing attention to completing a task is a skill that is essential to other forms of learning. Being able to concentrate is also necessary for problem solving.
Remove the Tape
Stick long strips of paper tape on any flat surface like a table or a fridge door. Make the tape overlap each other. Show your toddler how to remove the tapes one at a time with the use of the fingernail, and then let her do it herself.
Play with blocks or any toy that stacks. Challenge your toddler by stacking the toys as high as he can.
Coin Pattern Game
2 years old and up
Gather a combination of coins – pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. Show your toddler a combination of four coins in a sequence, for example, two pennies and two dimes. Make your toddler look at the coins. Cover the coins and ask your toddler to make the same combination from memory, using the other coins from your collection. Give your toddler a happy response when he gets the combination right, and gently correct him when he does not get it right until he masters his concentration skill.
Language and Communication
For optimum brain development, young children need a rich and responsive language environment. The plasticity of the brain, its ability to rewire itself, is what makes it so easy for children to learn language. The more words young children hear, the more connections their brains make. Children learn a language by hearing words over and over. That’s why the more you talk to your child, the better. Talking to a young child increases the number of words that he will recognize and eventually understand.
Read picture books
For your toddler, choose books with clear picture of familiar objects. For tips on how to read to your toddler, click here.
The most effective way for your toddler to acquire language skills is for you to read books to her. Toddlers learn the rules of grammar by hearing you and others speak.
With your toddler, watch your reflections in a large mirror. Make faces on the mirror. Point out her body parts such as nose, mouth, neck, etc. Point out your body parts, calling them, for example, “mommy’s nose”, “mommy’s mouth” etc. Ask her to point at her body parts, and mommy’s body parts.
This game teaches your toddler body awareness, see herself as separate from others, and be able to explore her identity with the use of language.
Talking With Your Toddler
Pick up one of your toddler’s toy and talk to him about it. Use words repeatedly. Add other cues to make your conversation interesting, such as doing actions (For example, “Oh look, a playful teddy bear. Look at him jump… jump… jump” and while saying “jump”, you make the teddy bear move as if it is jumping, and so on), changing the tone and pitch of your voice, or making your toddler do something with the toy (“Hug the teddy bear.” Show him how to hug the teddy bear, and take turns hugging the teddy bear).
Make a Book with Your Toddler’s Picture
Gather some of your toddler’s picture and paste them in pages of paper to make a book. Arrange the pictures to make a story and paste the pictures on the pages. The story does not have to be a narrative. It can be told in a way that is like “A Day in the Live of…” Read the book together with your toddler. She will love the book that features him as the main character.
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Thursday, March 19 2015 15:00