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Cooking with Children – Holidays are a perfect time!

By Conceição Solis / November 22, 2018 / Comments Off on Cooking with Children – Holidays are a perfect time!

There are many things I enjoy in life! Amongst my favorites is spending time with children, traveling, and cooking! Children say the funniest things and often arrive at brilliant conclusions. I love to watch them learn. I enjoy their contagious energy. I believe they keep us young!

Over the past 40 years of working with children, because our work is international we have been fortunate to travel and spend considerable time in other countries. When traveling I enjoy getting to know the people, how they think, and what they eat! We often make a point of going to their farmer’s markets, the best place to rub elbows with the locals and appreciate the products used in their cooking. I think that is where my love for cooking really developed.

It started in my childhood. Both of my parents cooked and my Dad was in the restaurant business. But learning about different cultures through cooking made it even more fun! I enjoy eating and cooking the foods of a wide range of countries. When I eat and smell foods from other countries I get transported right back to them! We all have memories that go with food. The smell of hot chocolate and a warm batch of chocolate chip cookies probably reminds you of something fun in your childhood. Perhaps coming in to a warm house after playing in the cold outside. The smell of popcorn and the sound of it popping reminds us of being at a movie theatre or watching movies at home. The smells and tastes will vary depending on the culture in which you grew up but your memory is always triggered by those tastes and smells and it brings you right back to your memories of growing up. And this is especially true with the holidays!

Every culture has holidays that are celebrated with meals particular to that celebration!  The smells of a Thanksgiving meal brings Americans right back to their childhood and those smells make us feel at home. Turkey is almost always on the menu but each family has their special side dishes, their special way of making their turkey, and their preferred stuffing recipe! Am I right that our own family recipes are always the best to us?

My parents are from Portugal and I grew up eating the traditional Portuguese dishes for Christmas which always began on Christmas Eve. Christmas is not complete to me if I do not make those dishes. The warmth that meal brings to my heart is priceless. Although my husband and daughter are Americans, I found it important to share this part of my culture with them. So, at my home every year we begin our Christmas celebration on Christmas Eve with a whole Portuguese meal. That includes what is put out for Santa and what is served for breakfast on Christmas morning. On Christmas Day we have an all-American meal. This has become our family tradition and to my daughter and her family those are the smells and tastes particular to our family’s Christmas holiday!

By now you might be saying – OK I get it, you like cooking! But the holidays are already so stressful why should I add more stress by trying to cook with my child? Why should I care about cooking with my child? What are the benefits that warrant me doing something with my child that I don’t love? You might even been thinking – How often do I need to cook with my child for it to be of benefit to him or her? If you have been following us you know that our objective is to teach you the best practices to better develop your child’s brains through simple actions. So let’s take a look at how cooking fits in. How can cooking with your child benefit them and what materials do you need?

 

Benefits

When you are cooking with your child she is receiving sensory stimulation to all five senses – visual, auditory, tactile, smell, and taste. You and your child are literally experiencing all of the human sensations all at once. Cooking also gives your child the opportunity to use all of the motor functions – language, mobility and manual activities. You are taking advantage of brain plasticity! For your child it is just fun hands-on “play” but in fact you are growing and developing your child’s brain in a major way. The benefits to your child are worth your effort and, who knows, you might begin to find some enjoyment in cooking! So, the kitchen and cooking provide lots of benefits for your child. Another precious benefit for both of you is the memories it creates while making something delicious together!

 

How Often

You do not have to cook with your child every day. Of course, the more often you do the better your child becomes at it. Like everything else, practice makes it better. Yes, cooking with children slows you down. Actually, everything you do with children slows you down! Right?! Plan ahead. Decide what will be your special day to cook together and put it on your schedule. Especially when there is so much going on during the holidays, if you do not schedule making Christmas cookies or whatever other specialty you make for your family holiday, it will not happen.

What age

Rather than age we like to focus on level of ability. You can begin as early as the toddler age. Have your child watch you cook as soon as she can safely stand on her own. When she has become a safe walker so she can safely stand in a learning tower or a sturdy chair you can begin.

Start by having your child help you scoop and pour, push buttons, press down on a salad spinner. If you are making dough begin by having the child squeeze or knead the dough. Have her mix something with a spoon or with her hands. Increase the complexity according to what she safely can do with her hands. As her ability develops and matures you can continue to increase the sophistication of the cooking task and allow for more independence.

Be aware of what is on top of the kitchen counter. Make sure you keep things that can hurt your child out of reach at all times. Also, consider your child’s level of understanding. Make sure your child can follow simple instructions that will keep her safe and involved in the activity.

 

Materials

When I was the parent of a toddler I used a chair and I still do when my grandchildren come to visit, but now you can buy towers designed especially for this purpose. They are safer as there is less chance that a child can fall out. Some towers are collapsable, which gives you more space when the tower is not in use. Also, when collapsed there is no chance a child can open the tower when you don’t want them to be able to reach the counter. My grandchildren love their tower and call it “The Tower of Power”!  Anything else you need is determined by the recipe you use.

 

Choosing Recipes

Choose recipes with ingredients you know your child will like. Begin with simple recipes that have few ingredients and do not involve actually putting things on the stove. Like cold cereal – with help your toddler can pour the cereal, the berries and the milk or yogurt. If you like hot cereal like oatmeal you can have your child put the ingredients in the pot and you do the cooking part until they reach the age when they can safely handle a cooking pot on top of a stove.  

Recipes that require mixing are great because you can have your child mix the ingredients with her hands. Instead of tossing a salad with tongs, mix it with the hands. Kale or spinach salad that requires massaging the kale or the spinach to wilt it is a winner. Bake something that requires mixing with the hands. Also, recipes that require whisking with a whisk or a fork, or mixing with a spoon. There is plenty of opportunity to use an enormous variety of movements.

 

Teaching

Make sure that during this time you are talking to your child, describing the movement that needs to be used (what whisking looks like), the name of the tool, etc. Describe the flavors and the smells. Talk about the categories (fruit, vegetables,etc.), the importance of foods that are good for us, and so on. If you are cooking meat or chicken or fish, encourage your little toddler to feel the texture. The same with the produce. Teach your child when something looks good and fresh and when it doesn’t. If you want your child to eventually be aware of and appreciate what she puts in her mouth begin by teaching her about fresh ingredients!

Teach your child the pleasure of eating! It begins with the ingredients, followed by the cooking, and finished by the plating. When we eat for pleasure it is not the quantity of food that matters to us, it is the quality! This is a good thing to teach a child.

So bring your child in the kitchen and have some fun making something simple and delicious! Choose a few family holiday recipes that are special but simple enough that your child can be a part of the preparation. Please share your experience with us in the comments below. We would love to see some pictures of your child cooking with you this holiday season!

Happy Thanksgiving and Bon Appetit!

 

 

Do The Terrible Twos Really Exist?

By Conceição Solis / November 16, 2018 / Comments Off on Do The Terrible Twos Really Exist?

This past September after completing our work teaching The Reach Family Institute’s French families we were lucky enough to meet up with Juliana, Jack, and the kids. They joined us in France to celebrate the 20th anniversary of REACH, the 30th anniversary of the pilot project that became Programa Leopoldo in Venezuela, and the 40th anniversary of Charlie completing a thru-hike of the Appalachian Trail with a group of young adults with special needs.

 

 

While at a train station waiting to go to Versailles a French couple with a baby girl sat by us. The kids were chatting and singing while waiting when they they noticed the baby and walked over to say, “Bonjour!” The baby girl was 9 months old. The mother asked how old Adeline was and when she heard she was just over 2 she said, “Is it true what they say? Do the terrible twos really exist?” Juliana gave her a quick answer as the train approached and I immediately felt bad that we could not answer her question more completely. I told her to check out the BFK blog and promised that we would answer her question. I loved how she put it! Do the terrible twos really exist? Are the terrible twos a myth or real?

The terrible twos can most definitely be real but it doesn’t have to be the long miserable year that many make it out to be. The “terrible twos” expression has been around for a long time. No one actually defines or describes the terrible twos. It is just understood. It’s the frequent tantrums and defiant behavior of the average 2 year old. Right? In addition to the terrible twos, many now refer to three year olds as “threenagers”, an expression that was not used 30 years ago when I was a young mother. Many parents now find the behavior of their three year old child to be more difficult than the 2 year old stage. So, real or myth?  

Yes, the behaviors that drive parents to describe them as the “terrible twos” or the “threenager” stages do exist. And they are one and the same! In both stages parents are describing the same behavior. In some children it is mostly accentuated when they are 2 and in others is more apparent at the age of 3. For some this “difficult” stage can last for a couple of years whereas others move beyond this stage quite quickly. Why? Let’s talk about some of the reasons.

 

Neurological Age

Let’s begin by understanding that what determines the timing of when you’ll start to see these outbursts relates to the child’s neurological age, not the child’s chronological age. They are not always one and the same! Chronological age has to do with time alone. Everyday the child is one day older. Neurological age is based on the child’s level of function. Neurological age therefore relates to the level of brain development achieved as a result of exposure to stimulation and developmental opportunities. When it comes to behavior and how a child relates to the world, her level of understanding and language are the most important neurological factors.

 

Understanding and Language

So, let’s look at understanding and language in relationship to behavior. A child who cannot follow multiple step instructions and who has no concept of time will not understand when you try to reason or negotiate with her. First, your child needs to have moved from understanding simple one-step instructions to more complex multiple-step instructions. The child should also be able to reasonably follow simple conversations that are not directed to them.

And finally, the child needs to have some concept of time. It will not work to say to a child, “You cannot have this candy now but I will give it to you later” if she doesn’t know what later means. This will most likely result in a temper tantrum. The child who does not understand “later”, wants it and she wants it right now! Immediate satisfaction is all that she understands. If your children is at this stage it is pointless to try to negotiate with them as they simply do not have the understanding level necessary for negotiation. All you can do is divert her attention to avoid or diminish tantrums.

In previous blogs, I have talked about the importance of speaking with your child from birth. Speak often and about everything that surrounds her. Sing songs, read books, and provide lots of opportunity for hands-on play. These are the best ways to develop understanding.

In order to begin negotiating with your child you first need to teach time concepts. You can do this by using concrete concepts. “Later” is too vague. Later can mean 5 minutes or 30 minutes from now to you, and 2 minutes from now to your child. So, how do you make it more concrete? Tell her “when we get to the car you can have it” or “after you eat lunch you can have it.” Relate it to a clear physical activity that is not too far off in time.

As your child’s understanding is developing, provided she has been given the right opportunity for good brain organization, her language will also be developing. Children who do not develop the language to express their feelings and desires will often have more outbursts out of frustration. Related to language development, the “terrible twos” are often more pronounced in two types of children.

  • Those who do not have enough language to communicate and who learn that screaming or “acting out” is the only way to get their point across.
  • Those who have very sophisticated understanding and language and who learn how to “turn the tables” on their parents. In these cases, the issue has more to do with how parents respond to the child rather than with the child’s level of understanding. They become so good at negotiating and reasoning that their parents too often give in to their wants and needs and when they don’t “win” they have a tantrum.

In all cases parents need to be aware of what could be causing their child’s challenging behavior which will determine how one should respond to them in order to minimize the tantrums and frustration.

 

Consistency in Actions

As parents you need to be consistent in your actions! Do not say one thing and then change your mind and do a different thing. You will be confusing your child and inadvertently encourage bad behavior.  It is hard for your child to know how to respond to your requests, instructions, or wants if you are not consistent. How can they?

Let me use an example. Today you are in a good mood. Let’s say you are on the sofa reading something and your child comes running in and jumps on you.  Because you are in the mood to play, you put your reading down and you begin to tickle your child. That was fun, right?

OK, now the next day you are tired and feeling a bit stressed. You are on the sofa reading something and your child comes running and jumps on you. He is expecting the same thing to happen. His assumption is that you will put your reading down and tickle him but instead you get angry because he jumped on you and could possibly hurt you. Do you see the picture?

We all have a tendency to be inconsistent in these types of actions with our children and it can be very confusing to them. This inconsistency can result in more problems especially with little toddlers who are just learning. They are constantly taking cues from us and mixed messages like this can be unsettling and confusing. We parents are human (gasp!) and we do and will make mistakes. We need to learn from them and do our best to be present and consistent with our children. And remember, you always have the option of walking away to take a breather for a minute if the stress is too much.

When dealing with a child who has immature understanding and/or language development (and therefore more difficulty expressing her needs and wants), you need to be even more attentive and sensitive to her. Pay closer attention to her actions. Is she throwing tantrums because she learned that it is the way to get your attention? Children at every level will do what works to get what they want. If acting out gets your attention they will use it every time to get what they want. So, if your child is in one of these stages pay attention to your actions and ask yourself, “Am I encouraging this behavior by giving it attention?”. If the answer is “Yes”, all you need to do is change your behavior. Change how you respond and your child will change how she behaves.

 

Each Child is Unique

Our last post had to do with the final core principle of brain development, Each Child is Unique. Each and every child is unique and that is a beautiful thing. So, when you are behaving with each child in your life in the same way but getting different results remember that Each Child is Unique and pay attention to the differences in your children! Again, be consistent, be observant, and most of all, be truly present and you will begin to see the gift that each child has within him or her and you will know how to best respond to them.  

 

Uncontrollable Tantrums

I would not be addressing all children and helping parents if I excluded this one.  Tantrums are a normal part of development up to a certain point. However, if your child is having many tantrums per day on a regular basis and you are concerned please do not ignore your concern! We see many children whose parents refer to their tantrums as “meltdowns”. Frequent uncontrollable tantrums (we’re talking many in a day on a daily basis), are often of immature brain development and often problems of a physiological nature. Children who experience these types of tantrums are not brats. They simply cannot control it and they need help. In this case, changing your behavior or trying to change the child’s behavior by punishing or any other method will not stop them from having tantrums. In these types of cases children often have a neurological need that is not being addressed. When we fulfill those needs the tantrums go away. If your child is experiencing this and you want help please feel free to contact us and we will be happy to talk with you. We offer a free 30 minute online consultation to talk through your concerns and give initial advice.

All children have tantrums and not just when they are two or three years old. All children are trying to figure out where they have control and what to do in order to get their way. That is true throughout life, right? Aren’t we all trying to keep control?!

 

Now that the holidays are approaching, parents are feeling more stressed and so will the little ones. When stress is up, behavior is down! In a future post I will give some tips on how to keep you more in the “Zen Zone” to help you deal with the behavior issues of your little ones. In the meantime, begin by truly paying attention to how you act and react when your child wants something or is being testy. I bet you will be surprised how much you encourage the behavior that you are trying to stop by giving it so much attention! Begin by changing how you respond, and watch her changing how she acts. And remember, be kind to yourself and your child! We are all human and it is not about being perfect. It is about wanting and trying to do better! Give yourself grace. Give your child grace. Hug each other a little more and take a breath. We all have bad days from the littlest ones on up. Be there for each other and work to be better for each other. Those little eyes are always watching and learning.

Take a Chance or Take Control

By Charles Solis / August 31, 2018 / Comments Off on Take a Chance or Take Control

A few weeks ago, one of our followers on Instagram posed a great question “why is it that some parents don’t see raising their child as something so complex, and that they just think that their children will be fine with whatever happens in life?”

Because it is a question that touches on a lot of important issues I promised in my Instagram response to answer it more fully in a blog post. So, @brookehilder, here goes! I’ll start by rephrasing and simplifying the question. Why do some parents leave their child’s development to chance rather than take an active role in promoting it?

Let me begin by talking about parents. Here at BrainFit Kids we have the utmost respect for and confidence in parents. We believe with our hearts and souls that the best chance that every child has in life rests with his or her parents. This is because of what we call the anthropological reality of the family bond. Woven into the very nature of what it is to be a human being is the love that exists between parent and child. This is no ordinary love but a special kind of love that only a parent can understand. There is no sense in trying to explain it to someone who is not a parent. You simply have to experience it for yourself. But once you experience it, you will never be the same person again. Ask any parent.

We’re convinced that parents really do want the best for their children. We have always taught that parents know their circumstances and their children best and they should decide what is best for them and their children.

We know that parenting is a tough job. Raising children often involves making sacrifices and establishing new priorities. Parents today face challenges and pressures and decisions that are unique to our modern era.

When two parents are working outside of the home, whether by necessity or choice, it can be difficult to reconcile their baby’s deeply ingrained biological and physiological needs with their own social and psychological needs. That is something that each family must figure out for themselves. We think that’s the way it should be.

So let’s get back to the original question – why do some parents leave their child’s development to chance rather than take an active role in promoting it?

I think it is safe to say that from the moment a couple learns they are expecting a child, they begin to have hopes and dreams for their little one. Some parents have really specific dreams but mostly parents dream that their child will grow up to be healthy, capable, successful, and happy. And so the little bundle of joy is born and then many parents cross their fingers and hope their dream comes true. Why? There are probably as many reasons as there are parents but here are two reasons that most parents share.

First, for most of recorded history the standard dogma about child development, particularly child brain development, has been that it is the luck of the draw. Remember, we have been at this game for more than forty years. As the popular Farmers Insurance commercial says “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two”! The phenomenon of neuroplasticity (the idea that the structure, chemistry, and function of the brain is influenced by experience) was proved and recognized as scientific fact in other mammals (dogs, cats, mice, rats), as early as the 1950’s. But neuroplasticity in human beings was denied. As recently as twenty five years ago, the medical, education, and psychology establishments taught that the human brain was not affected by experience or its environment.

While we now know that neuroplasticity exists in human beings, the popular belief remains much as it was forty years ago… if you are lucky enough to be born with a good brain you will do well in life; if you are unlucky and are born with a compromised brain you will struggle. So, it is no surprise that many parents assume their child will be fine. In a certain sense, this assumption is a bit of self-preservation because if it’s the luck of the draw anyway and there isn’t much you can do about it, much better to just think positive!

Second, the rise of the professional class (medicine, education, psychology) over the past hundred years or so has resulted in a shift of responsibility for many aspects of our lives. Generations ago, parents truly were responsible for every aspect of their child’s development. Without any fancy degrees or special knowledge, drawing on their personal experiences growing up and relying on wisdom passed down through the generations, parents managed to raise children quite successfully. Knowing nothing about neuroplasticity, mothers and fathers managed to bring us from the caves of the prehistoric age to the modern age. In the process they raised some pretty extraordinary humans. The philosophers of ancient Greece, the geniuses of the Italian Renaissance, the Founding Fathers of the American experiment in democracy are just a few examples of amazingly capable people who were once children who were raised lock, stock, and barrel by their mothers and fathers.

Sadly, some parents today feel insecure about this responsibility because, after all, they are just parents! What do they know about raising children? Part of the insecurity parents feel is due to the fact that generally we have smaller families today so many parents have little personal experience to draw on. Part is due to the fact that, as least in the United States, the family is not the close unit it once was and we are a much more mobile society. So parents often can’t rely on the wisdom of previous generations. So they turn to professionals!

Education professionals in particular are only too eager to capitalize on this. All one needs to do to see how far this has gone is to look at the push for universal daycare and universal early childhood education. After denying neuroplasticity for decades, professionals today try to justify having every child in daycare or school as early as three months of age on the basis that it is important to take advantage of neuroplasticity!

Now, please don’t misunderstand what I am saying. We believe that every child should get the best quality care and a good early education. Indeed, that’s what BrainFit Kids is all about! We’re all for taking advantage of neuroplasticity! It’s just that we believe that parents are perfectly capable of doing this and can do so much better than professionals. What parents need is knowledge and our support in making that possible.

So, what’s a parent to do? Well, that really depends on how parents see their role and how much of themselves they want to and are willing to invest in it. Again, that is something that only parents can decide. But for those who want to take an active role in fostering their child’s development, the answer is education. Unlike a new car, little babies don’t come with a manual that tells you how they work. We started BrainFit Kids to fill in that knowledge gap.

Parenting With the Brain in Mind is about parents having an awareness of two things – the absolute miracle going on inside the head of that little baby they love so much and the extraordinary influence they have on that miracle. Once parents have that knowledge and awareness they can never look at their child or themselves in the same way again. That leads to children who are more capable and struggle less.

Speaking about struggle, today we have an epidemic of children diagnosed with attention problems, behavior problems, and learning difficulties. More than 5 million American children take drugs for attention problems alone. These children suffer terribly as a result of their limitations. The tragedy is that much of this suffering is completely avoidable. When parents have more knowledge and awareness about child brain development they are in a much better position to help and make a difference!

I’ll end with two final thoughts. As you make your own personal decisions as to what works best for you and your family, understand that there is no such thing as perfect parenting. You can parent with the brain in mind, which is to say with a very important purpose, but you can’t possibly be a perfect parent. So cut yourself some slack and just do your best. And keep in mind that raising children is the ultimate responsibility because, as Wordsworth said, “the Child is father of the Man”; children are our future! So long as you recognize the importance of that responsibility, you and your children will be just fine and our world will be a better place.

Kickstarting Mobility

By Charles Solis / May 15, 2018 / Comments Off on Kickstarting Mobility

We are often asked, “What is the most important thing that I can do for my child’s brain?”  The answer may surprise you. Put your child in the prone position, which is to say, on his tummy! That’s it. No fancy, expensive toys or equipment. No mommy/baby classes. No iPads. All you need is a comfortable surface and the time to be with your baby. This one practice will do more for your child’s brain than anything else you can do. Put him on his tummy! Pretty simple, right?

So, let’s dive right in and talk about tummy time. Parents are sometimes aware that giving their child tummy time is a good idea but they are almost never told how to do it or why it’s important. It is one of the reasons that most parents avoid it like the plague. And, unfortunately, many children are paying a price for that.

Tummy time is one of the most important developmental opportunities you can give your baby but it has to be done right. We’ll start with why it’s important and then talk about how to do it.

Why do Tummy Time

Did you know that when you place your baby on her tummy (prone position) you are not only developing her muscles but you are also developing your baby’s brain? The development of the function of mobility begins with time spent in the prone position, tummy time.

We define mobility as follows – the function we use to transport ourselves from point A to point B. The key word in that definition is transport. Mobility is useless as a function, it serves no purpose, unless it is directed towards something. That something is transportation. Developing good mobility is not complicated, but it is extremely important. Why?

All forms of mobility, including tummy crawling:

  • Facilitate brain organization
  • Increase production of myelin
  • Increase production of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor) – a protein produced in the brain during physical activity. Neuroscientists call it “Miracle-Gro for the brain” because of the proliferation of new neurons and dendrites produced whenever it is found in high concentrations.
  • Develop the senses of vision, hearing and tactile ability
  • Increase muscle strength
  • Improve coordination and balance
  • Improve posture
  • Develop breathing

Mobility is key to brain organization because the brain works as a holistic system. Everything affects everything else. Primitive brain structures are connected to higher level brain structures. As in any system, it is important that each component of the system functions well for the entire system to function well.

This concept is important to mobility’s role in brain organization because the only time that human beings use all functions simultaneously is when we are moving. Every time we use an ability, we are using and developing our brain. When we move, we use vision to see where we are going. We use hearing and receive information about our position in space by way of the inner ear. We feel our arms and legs moving through our tactile sense. We use our hands when we crawl and creep. So mobility is, in a very real sense, the glue that holds all other functions together.

There are many ways a baby can learn to move but not all of them foster good brain development and brain organization. Keep in mind that we human beings are designed to start moving for transportation on our tummies and not on our backs or our bottoms! The natural progression that all babies should experience is to begin by crawling on their tummies, then to progress to creeping on their hands and knees, then to stand and cruise (often holding onto furniture), and finally, the grand prizes of walking and running.

So, what are the best practices to make tummy time enjoyable and successful for your baby and you? We’re so glad you asked!

 

How to do Tummy Time

 

When to start?

Provided your baby is healthy, begin right from birth. Why? Because when done correctly, babies who are placed on their tummies right from birth learn to enjoy tummy time. You want your baby to enjoy tummy time. Your baby should enjoy tummy time.

In the below video of my granddaughter, she is already having a tummy time session at 3 days of age . You’ll see that even at only a few days of age she is already comfortable on her tummy.

If you have not started tummy time from birth, no worries. The beautiful thing about the human brain is that we can always make up for missed opportunity. The first step is to recognize the importance of the opportunity. Begin now and follow the steps below.

 

Be present

Always be with your baby when doing tummy time! When placing your baby on her tummy, always be with her so you can see her face, she can see yours, and you can pick her up as soon as necessary. If you have your baby on a mat on the floor, lay down on the floor next to her. Doing this will reassure your baby that you are always there for her no matter where she is or what position she is in. That will make her happy. And if she’s happy, you’ll be happy.

 

Surface

For now, aside from being clean and comfortable, the type of surface on which you place your baby is not very important. What is important is that you want to make sure there is nothing around the baby (sheets, blankets, clothing, etc.) that she can pull onto her face, thus potentially affecting her ability to breathe. So, a comfortable mattress covered with a clean sheet works just fine.

 

Dress

When it comes to tummy time and learning to move, remember that less is more. You want your baby to be dressed appropriately for the ambient temperature in the room. So, if the temperature is warm perhaps barefoot with just a t-shirt and a diaper will work just fine. If the temperature is on the cooler side perhaps you will want to dress your baby in a onesie or pajamas with her feet covered. Do what you think is right for the temperature. The one thing you do want to pay attention to is that the clothing should not in any way interfere with your baby’s ability to move her arms and/or legs. Provided she can move freely, you and she are in good shape.

The below video is of my grandson doing tummy time at one week of age. It’s a good illustration of all of the previous points – always being present, a comfortable surface, and appropriate dress. And, there’s a great little bonus towards the end.

 

Frequency

In our last blog post about the second law of brain development, we talked about the importance of using the correct frequency, intensity, and duration for whatever activity we are doing with a child. For a child with an immature brain (either because of chronological age, brain-injury, or lack of development), the frequency of any activity should always be high. Whatever it is, you want to do it often.

So, you want to use high frequency. You should place your baby on her tummy at every opportunity – many times throughout the day whenever she is awake. Logical exceptions to this are when nursing or bottle feeding, changing her diaper, or just spending time snuggling. A good way to get in the habit is to roll your little one over onto her tummy after every diaper change.

 

Duration

Going back to our post on the second law of brain development, when dealing with a child with an immature brain (either because of chronological age, brain-injury, or lack of development), the duration of any activity should always be kept short.

So, you want to use short duration. Your baby may fuss a bit at first and that’s alright. Pick her up as soon as she begins to cry or complain too much. Talk to her, kiss her, and as soon as she is happy again place her back on her tummy. The sessions might begin with just a few seconds, but if you do it frequently enough your baby will be comfortable on her tummy. Stay attuned to your baby and if she is getting tired and fussy, stop. Eventually, you will know the right duration. As your baby gets more and more comfortable, develops good head control and gets stronger, the duration should increase.  

 

Motivation

Since we are all born with a genetic imperative to move, most babies need very little motivation. But motivation never hurts. In the beginning use brightly colored toys, bright contrasting pictures, toys that play music and/or have bright lights. Place them just out of your baby’s reach. Move them slowly from one side to the other.

 

Use language

This is a good time to talk and sing to your baby. Have a conversation with her. Tell her how much you love her, how proud you are of her efforts. She wants to hear your voice! All children love music. Tummy time is a good time for you to sing to her. This will have the additional benefit of getting you in the habit of talking to your child and talking to her is the first step to developing understanding.

One more video of my granddaughter, this time at just shy of 6 months of age and already beginning to crawl for transportation. This clip shows nicely how by paying attention to all of the points in this post a child can be well on the road to independent mobility within a few months.

As you can see, creating good mobility really requires only three things:

  • placing your child in the correct (i.e. functional) position
  • providing an environment that makes movement safe and easy
  • giving your child ample opportunity to move

It’s that simple!

Cheers to Asking Questions – How to Develop Your Toddler’s Understanding

By Conceição Solis / May 2, 2018 /

In our previous blog, How to Best Develop Your Baby’s Understanding we discussed the fact that children who are spoken to a lot and from birth develop understanding earlier and generally have a more sophisticated and mature understanding of language. As a result, they tend to have better cognitive function. A key element to remember is to talk with your child not just to your child. In our last post, we noted a recent study at MIT in which they provide proof of the importance of conversation with adults in the development of understanding and language. While your child is a baby, the “conversation” is clearly more one-sided and it may feel like you are simply talking to them. Even for babies, however, be sure to give them time to coo and babble at you. In these very early stages you are beginning to teach them about the art of conversation. As your baby grows into a toddler that back and forth becomes more crucial.

Babies who are spoken to from birth and who listen to language that is varied and sophisticated will speak earlier, use a richer vocabulary and will more quickly develop proper sentence construction. Remember, garbage in – garbage out. The reverse is also true. Correct and sophisticated information into the child’s brain will result in correct and sophisticated language coming out of the child’s mouth!

In addition to having a bigger vocabulary and more sophisticated use of language, these children will have a greater ability to foster their curiosity about the world that surrounds them and they will ask more questions.

Enter the “Why?” stage. Do you remember that phase? Is your child going through this phase now? If your child is not there yet, just wait!

  • “Why is the sky blue?”
  • “What makes an airplanes fly?”
  • “Why can’t people fly?”
  • “How come this flower is yellow?”
  • “Why is spinach good for me?”
  • “Why do we have to go shopping now?”
  • “Why is Grandma mommy’s mom and Nana is Dad’s mom?”
  • “Why is it night time?”
  • “Why is it day time?”
  • “What makes the sun come up?”
  • “What makes the sun go down?”
  • “Why do slugs leave a slimy trail?”
  • “Why do some birds eat worms?”
  • “How long does it take to get there?”
  • “How many stars are in the sky?

Here is one my grandson asked me during one of my trips to Chicago when he was 3 years old: “Vovó (Grandmother in Portuguese), why do clouds float?”

Me: “Hmm, I don’t exactly know why but let’s look it up!”

Him: “Maybe they have helium, like balloons?”. Pretty clever, actually! Here you also see the leap from simply asking questions to formulating his own hypothesis.

Sometimes you feel like the questions will never end! I strongly recommend that you not laugh and dismiss them or their questions. What a great opportunity your child is giving you. If you do not know the answer, look it up, and let them know in a way that they can understand. Yes, the constant “Why?”, “What?” and “How?” questions can wear on a parent. Believe us, we feel you! But it really is a wonderful thing for a child to be that curious. So find solace in the fact that you have an eager learner when you’re answering “why”, “what” and “how” for the millionth time.

Glenn Doman, a very important mentor of ours used to say, “The brain is the only container that the more you put in, the more it can hold!” This is so true. It means that the more you teach a child the more they want to learn, the more curious they become, and the more questions they ask! Another advantage to welcoming your child’s questions is that when a child asks lots of questions she is providing you with a great opportunity to learn about her interests and what she wants to learn. And it’s fun! Kids really do say the darndest things!

Here are some pointers to encourage your toddler’s natural curiosity and to keep those questions coming:

As your child grows, get in the habit of including your child when you are conversing with others. This doesn’t mean that your child has to be a part of all of your conversations. However, you should not carry on extensive conversations as your child just sits there being ignored, even when they are babies. By developing the habit of frequently addressing your child verbally you will get used to naturally including them in a conversation when appropriate. The message the child receives is that you are interested in what he has to say and ready to respond to his questions and to help him learn. Your children will learn to appropriately join in on a conversation and feel comfortable asking questions. Your child will learn the art of conversation because the message you are sending is that we listen to each other, and what you have to say is valued and important. Children who are ignored or dismissed get the message that they are to be seen and not heard. And that is certainly not the message we want to send.

In addition, by answering a child’s questions you are providing information while also continuing to encourage her curiosity and her excitement for learning! Why do most adults stop asking so many why’s, how’s and what’s? Is it because we take many things for granted? Is it because we were made to feel silly for asking so many questions? Is it because we were dismissed or ignored and concluded that it wasn’t important for us to know the answer? Or is it because we began to equate learning with performing on a test and not for the sake of knowledge and fun? It is likely a combination of factors. Most would agree, however, that innovation and development comes from people who continue to ask “why, what or how can I make xyz different or better?”. Answering a child’s questions with the same enthusiasm with which they ask, brings fun into the discussion, and it conveys to them that “Yes, learning is fun!”

Be sure to also remember what I told you in our previous post. When talking to your child, whenever possible make sure you place yourself at your child’s level so that you are face to face and not talking down to them.

And when it comes to the neurological benefits of conversation, remember what we said in our post, The Brain Grows Through Use – “Brain plasticity exists because function determines structure. The single most important thing you need to know about the brain is that the brain grows through use. It does so in much the same way as a muscle. Your child’s brain grows, it literally goes through structural and chemical changes, every time it is used.” What simpler way to achieve this than through good conversation that provides your child with new information?

So keep answering those questions and when you get to the point where you wonder if your toddler will ever stop talking and asking questions you will know you have done a good job! 😉   

Oh, and one more benefit is that when your child asks questions they give you the opportunity to learn something new. Embrace looking at the world through a child’s eyes and you will both have a lot of fun learning together!

Just one more thing!  In case you’re still wondering why clouds float – check out the answer from It’s Okay to Be Smart by PBS Digital Studios.

BFK Book Review: Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever

By Juliana Gaither / April 24, 2018 / Comments Off on BFK Book Review: Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever

Richard Scarry books have been around for decades. There are lots of them in the series so if you’re kids are into them you’ll have lots to choose from as they grow. The Best Word Book Ever is a great one to start with.

Name of Book:

Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever

Book Category:

Children’s book

Summary of Book:

Words, words, words! They define everything and kids want to define their world. Richard Scarry’s Best Word Book Ever is frankly the best word book ever!!! From the Bear’s home to the beach, from the airport to the zoo, verbs, numbers, parts of the body, every oversized spread has hundreds of things to look at, point to, and identify

Pigs, cats, rabbits, and bears, all doing what we do every day—playing with toys, driving fire engines, and experiencing life, just like the avid readers of this classic favorite.  In print for fifty years, this book has sold over 4.5 million copies. . . . That’s over a billion words learned by children all over the world.  Learning has never been more fun! (Summary courtesy of goodreads.com)

 

Recommended Age Range:

1.5-3 years. Note this is a younger age range than listed by Penguin Random House. They list the range as 3-7 years. Our kids have LOVED this book starting at about 1.5 years of age and then moved on to other Richard Scarry books with longer stories in them by about 3 years old.  

 

Why We Like It:

This classic book is wonderful for increasing your little one’s vocabulary in a fun way. Literally everything in the book is labeled and kids love looking through the pictures and talking about everything they see. We found that our kids really started to enjoy it at about 1.5 years of age.  It’s also a helpful tool in developing language as it aides with the first step of developing understanding. Before children can perfect language they need to develop understanding and one of the best ways to develop understanding is through hearing and talking about anything and everything. This book provides a great canvas on which to do that. Since everything is labeled it often reminds us as adults to point out things we might otherwise gloss over. And it provides opportunities to take any number of tangents about items or topics that your child shows an interest in.  

If you speak Spanish (or want to learn Spanish along with your child!) then the Spanish Edition is great as it lists everything in both English and Spanish. So it’s a wonderful way to build vocabulary in both languages.  

Once your child has the attention span for slightly longer stories you can move on to some of the other great Richard Scarry books. These are some of our favorites:

In Cars and Trucks and Things That Go our kids love looking for Goldbug on every page. Since this is really one long ongoing story we started a rule at bedtime that we would do 6 pages at a time and would keep a bookmark in the book to pick up where we left off each night. This helped keep bedtime reading from stretching on for too long! 😉 The other two, What Do People Do All Day? and Busy, Busy World are good compilations of shorter stories that you can do piecemeal with your kids. As we mentioned, these books are classics so some of the content can be outdated but it can also make for fun sharing of stories. “Kids, this is what pencil sharpeners looked like in the classroom when I was a kid…”

We hope you and your kids enjoy reading these ones as much as we have!

How to Develop Your Baby’s Understanding!

By Conceição Solis / April 17, 2018 / Comments Off on How to Develop Your Baby’s Understanding!

Children are born with a natural instinct to learn. They are constantly trying to figure out how something works: feeling it, picking stuff up, tasting everything! They love to learn. There is nothing better than looking at the world through a child’s eyes. It is a wonderful thing to experience. The more you teach a child, the more curious they become about the world around them, and the more they want to learn.

As newborns grow, the functions of vision, hearing and understanding, and tactile ability play an increasingly important role in how they learn. It’s important to take advantage of the visual, auditory and tactile pathways to begin developing your baby’s understanding of his environment.

Today, we’ll focus on the auditory/understanding function. Before we expect output we must give input. In other words, before you can expect your child to speak we must teach her to understand spoken language. The more direct language your baby hears, the earlier she will understand and the earlier she will follow instructions. As a result, children who are spoken to a lot throughout the day, and from birth, have a broader and more sophisticated understanding.

 

Two studies highlight just how important this simple practice is for a child’s brain.

  1. The first is a 1995 University of Kansas research study that focused on vocabulary and the number of words heard by children. The researchers discovered that poor children heard about 600 words/hour, middle class children heard about 1200 words/hour, and children from professional families heard about 2100 words/hour. By age 3 the poor children heard about 3 million less words than the children from professional families. This matters because in this study IQ and success in school correlated closely with the number of words heard early in life. Talking to children from the time they are born has a tremendous impact on brain development and future cognitive/intellectual function.
  2. The second study, just published in February 2018, builds on the U of K study and was done at MIT. In this study, the researchers used functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) to evaluate the importance of how we talk to children, not just how much we talk to them. This study provided clear proof that the critical factor in developing understanding is to actually engage children as you are speaking with them. The children who had the highest number of conversation experiences where there was give and take between parent and child were the ones who had the most brain activity in the language centers of the brain and the most brain growth. The study also found that these results correlated strongly on standardized tests of language skills, including vocabulary, grammar, and verbal reasoning.

 

So, hearing words directly from a person interacting with the child face-to-face is what has the most impact. Aside from other concerns, this means that putting a child in front of an iPad, smart phone, or TV is not the same thing as a live person talking to the child.

This study helps illustrate the first law of brain development, “Function determines Structure”, which we explained in our previous blog post. When we speak to children using a rich, varied, and sophisticated vocabulary, and engage them in the dance of interactive communication, we literally grow the brain by creating new auditory pathways and reinforcing the pathways that already exist. The result is better understanding and eventually better cognitive skills in all areas of communication. Such a simple action with such powerful results!  

 

So, how do we develop understanding?

It is actually very easy, especially for those of us who like to talk and to be around children. But it can be a bit of a challenge for those of us who are more on the quiet side and are not so sure what to say to a child. First, let’s not ignore the fact that we are all too often connected to our own devices and they take time away from us truly being with our children. So, you need to discipline yourself regarding time spent on your smartphone or other device when you are with your baby or toddler. Once you get this out of the way, you just have to be conscious of your surroundings and use this opportunity to talk.

 

One of the simplest ways to teach babies is to talk to them about everything that is around them. Here are just a few examples of what to say:

  • When your baby wakes up – “Good morning beautiful! Did you sleep well? Let’s get you changed…”
  • When you are nursing her – “I love you so much! Your skin is so soft. Your toes are so cute (as you stroke her toes)…”
  • When you are changing his diaper – “Phew, you stink! Let’s get you cleaned! While changing him take advantage to touch his nose and tell him “nose”, touch his mouth and tell him “mouth”, touch his ears and say “ears” if touching both or “ear” if touching one ear and so on…
  • When you are wearing her – Point out things that are close to her and name them. Stop by a flower and say “flower”, “This flower is so beautiful!”, “It is a yellow flower”…
  • When you are taking a walk with baby in a stroller talk to your baby – “Let’s go for a walk”, “Look at that dog!”, “He’s a big dog”, “Wow, there are so many cars on the street!”, “Is the sun bothering you?”, “Let me put the cover up to get the sun out of your eyes…”  
  • When you are driving somewhere – “Let me put you in the car”, “Here is a “toy” for you to look at!”, “Isn’t it pretty?!”, We are going to visit daddy at work”, “I am taking you to daycare and after that I am going to work” and so on.
  • Sing! When you are cooking, cleaning, driving or just cuddling with your child. Children love music and as they grow they love to dance! Sing children’s songs and other songs you and your child enjoy listening to.

Opportunities for talking are everywhere. You can make the most of your engagement with your child by paying attention to the following points:

 

Provide New Information

In order to change the brain we must regularly provide new information. If we keep teaching the same thing over and over again, past the point where the child has learned the information, eventually the brain just tunes out. But, when we provide new information the brain is at attention and it grows and develops!

 

Provide Correct Information

You also want to make sure that the information you provide is correct information. Another basic law is that when we put garbage in, we get garbage out. Make sure that you are giving correct information. “Baby talk” teaches language that will need to be corrected later. Best to teach it correctly right from the beginning.

 

Place yourself in the best position

When speaking to your baby make sure your face is facing his and that you are close to him. This is especially important for babies in their first 3 months of life when their vision is immature. As your baby grows you can begin to distance yourself but make sure your baby is aware that you are talking to her. If she is not, you are too far away.

 

 

When speaking to a toddler and young child it is best if you get down to the child’s level whenever possible. By this we mean, bend down or get down on one knee so that you are face to face with them. This puts you both on more even ground as opposed to you literally talking down to them. It makes a child more comfortable and draws their attention to what you are saying while also encouraging a response. It shows them that they have your undivided attention and that you would like the same attention from them. It is a lesson in communication and listening skills. Believe me, your child will appreciate this simple act! My grandson at 3 years of age said to my daughter, “Vovó (grandmother in Portuguese) always kneels down when she talks to me and I really like that!” I was very happy to hear that he noticed this small act and even happier that he appreciated it!

 

Reading

In addition to talking to your child about everything, be sure to read lots of children’s books beginning from birth.  

 

Playing

Playing with your child gives you a great opportunity to talk and different games provide you with varied vocabulary to use. When building with legos or blocks talk about what you are doing, describe the shapes of the blocks, the colors and so on. Make up a story to go with the game! When playing outdoors you have all of nature to talk about. Be sure to bring in all the senses and talk about how things feel, smell, etc. The more you play, the more opportunity you have to use language.

Keep this in mind when you welcome your baby home – she is an empty vessel ready to learn and grow. By speaking to your child about the world that surrounds her and by using rich vocabulary you are laying the foundation for a child who will have a sophisticated level of understanding and be an enthusiastic lifelong learner.

 

Keep talking to and with your child no matter their age!  

The Brain Grows Through Use

By Charles Solis / April 12, 2018 / Comments Off on The Brain Grows Through Use

In Lewis Carroll’s classic novel, Alice in Wonderland, the White Rabbit asks the King, “Where shall I begin, please your Majesty?” “Begin at the beginning”, the King replies gravely, “and go on till you come to the end: then stop.” And so we shall!

Raising a BrainFit Kid is a heck of a lot of fun and actually a lot easier than you might imagine. Because we want you to feel complete confidence in your ability to “Parent with the Brain in Mind” we believe it is important for you to understand the science that underpins everything we do. It’s absolutely fascinating and really important because raising a BrainFit Kid is really important. Here are just three reasons why. First, 85% of the human brain develops in the first three years of life! Second, there are only about 2000 days from when a child is born to when she starts kindergarten. Third, according to a study done by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, investment in early childhood development yields a 7 to 1 return (ROI) over a child’s lifetime. So you see, every day matters. Let’s get started!

The human brain is a great paradox, simultaneously complex and simple. It is, without question, the most complicated thing in the known universe. Yet, its development is governed by some very basic laws of nature. Today, we’re going to look at the first of those laws, a simple law of nature that says that function determines structure.

Function determines Structure

The relationship between function and structure is seen throughout nature and influences many fields of endeavor. The law is very easy to observe in the human body, particularly in the musculoskeletal system. If I work out regularly (lifting weights, cardiovascular exercise, stretching, etc.) my muscles will develop, becoming bigger and more effective, and my body will be well toned, flexible, and agile. How I work out will influence how my body looks. Just think of the different body types of long distance runners compared to sprinters. My body structure will change according to how much emphasis I place on one type of exercise or another.

Take this gymnast on the pommel horse. He didn’t get those muscles and that finely tuned body sitting on the sofa all day eating potato chips. He got that way working out in the gym. And he has the body type he has because of the type of exercises he does regularly. Function determines structure.

There are two important corollaries to this law. First, that a lack of function will result in a lack of structure. This is called atrophy. Let’s say you break your left leg while skiing. Your leg is placed in a cast to immobilize it and promote healing. When the cast is removed you see a big difference in the appearance of the left leg compared to the right leg. It’s smaller! Lack of function (due to immobility) has resulted in atrophy of your quadricep, hamstring, and calf muscles. The second corollary is that abnormal function will result in abnormal structure. We see this often in brain-injured children especially when their brain-injury affects motor development. Children diagnosed with cerebral palsy (read brain-injury) usually spend a lot of time visiting orthopedic surgeons because they often develop structural problems as a result of not developing proper motor function.

The magnificent thing about the human body is that the law, function determines structure, also applies to the human brain. You may have heard of the term, brain plasticity. Well, brain plasticity exists because function determines structure. So, the single most important thing you need to know about the brain is that the brain grows through use. It does so in much the same way as a muscle. Your child’s brain grows, it literally goes through structural and chemical changes, every time it is used. This is the key to understanding everything about the development of human ability.

Every face seen helps to develop vision, every sound heard helps to develop hearing, every caress felt helps to develop tactile ability…  every experience changes the brain. It happens because it is a law of nature.

 

Brain Plasticity

Let’s take a deeper look at brain plasticity. Brain plasticity, or neuroplasticity, is the ability of human brain to change its physical structure and biochemistry as a result of stimulation from the environment (visual, auditory, tactile, olfactory, and gustatory), the use of motor function (mobility, language, and manual ability) and the presence of adequate nutrition. This change takes place in the development of new brain cells (neurons), new cell structures (dendrites and myelin), and new connections between neurons (synapses). The term plasticity is not meant to imply that the brain is somehow like plastic but rather refers to the brain’s malleability.

While interest in brain plasticity is all the rage these days, it was not always so. When we began our work with children more than forty years ago, the standard dogma amongst doctors and educators was that the brain could not be changed. We were often accused of being charlatans for suggesting otherwise. The story of how all of that changed is an interesting one.

Brain plasticity has been an area of scientific interest for more than a century. Boris Klosovskii, a Russian neurophysiologist, started his work in this field in 1934. He performed many classic experiments that demonstrated conclusively that placing newborn puppies and kittens on a constantly revolving turntable (think record player) increased structural development in the balance centers of their brains by an astonishing 32% in just 30 days! Neurophysiologists working with a variety of animal species, have known since the 1950’s that increased environmental stimulation creates structural changes in the brain along with improved ability.

For several decades in the latter part of the last century, brain plasticity in human beings was also suspected by many neurophysiologists and by a small number of people pioneering new approaches to the developmental problems of brain-injured children.

Glenn Doman, one of the great pioneers in work with brain-injured children, in his 1963 book, How to Teach Your Baby to Read, said:

“It had always been assumed that neurological growth and its product, ability, were a static and irrevocable fact: This child was capable and that child was not. This child was bright and that child was not. Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is that neurological growth, which we had always considered a static and irrevocable fact, is a dynamic and ever changing process.”

Neurophysiologist David Krech of the University of California at Berkeley was one of the giants of his profession. Over the course of his career he studied the effect of environmental enrichment and environmental deprivation on the brains of young rats. His research clearly demonstrated that enrichment resulted in larger, heavier, more complex brains, and ‘smarter’ rats; and deprivation resulted in smaller, lighter, simple brains, and ‘dumber’ rats.

Krech proved that neuroplasticity existed in rats, but he knew in his heart that the phenomenon had to extend beyond rats. In a 1966 paper, he wrote:

“Although it would be scientifically unjustified to conclude at this stage that our results do apply to people, it would, I think, be socially criminal to assume that they do not apply – and, so assuming, fail to take account of the implications. For, if our findings do apply to people, then we are crippling many brains in their very beginnings by not providing them with an adequate, stimulating, psychological environment. And I would not use the term ‘crippling’ in any metaphoric sense but in a palpable physical sense.* We must not assume that what psychological impoverishment does to the brains of young rats cannot have some effect on the brains of children.” *My italics.

Unfortunately, it took more than thirty years for the medical and education establishments to catch up with Doman and Krech.

The difficulty was that Doman couldn’t turn his children into rats, and Krech couldn’t turn his rats into children. Plasticity in human brains was very difficult to prove scientifically without actually doing a physical examination of the brain. There was a veritable mountain of empirical evidence in favor of plasticity in humans but it was all circumstantial evidence and therefore unconvincing to most medical scientists. The breakthrough came with the invention and later refinement of CAT, PET, and MRI scanning technology, which allows one to see the brain in great structural detail and to see it in action as it is performing its functions. Everything changed in 1997, when a group of neuroscientists convened in Washington, D.C. to present their research at a conference on Early Childhood Development and Learning. Their conclusion about the brain at the end of the conference was very simple. The brain grows through use! Scanning technology proved beyond any doubt that, as Doman and Krech suspected so long ago, neurological growth is a dynamic and constantly changing process.

Throughout this month, the focus of our posts is the development of the function of understanding. Recently, a study done with 4 to 6 year olds at MIT using functional magnetic resonance imaging (fMRI) provided elegant proof that talking to children, and particularly how we talk to them, grows the brain. Building on a previous study that measured the number of words children hear, this study focused on the number of times children were engaged in conversation. Using fMRI imaging, the research team was able to identify clear differences in the brain’s response to language and correlate those differences with the number of conversation opportunities the children had experienced with their parents. The children who experienced more conversations, who had not just input but engagement, had significantly more activity in Broca’s area, the part of the human cortex directly involved in language processing and speech production. According to John Gabrieli, a member of MIT’s McGovern Institute for Brain Research and senior author of the study, “It’s almost magical how parental conversation appears to influence the biological growth of the brain.”

The importance of the biological reality of brain plasticity for all of us is incalculable because it means that functional ability can be created. It means that functional ability can be improved. It’s important because it represents hope for the future. It means that every child born has far more potential than anyone ever realized. It means that your child has far more potential than you realize!

At the start of this blog we said that raising a BrainFit Kid was a heck of a lot of fun and a lot easier than you might imagine. Now you have the first piece of the puzzle.

So, our hope is that you will begin your journey of Parenting with the Brain in Mind filled with the hope that brain plasticity offers. As Andy Dufresne said to Red in The Shawshank Redemption, “Remember, hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.”

Happy parenting!

 

Brain Fit Kids in Action – Email Series

By Jack Gaither / September 22, 2017 / Comments Off on Brain Fit Kids in Action – Email Series

Make the first three years count!

This free email course will introduce you to ideas that will have a profound impact on your child’s development and maximize your child’s potential.

Make the first three years count!

A FREE Email Course

7 Days of Simple Ideas

Expert child development guidance grounded in over 40 years of work in child brain development combined with two generations of practical parenting experience.

Recommended Reading

Want to go deeper? In this series we share some of our favorite resources that include books and websites to go deeper on the topics we cover.

BFK Approved Products

Overwhelmed by which products ACTUALLY help your child develop? We share some of the best practical products that will help your child grow and develop.

Make the first three years count!

BrainFit Kids combines extensive expertise in child brain development and “in the trenches” practical experience to help you raise children who are smart, capable and compassionate.  Parenting with the Brain in Mind matters because all physical, intellectual, social, and emotional ability is the direct result of the natural and orderly development of the human brain.

We are not, however, trying to rush a child’s development, bur rather ensure that a child has the greatest number of options available to them and therefore the best possible chance to reach their potential, whatever that potential may be.

This free seven day course will introduce you to our philosophy and cover a number of topics including:

  • The BrainFit Kids Story
    • Parenting with the Brain in Mind
  • Creating Attachment with your child
  • Tummy Time
    • Creating the Opportunity for Movement
    • Tummy Crawling for Transportation
    • Secrets to successful creeping & walking
  • Talking and Reading
    • How to make talking and reading a way of life
  • Hands on Play

 

 

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