In many ways, parents are the coaches of a young child’s Brain Fitness Regimen! Like professional coaches, it is important for parents to employ physical exercises and activity which encourages and stimulates both sides of the brain.
Movement and visual exercises, which cross the mid-line of the brain and systematically work both left and right hemispheres, are very important to promoting the development of healthy pathways in the brain, positively impacting language acquisition and the performance of core academic skills such as reading and writing.
Early learning matters!
Neuroscientists tell us that in the early months and years as many as 700 new neural connections are formed every second! These neural connections are formed in the baby’s environment, largely through the crucial interactive experiences they have with adults. This forms the foundation of brain architecture, and amounts to the foundation upon which future learning depends.
Talking is free! Based on studies conducted through Harvard University’s Centre on the Developing Child, at approximately 18 months the pre-determinates to the size of a child’s vocabulary begin to appear. By age 3, children who had parents with college or university backgrounds and who regularly read and spoke to their infants and babies, had vocabularies 2 to 3 times larger than children from families with lower education levels.
Stress is toxic to young children! The environment in which a child learns is equally if not more important, than what the child learns!
Many hospitals are opening up areas within their pediatric care nurseries to treat infants born with the toxic effects of prenatal stress. Adverse experiences in childhood have recently been linked by researchers to a wide range of adult health concerns such as heart disease, obesity, and some types of cancer. Early life experiences with adversities such as poverty, maltreatment, neglect, caregiver mental illness and low parental education levels, have been proven to be risk factors contributing to varying levels of developmental impairment, and cognitive delays in young children.
All this points to the fact that stressed adults living in stressful environments produce stressed children, who in turn lead to another generation of stressed adults!
What should a parent coach look for?
Spending meaningful and quality time connecting and bonding with our children is one of the best ways to spot reactions and behaviors that appear to be outside of what we have previously seen or come to know as normal for our child. It is also important to understand that children learn and grow as individual beings. Just because your best friend’s/brother’s/neighbor’s child is walking earlier that yours, doesn’t automatically mean we should push the panic button! There are certain cues however that may signal the need for professional consultation.
Be on the look out when:
• Your child avoids crawling, or did not crawl. Crawling is important as it promotes healthy bi-lateral brain development.Children who do not crawl may later present with difficulties with skills such as reading and writing.
• Reading skills, such as a child’s ability to track and follow words in sequence, which is related to visual functioning, are impaired. Seeking guidance and specialized testing, such as those performed by a developmental optometrist, may be helpful.
• Your child is spoken to/speaks with other children in social settings. Do they avoid social interactions? Children with learning challenges experience difficulties initiating and maintaining peer relationships. They are often isolated and lack the social skills to interact positively/appropriately.
Consult your family doctor, pediatrician, or other medical professional if you are ever concerned about any aspect of your child’s development which does not seem normal. A helpful guide for parents is the recent publication Success by 6: First Steps & Beyond, A child development a resource guide produced by United Way, the Credit Unions of BC, the BC Government through the Ministry of Children and Family Development, and the First Nations Health Council. Visit www.successby6bc.ca/what-we-do/projects/early-years-resources.
Kristi M. Rigg, B.Ed, M.Ed., is the president and CEO of West Coast Centre for Learning, in Surrey BC. As an author, Kristi draws on her own experience as a professional educator and a parent of a child with learning challenges. The primary focus of her business is to provide support to individuals—and their families—struggling with challenges to working memory and personal capacity development. Kristi has a Master’s degree in Education from the University of Bristol in England. With over 20 years of experience in the education field, her academic contributions and cognitive consulting services have benefited private schools and distance education providers locally as well as internationally.
West Coast Centre For Learning has recently been recognized, by the Surrey Board of Trade, as an organization that has developed a new or improved technology, service, process or product by using creative methods and innovative thinking that has the potential to transform quality of life. Their uniqueness and originality stems from the way in which the founder has taken concepts from internationally renowned research and award winning cognitive development software for children. The organization has creatively developed services for two innovative niche markets blending online learning technology programs with mental health and wellness services designed to support inclusive multicultural workplace environments as well as the unique needs of an aging population. They have distinguished themselves through Accreditation by Pearson Education Canada and Scientific Learning to develop two new local niche markets, offering the highest quality neuroscience technology that the international scientific and academic research community has to offer in support of human capital I business as well as older adult health and wellness.