We all want our kids to develop normally, reach their potential, and have lives that are easier or otherwise better than our own. In short, we want the best for our offspring. And most parents take great pains to ensure not only optimum health and happiness for kids, but also every opportunity for advancement as they grow and develop, from infants to toddlers to adolescents to adults. We want to impart the wisdom of our experience, nurture and support them in every pursuit, and push them to be all that they can be, socially, academically, personally, professionally, and so on. But when they’re still pretty tiny, our goals are much more finite. We want them to walk, talk, and exhibit the signs of healthy brain development. And as a parent, there are certainly steps you can take to shape your child’s mental abilities and cognitive functions. Here are a few areas you may want to focus on.
- Diet. Nutrition is a key component not only in proper physical development, but where brain development is concerned, as well. So long as you eat a healthy diet during pregnancy and breastfeeding you’re going to offer the best potential nutrition to your babies. But as they get old enough to start expanding their diets, you need to pay more attention to the nutritional value you provide through food. You might want to talk to your pediatrician about creating a healthy and balanced diet for your kids, but you probably have a basic idea of how nutrition works, and the food pyramid can help with guidelines for proper portions of protein, complex carbohydrates, and the fresh produce that will give them the vitamins and minerals needed to support growth and brain function. As a side note, avoiding excess sugar, fat, sodium, preservatives, and chemical additives can only help on the health front.
- Exercise. You tiny tots don’t need to jump on a treadmill or hit the stair climber like you, but they do need to engage in regular physical activity for a number of reasons. For one thing, they must get used to making their bodies respond to their commands, and this includes activities like walking and developing motor skills. Since the brain is an active participant in physical pursuits, exercise helps to build brain function, as well as strength and coordination.
- External stimuli. The outside world is a constant source of information and intrigue for babies, toddlers, and young children. You can use this to your advantage. You may start to space out when your kids spend ten minutes describing the wonder of spotting a ladybug in the garden, or when they ask you nested questions that basically amount to “why”. But steel yourself and pay attention. When you are excited about their discoveries and you take the time answer their questions thoughtfully, you’re encouraging them to explore and participate in the world around them and you’re creating a love of learning.
- Play. Toys can provide more than mere entertainment for your kids; they can help them to develop motor skills, to begin to recognize and categorize the world around them, and to learn how to behave in social situations. Whether you provide them with simple alphabet blocks or the entire Baby Einstein collection, the toys you choose can have an impact on how they develop.
- Parenting. The way you interact with your kids can certainly play a role in their ability to develop at a normal rate mentally. When you nurture your children, providing them with not only essentials like nutrition, exercise, and mental stimulus, but also with love, attention, and praise, you’re giving them the best opportunity to grow and develop normally. Of course, you don’t have complete control over this process, but you’re the main source of support, and your philosophy and parenting practices can have a major impact on brain development.