Neuroscience

So, parent of an infant or toddler, what are you doing to help your child make lots of neural connections these days? Maybe you need to learn more about what you can do to help your child develop those all-important neural connections that bring about learning.

Neuroscience studies the brain and how it functions. It explains that through the workings of billions of nerve cells with trillions of connections, the brain receives stimuli, processes it, remembers a lot of it, and produces learning. Neuroscience demonstrates the complexity of the human mind and the wonder of God’s creation. It supports what the psalmist observed for us long ago: “I praise [God] because I am fearfully and wonderfully made” (Psalm 139:14).

Neuroscience explains how a vast amount of learn­ing takes place long before a child ever attends school. It also explains that some kinds of learning, like learn­ing how to see and talk, may only take place at specific times during a child’s development. It’s clear that a tod­dler is not just passing time until school starts but is actively learning with every sight, sound, smell, and movement that he or she experiences. And in the pro­cess, the child is making plenty more of those impor­tant neural connections.

You can help your child develop visual connections in the brain by pointing out colors, faces, moving objects, and things like the little holes in Cheerios. Show how things move up and down, how a coin looks larger through a magnifying glass, and how small an airplane looks because you’re far away.

Develop speech and language parts of the brain by regularly talking and reading to your child. As you talk, your child learns the sounds and structures of the lan­guage. Teach words—their meaning, their sound, their value. Regularly set aside time for reading. It’s okay to read that favorite book over and over. It brings comfort. All these activities build connections between nerve cells and make neural pathways for other learning to follow.

Enhance musical and rhythmic connections. Teach songs to your child. Sing together. Sway. Stomp. Skip. Plod along to the rhythms of the music. Help nerve cells make lots of new connections by rocking, swing­ing, and doing the elephant walk. Crawl on the floor. Stand on one foot. Shuffle under a limbo stick to help your child learn how to balance. Encourage fantasy and creative play to help develop the creative part of the brain. In this way, you will be changing the structure of your child’s brain.  It’s neuroscience.


From Patient Parenting, by John Juern. © 2006 Northwestern Publishing House. All rights reserved.