10 Tips for Enhancing Brain Development in Toddlers

Jan 19, 2016

by Mama to Many |  February 18, 2014

1. Breastfeed your baby if at all possible.     

Human milk is perfectly designed for human babies. It helps baby's immunity, is easiest on the gut, and it is good for his brain! The fat and cholesterol found in breast milk are critical for brain development. Additionally, the interaction that occurs between mother and baby during feeding time does contribute positively to baby's development. Propping a baby in a car seat and feeding him keeps him from the critical physical contact that is provided by a nursing relationship. If for some reason a baby cannot be breastfed, hold him while bottle feeding. And whether breastfeeding or bottle feeding, use that time to enjoy your baby, not to hang out on your i device. I have breastfed all of my babies for one to two years. I don't regret one minute of it.

2. Play classical music for your babies and toddlers.   

Studies and my own experience have convinced me of the importance of music in the development of children. But not all music is equal. There is something special in the patterns and sounds in classical music that is helpful to the human brain. It also maximizes their music potential to listen to excellent music. My husband and I are not particularly musical, but our children are extremely musical. Several of them have perfect pitch. They all play musical instruments. Yes, they must have some natural talent, they have interest, and have had lessons, but I am convinced that early exposure to good music has maximize their musical (and other intellectual) development. One of my sons could play the piano before he could read. He used to sit at the feet of his older brother, under the piano, as the older brother practiced.

A good time to play classical music for babies is when they are falling asleep. Playing it while they play is great, too!

3. Talk to your little ones.

Speech development begins at birth. Babies in different countries babble differently based on the sounds they hear from those around them. When you go outside, point things out and name them. Older babies and toddlers will quickly begin to repeat things back to you. "Building," "Flower," "Cloud," etc. Libraries have books for parents with games to play with babies and toddlers. These little interactions add up and contribute to the child's development and his security.

4. Physical interaction is important for babies.

As aforementioned, feeding baby is a time for physical interaction. Rocking babies to sleep is comforting for babies and relaxing for parents. Holding hands as you take a walk, sitting together reading books, and goodnight hugs are all surprisingly important for a child's proper brain development. Babies in orphanages miss these important times in many cases. This can cause "failure to thrive" and lifelong relational problems for the child.

5. Include your little one in your life as much as you can.

Include them in what you like to do. I like to cook. As soon as they could, my children have sat on a stool at the counter watching and "helping." It took extra time, but we were together and having fun. Learning fractions, when the time came, was a piece of cake for my children,. I think this is because of all the cooking we did. One half, one quarter, etc. was very meaningful because of all the recipes we worked on together. This time together is excellent for their emotional development and speech development.

6. Strictly limit screen time.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends no screen time (TV or computer) for children under the age of two. After that, they recommend no more than one to two hours a day of screen time. They believe that too much screen time is linked to obesity, violence, sleep problems, behavior problems, impaired academic performance, and less time for creative play.

As a parent and educator, my own experience and observation support these concerns.

7. Exercise is important for everyone, even babies   

Little babies need time on their backs to stretch and kick and time on their tummies to push themselves up. Babies need a safe place to crawl. Ruth Beechick, a reading specialist, says that crawling is needed for proper brain and neurological development. Even in the winter, it is good to bundle baby up for a little bit of fresh air. Toddlers should have time outside each day. Collecting leaves and acorns, digging in the dirt, balancing on a log, while unstructured, are learning activities for them.

8. Invest in creative toys.   

Our house has had sets of blocks, a kitchen set, building toys, etc since day one. Creative toys do not have to be expensive. One time my husband had some lumber left over from a building project. He cut it up into various sizes. This is still a building toy they enjoyed. When I was a young parent, I was convinced that spending lots of time in creative play and avoiding electronic entertainment would help my children to become constructive and creative as adults. This theory has been confirmed as my children have grown up. There has been a time and place for media in our home and it has had a necessary place in their education and development living in a high tech society, but I am glad it has not been a primary factor in their upbringing.

9. Read to your children every day, beginning when they are babies.   

At six to nine months old, my little ones will sit in my lap to listen to a couple of board books. This is so good for them. Positive interaction with a parent is healthy for them emotionally. The words they hear quickly become the words they speak. The single best thing you can do to help you child learn to read is to read to him. When I taught first grade, I noticed that children whose parents read to them had a distinct advantage over the ones who did not. Not only did they learn to read much more easily, all academics were easier for them. For some reason, hearing words and sentences on TV does not have the same effect as having a real person (especially a loved one) read to them.

10. Feed your children healthy food.   

Food matters. Growing bodies need good nutrition. Processed food and processed sugar, and artificial sweeteners are keeping children from necessary nutrients and are harming their health. Limiting fast food and junk food are critical to the health, including brain health of children. Food dye, MSG, and processed foods do affect children adversely. Teach your children to enjoy a snack of a banana or an apple instead of chips and crackers.

Enjoy your children. Talk with them. Take walks with them. Go to the park together. Enjoy meals together (without computers or TVs!) Read together. Help them with their homework. Children know when they are cherished. Children who know that have self-confidence and a distinct advantage in their learning.

Sources:

 http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/children-and-tv/MY00522 

 http://specialneedsadoption.rainbowkids.com/Failure_to_Thrive.aspx 

 http://creation.com/cure-your-childs-reading-problem 

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About The Author

Mama to Many from Tennessee, USA is a 46 year old mama to 9 children, ages 2-20.  She began studying natural health when her first child was born.  Finding success with some simple home remedies motivated her to continue to study and learn more about natural healing.  Mama to Many has always loved children and taught in public school before having children of her own. She currently lives on a small farm in Tennessee with her husband, children and a variety of animals, including cows, goats, chickens, cats and a very large dog.



General Feedback  

Posted by Deeplus2 (Powell River,british Columbia) on 03/12/2015

My 6 yr. old daughter is currently learning to read. She is socially advanced (mature) very artistic and excels in sports. Although she exceeds all expectations in these areas, she can't seem to remember simple words she just read in a sentence previous. Are there any vitamins that would help her memory or ability to focus that I could add to her diet?

Replied by Timh
KY
03/12/2015

D: Most Naturalpaths recommend supplementing a broad-spectrum multivitamin/mineral w/ green foods and enzymes, so this is where to start. This keeps the body detoxified and optimized.

Possible disease states to consider could be environmental like heavy metals, parasites, or EMF's. Wireless electronics, especially handheld phones can emit radiation to the brain. Food additives can also compromise health. Homeopathic Detox drops or tabs will help.

Antioxidant nutrition provides protection to all cells in the body, so supplementing will make for stronger cells and less disease or sensitivity. Extra Selenium & Vit-E plus omega 3 fatty acids like Fish & Krill Oil or plant based like Flax or Chia will help cognition, is a good start. If there is no liver or eggs in the diet 5, 000 iu of Vit A will be necessary, and also usually contains Vit-D which is typically lacking in cold climate regions where there is insufficient sunlight for the body to make it's own D.

SAM-e helps the body & mind in many ways so give her 200mg once daily for starters.

The herb Chinese Skullcap is a powerful neuroprotector due to it's antioxidant affinity for the brain; and is also calming so take preferably before retiring.

Replied by Mama To Many
Tennessee
03/12/2015

Dear Deeplus2,

In addition to Timh's great post of ideas, I will share some thoughts...

Some children are particularly sensitive to food dye and MSG in their foods. Children that react to these things can have trouble with focus.

Chamomile Tea is calming. A quarter cup with breakfast and/or lunch may be helpful. Some parents find the essential oil, Vetiver, to be helpful (used externally) for helping children to focus. Fats are important for the brain. Olive oil and Coconut Oil are my preferred fats.

Is your child's teacher concerned about where your daughter is in learning to read? How is your daughter doing at recognizing sounds (phonics), or is she being taught to memorize words (whole language)?

There is a wide range of normal when it comes to learning to read. Some will learn as early as 4 (rare) and others will learn quite late. I know a man who learned to read when he was 14. He became an an author and speaker! That is certainly an extreme example and I believe he had dyslexia.

Most of my children have learned to read on the early side. However, reading is just now "clicking" for my 9 year old son. But he is years ahead in his math and is very skilled in other areas. Some mild seasonal deafness for several winters in a row made it hard for him to distinguish certain sounds.

A really excellent book to help you help your child with reading is called:

Games for Reading

by Peggy Kaye.

Reading out loud to your child daily is a great help to them also. I especially love Dr. Suess books to read to children. They are high interest, humorous, and use lots of rhyme and rhythm.

A great book to work through with your child is

The Reading Lesson

I have used this to teach several of my children to read. I take it slowly and always stop before frustration sets in. Five minutes a day is plenty. It is important for reading to be a pleasant experience. If a child associates frustration or unpleasantness with reading, it is going to make them less interested in learning it.

A few other things...

Did your child ever crawl? Reading specialist Ruth Beechick found that children that never crawled had trouble learning to read. It seems that some connections are made in the brain during crawling that are needed to learn to read.

Is is possible that your child has any trouble with hearing or vision?

Well, I could write all day on the subject as it is one that is dear to my heart. I have had the privilege of teaching many children to read between my own and the first graders I taught when I was a public school teacher.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

~Mama to Many~

Replied by Mmsg
Somewhere, Europe
03/12/2015

Mama t.m., I love this subject as well and have all 3 of Peggy Kaye's books. Excellent!!

I've also heard about crawling being important for reading AND that it's never too late: they are making ADULTS with dyslexia crawl!!!!


Posted by Darby (Des Moines, Iowa) on 01/17/2015

Reading Mama to Many's post about brain development of toddlers made me realize what caused the behavioral problem in my two-year old son. I have been busy working at home that I just let him watch TV until I'm done - and that's more than 2 hours a day! The words that he can speak clearly are Mama and bye, the rest are still gibberish that we cannot understand until he points on something he wants.

I tried reading books to him but he won't sit and listen. He loves playing in the yard outside digging dirt and picking up stones though, but my husband does not want him to do that so there's always crying when my son does not get his way. My son is the type who is impatient, demanding, and cries most of the time.

I am happy to found Mama to Many's tips as now I have learned what can help my son get the proper brain and emotional development that has been tried and tested by someone who have years of experience in raising 9 children.

Me and my husband have lots to change in how we interact with our son because what we are doing right now has been doing him more harm than good.

Thanks for this post!

Replied by Darby
Des Moines, Iowa
01/17/2016

I can say that after a year of patiently reading and talking to my child has finally paid off. He's now reading books all by himself. Thanks again!

Replied by Mama To Many
Tennessee
01/19/2016

Dear Darby,

Excellent job! You persevered for an entire year and have seen great results!

I am sure others will be encouraged by your faithfulness and the fruit thereof!

Your child is so blessed to have you.

~Mama to Many~