July 3, 2018
Building a Brain
contributed by Jennifer Horner, Doodle Bugs! Director of Education Development
The impressions children collect from adults set the stage for the rest of their lives; every interaction actually helps to shape their brains. Socially, emotionally, and cognitively, the groundwork for how they will communicate, socialize, and problem solve is all being established at an incredible pace.
Connecting with and nurturing a child certainly requires individualized attention, consistency, warmth, and kindness – along with setting the best possible example in our adult lives. Children tune into our every move, our every word, and absorb how we interact with each other. They notice how we respond to an unexpected challenge, how we express our emotions, how we treat people in public, and the list goes on. As is often said, children learn what they live.
If you’re feeling pressured to make time for social-emotional teaching, rest assured: it is possible to teach it, in part, simply by setting a good example in daily tasks and interactions. The techniques below may offer some new insight to incorporate into your routine:
- Narrate your thoughts. Children love learning about everything we do. Whether you’re making a mop bucket, buttoning a shirt, or using GPS directions while driving, “think out loud” to invite your child into your thoughts and build understanding.
- Be present. Clear those distracting thoughts from your brain with a deep breath, make eye contact, listen intently, snuggle or wrap an arm around your child, exchange facial expressions, and simply be in the moment.
- Follow the child’s lead. Be cautious of our adult tendency to take the lead in controlling every situation. Whether your child is perusing the classroom or you’re enjoying a family trip to the zoo, let him make decisions on what to explore and help him extend ideas whenever possible.
- Answer every question. As Mama to a 4-year-old, I know this is a daunting task, but trust me – it’s worth it!
In and of itself, this process of “building a brain” is such a beautiful thing. Perhaps the added bonus is the fact that we naturally become more self-aware and in tune with our own interactions, too.