Sunday Herald Sun - Body and Soul - - FRONT PAGE -

de­vel­op­ment oc­curs in the first three years of life. How we in­ter­act with chil­dren dur­ing these years can de­ter­mine how they learn and be­have for the rest of their lives,” she says. “We now know the brain is like a mus­cle – the more you use an area, the stronger it will grow.”

Dr Brech­man-Tous­saint be­lieves it’s im­por­tant all par­ents have ac­cess to in­for­ma­tion on the es­sen­tial role they play in those early years.

She says diet, sleep, ex­er­cise, ex­po­sure to stim­u­lat­ing en­vi­ron­ments, pro­vid­ing nov­elty and en­cour­ag­ing ex­cite­ment and cu­rios­ity all help breed smarter, happier kids.

Re­cent US re­search found chil­dren who are fit­ter tend to have a larger hip­pocam­pus and per­formed bet­ter on a mem­ory test than their less-fit peers.

And Har­vard Univer­sity’s Cen­ter on the De­vel­op­ing Child says: “The qual­ity of a child’s early en­vi­ron­ment and the avail­abil­ity of ap­pro­pri­ate ex­pe­ri­ences… are cru­cial in de­ter­min­ing the strength or weak­ness of the brain’s ar­chi­tec­ture, which, in turn, de­ter­mines how well he or she will be able to think and reg­u­late emo­tions.” Dr Brech­man-Tous­saint has these sim­ple sug­ges­tions on how to boost chil­dren’s brain de­vel­op­ment. + Cre­ate en­vi­ron­ments where chil­dren feel se­cure, at­tached and stim­u­lated. + Don’t just read to your kids. Trace over the words from left to right and talk about what the pic­tures say about the story.

De­velop rou­tines. The brain de­vel­ops skills through prac­tise and rep­e­ti­tion. + Use con­ver­sa­tion to ex­tend their think­ing. “Your con­ver­sa­tions should be a bit like a ten­nis match where there is a long rally,” Dr Brech­man-Tous­saint says.

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