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.