Promoting Child Brain Development

The way in which you interact, play, and respond to children will affect the development of their brains.

Isaac Asimov said, “The human brain, then, is the most complicated organization of matter that we know.” As a caregiver, you have the opportunity to assist in optimizing the growth and development of children in your care. The way in which you interact, play, and respond to children will affect the development of their brains.

Newborns: The newborn (0-28 days old) has to learn to adapt ad understand an entire new environment. It is important to promote healthy eating and sleeping patterns. Typically, newborns will eat every 2-3 hours and sleep for an average of 16 hours per day, in short 2 to 4-hour periods. At about 2 weeks of age, newborns can begin copying interactions of caregivers. You should start making eye contact to stimulate the newborn’s vision and focus.

baby laughing on floorInfants: Children in infancy (ages 0 to1 year old) focus their vision, explore, and learn about their environment. Ways to help promote brain development in this age group include talking and singing to the infant. Repeating sounds that the infant makes and then adding additional words will help with language development. For example, if an infant cues “aah” before a feeding, you can say “Yes, aah you want the bottle.” Reading to infants also helps them develop an understanding of sound. It is recommended a baby be read to at least once a day.

toddlersToddlers: As a child becomes a toddler (ages 1 to 3 years old), you should engage in playing games that will develop their curiosity. A great game to play is to ask the child to name different body parts. My daughter loves playing this game and we started when she was a year old by asking, “Where is your nose?” She would point to her nose and try to repeat the word ‘nose’. Little by little we added body parts as we played the game. At 19 months, she can point to and say all her body parts.

Other games to play during this age are matching and sorting games. These include sorting different shapes and even solving big, simple jigsaw puzzles. Encourage exploring new things in different surroundings by going to a park or on a walk. Continue to increase language capacity by adding to the words toddlers say to form short sentences. This is also a great time to let the toddler help with dressing and feeding himself or herself. Praising good behavior and listening will help build confidence and encourage children to keep trying. As the toddler gets older, try to read a book at a certain time of day; for example, before bedtime. This start building routines.

3-5 year olds3-5 Year Olds: The best time to enforce encouragement of reading is when a child grows out of being a toddler into a young child or preschool child. If you haven’t started yet, take the child to the library. Also, allow the child to assist with simple chores such as folding clothes. Now is also the time to start promoting sharing and building friendships by encouraging the child to play with others. When the young child has a problem, try and walk through the steps to overcome it so they learn basic problem-solving skills.

Make sure you speak to the child in complete sentences as this will help foster good language skills. Avoid speaking in baby talk. For example, if a child says, “Me played with doll and white blanket”, respond by saying “Oh, you mean you played with your doll and her little blanket?”

6-8 year olds6-8 Year Olds: Between the ages of 6 and 8 years old, independence becomes even more important. During this age, show the child affection by recognizing even small accomplishments. “Talking” with the child is the theme for this age. Help the child develop a sense of responsibility by allowing them to assist with tasks around the home. Talk with the child about things to look forward to and about the future.

This age is a great time to discuss the importance of respecting others and encourage helping others in need. Volunteering teaches compassion, empathy, and community responsibility. It is also important at this age to teach patience. For example, let someone other than the child go first when playing a game or waiting in a line.

9-11 year olds9-11 Year Olds: Between the ages of 9 and 11, peer pressure becomes more influential. Children of this age start gaining a sense of responsibility, so it is important to talk about the accomplishments and challenges that they are facing or have faced. Help the child set goals in various areas of their life; for example, getting a better grade on the next English test. Continue to encourage the child to read every day and talk about homework. It is important to be honest with the child so that you can build trust with the child.

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Promotion of optimal early brain and child development is essential to the health and well-being of children.” As we interact with children during our normal daily activities, we often don’t think about how our actions can impact their development. Simple things like singing to a child in the car or reading to a child each night can have dramatic impacts on the child’s brain development. Be aware of how you interact with children of varying ages and recognize what an important influence you can be in their lives.

To learn more, a Brain Development course is available with enrollment in the Professional Childcare program.

About the Author: Elena Borrelli has a Master of Science in Physician Studies from the University of Detroit, Mercy and a Bachelor of Science in Biology from Oakland University. She is a Licensed Physician Assistant, Online Academic Medical Advisor, and Founder of Family Branches, a non-profit organization for underprivileged children.

3 Classroom Management Tips For Nannies

Being a Nanny requires encompassing many roles – teacher, nurse, cook, playmate, and caregiver.

Being a Nanny requires encompassing many roles – teacher, nurse, cook, playmate, and caregiver. These roles, in turn, require a wide range of specialized skills. Teachers for example, have specialized skills to manage groups of children. Although managing groups of children at a birthday party or parent’s night out is different than teaching in an elementary school, there are several skills that can help Nannies.

children blowing bubbles1. Predictability. Most children like routines and starting every day with clear instructions and a review of events planned so children know what to expect. In a positive way, start each day by reviewing the desired behaviors and rules. Then, focus on the routine and specific activities for the day.

At school, a routine may include arriving, putting lunch boxes and jackets into a student’s cubby, sitting at their desk, and then watching morning announcements. The teacher then reviews the class schedule which is similar each day with respect to classes, lunch, recess, and any naps or quiet reading time.

This structure can be used by Nannies in the same manner. Start each shift by reviewing positive behaviors and setting expectations for the day. Then, review the schedule of activities so the children know what order things will happen – going to the park, visiting the grocery store, and then dinner followed by a bath. Around holiday and vacation times, it may be much harder to maintain a routine but set a rewards system in place to encourage the students to maintain positive behavior.

2. Preparation. In order to maximize learning and engagement of the children, you need to prepare and plan for the daily activities. This includes planning for routine activities, schedule deviations, or changes in a child’s interests.

Teachers understand that today’s students must be engaged to learn. When students are engaged, behavioral issues are minimized, and children are able to focus and learn. As a teacher, it is important to be prepared in case some students finish an individual activity quickly or if a group activity finishes early. Good teachers always have a backup plan and additional activities to keep students engaged.

This is very helpful for Nannies as children can lose interest in a planned activity faster than expected. Having several activities available, especially when a younger child is waiting for an older child to finish sports practice or a club, can reduce a child’s boredom while saving the Nanny anxiety and stress. Simple activities such as playing with a deck of cards, playing a dice game, or coloring can keep a child entertained.

Group Of Children Having Outdoor Birthday Party3. Motivation. By knowing the different interests and motivators for each child, activities or chores can be positioned in a way to engage the child or they turned into a game.

Teachers get to know their students, so they can successfully pair students for group assignments and communicate activities in a way that generates excitement. For children who like helping, the teacher may ask them to be line leaders when walking to lunch. For children who like to build things, the teacher may ask them to help stack the books. For children who like to read aloud, the teacher may ask them to read a special story to the class.

Nannies can also leverage a child’s interest. A child who likes adventure can search for lost treasure (their shoes). A child who wants to go to the park or attend a scout meeting will be more motivated to help clean the playroom if a park visit or a meeting with their friends is his reward.

The goal of classroom management is to emphasize the positives in learning for the students and to foster a safe and positive learning environment. Nannies can use these tips at birthday parties, over the summer when caring for lots of children at different ages and for child related jobs including working at a children’s museum, watching children at a gym while parents work out, or supervising play at a trampoline park.

To learn more, a Classroom Management course is available with enrollment in the Advanced Childcare program at

About the Author. Jessica Lofton. Jessica is an adjunct faculty member of Amslee Institute. Jessica earned a Master of Education in Curriculum and Instruction from Grand Canyon University, a Graduate Certificate in Business from Cameron University, and Bachelor of Science in Computer Information Systems and Business Administration from North Carolina Wesleyan College. Jessica has over 15 years of experience in both higher education and K to 12 public school education. Jessica is also an adjunct instructor with Amslee Institute.

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