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Nurturing your child’s development


If intelligence is the ability to learn, then babies are born geniuses, says Sam Malkoun, director at Future Kids.

June 12, 2014 2:42 by

Fostering child development and enhancing cognitive function, in particular, do not require fancy toys or lesson plans. Your interaction with your child offers incredible opportunities to stimulate his/her brain. A baby’s brain builds itself by forming connections in response to the stimulation it receives.

Pediatric neurologist Peter Huttenlocher conducted research that concludes that, when a child reaches the (cognitive) development stage, known as ‘pruning’, the brain would, in fact, discard any neural connections it did not need. Through stimulation, we are able to ‘switch on’ more neural connections (synapses) resulting in children using a greater portion of their brains for life.

One of the simplest ways of doing this is through language. Language is fundamental to brain development; engaging your baby’s interest through reading words, singing songs and ‘conversations’ are great stimulants. If you speak multiple languages in your home, use them around your child. At Future Kids – an academic nursery in Dubai, many parents express concern over the use of multiple languages in their home. “Kids at this age are developing language skills rapidly and they quickly absorb whatever they hear,” says Erika Levy, professor of speech and language pathology at Columbia University. “They can learn to understand new words in different languages at an incredibly fast rate.”

Sensory play allows for greater cognitive development. The most obvious skill sharpened by sensory play is problem solving and decision making. Angie Dorrell, an expert in this field, puts this into perspective: “As a grown-up, imagine learning how to use a computer without actually sitting in front of a computer.”

You can make use of stimulating textures or objects around your house. Activities are dependent on age; in the kitchen, make a giant ice cube with objects frozen inside and let your child hammer through it, play with whipped cream, let your children draw pictures in a tray covered with shaving cream or go on a texture scavenger hunt.

“A great Future Kids activity that can be replicated at home is called ‘3 Eggs’. It is easy to find plastic eggs that can be opened in half. Place a small object inside one of the eggs. Place the three eggs in front of your child and ask them to choose which egg has the hidden object,” says Anna Stranack, teacher at Future Kids Dubai. “This activity allows your child to explore their natural instincts, develop their sensory abilities, decision-making, language and fine-motor skills.”

Pinching and crumbling paper or play dough (or even cookie dough) is an excellent fine-motor exercise for children. It is an activity that works the small muscles of the hand and really strengthens the arches of the hands.  Defined arches are important for correct pencil grip, shoe tying, writing and managing buttons and zips.

Pushing tissue paper into the spout of a plastic bottle is great for encouraging the tripod grasp. Encourage children to swap hands; holding the bottle with the non-dominant hand allows the child to work on their bilateral hand co-ordination.

Providing children with opportunities that allow them to investigate with no perceived knowledge will help to develop and refine their cognitive, social, emotional, physical, creative and linguistic skill-sets.

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