On a crisp, Fall day in Los Angeles, the Mommy Hiker group sets out for a 2 mile loop hike, a half dozen toddlers donning their best play clothes. Wearing backpacks stuffed with books, crayons and enough snacks to feed an army, they navigated creek crossings, collected rocks and sang their favorite songs at the top of their lungs. At first glance, this outing may not seem significant, but these budding nature lovers are crystallizing crucial brain development they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.
New research shows us that by the age of 5, our child’s brain will have grown to 90% of its adult size. But even earlier than that, by age 3, it’s already reached 82% of its size. These compelling statistics help us to understand the importance of activating our child’s brain functions through talking, reading and singing from birth and beyond.
Voters in California took this information to heart and in 1998 approved an initiative that aims to improve the lives of young children and their families to ensure support and optimize early childhood development. Known as the California Children and Families Act (Proposition 10), First 5 California oversees the expenditure of tobacco tax revenues to implement coordinated programs that emphasize child health, parent education, child care, and other services to ensure California’s children receive the best possible start in life and thrive.
The First 5 California fundamentals of early learning are as easy as Talk, Read, Sing! These three basic principles for human interaction and brain stimulation can be applied to all sorts of activities, but consistency is key. Through supportive, positive relationship, repetitive, hands-on learning activities and exposure to interactive language can have dramatic impacts on a child’s success in school and even carries through in to adulthood.
Here are a few incredibly simple ways to usher the next generation into a flourishing and nourishing life.
Reading to your infant has many benefits including strengthening your relationship to your child, learning critical language and enunciation skills while also gaining valuable communication experience.
Building Blocks for Life
Building blocks offer a wide variety of learning opportunities for little senses and has been found to be fundamental for instilling later cognitive success. An incredibly versatile learning tool, building blocks teach the basics of gravity, texture and colors and also hold the power to teach advance concepts like balance, spatial use and even self confidence.
A Hiking Sing-a-long
Music has a powerful effect on our emotions. From classical to jazz, rock to country, some scholars assert that the ability to make music is as much a basic life skill as walking or talking and therefore equally as important. Musical activities also help with developing fine and gross motor skills, rhythm, and listening and visual tracking skills.
A Disco Dance Party
Everyone loves a good dance party, no matter your age. Positively channeling a toddler’s energy into a physical activity is a wonderful way to encourage gross motor skills while giving them the opportunity to improve hand-eye coordination and a healthy avenue to express their emotions.
From blowing to popping and chasing after them, there’s no question why bubbles are one of a preschooler’s to-go activities. Wet, slimy, and sticky, bubbles are smashed full of opportunities for sensory discovery. They also react directly to your action, allowing kids countless chances to try and improve on their techniques teaching a valuable lesson in cause and effect.
The Guessing Game
For young preschoolers still developing their language skills, guessing games help them to grow intellectually, building confidence and fine tuning critical thinking skills. Allowing kids to guess by touch, smell or hearing also develops extra sensory ability and sparks their creativity and expands an ever-blossoming imagination.
For even more free activities including PDF downloads of the Harry Potter books and a plethora of resources from healthy recipes to how to stimulate your child’s imagination and encourage a life-long love for discovery and exploration, visit the First 5 California website. There is an entire section dedicated to free, easy and accessible ways to engage with your kids. Learn how to establish a routine for early education which will set them up with the necessary tools for success that they will carry with them for the rest of their lives.