Jeopardy contestants are a good example of a “trained brain”. Maybe you don’t want your child to grow up to be a contestant, but these four easy  “brain training” methods will give them a head start in life.

Method One: Communication
Talk to your baby, even a newborn, and I don’t mean using “baby talk.” Teach them the correct pronunciation of words. Make eye contact. Read to your baby. Point to the words and pictures and enunciate sounds slowly. Research has shown that by age 4,  a child’s brain is more than twice as active and capable of storing information as an adult’s. The brain continues to expand through age 10 and then slows down until age 16, when it levels off.

Method Two: Stimulation

  • Fill those crucial pre-school years with exposure to a broad spectrum of learning,
  • Challenge your child to problem solve. Don’t do everything for him/her.
  • Encourage recognition of symbols (numbers, letters)
  • Expose your child to books, music, drawing

Explore new places, new things. Martha Pierson, a neurobiologist at Baylor College of Medicine states, “Children need a flood of information. Early education, shapes the basic architecture of the brain. If you are exposed to enough things, you’ll develop a processor that can handle the flood of data that life throws at you later.”

For example, she said, before a child can begin to learn how to read, the basic neural wiring has to be in place: Kids have to be able to track things with their eyes, focus attention and interpret symbols. This is why reading to your child is crucial.

Method Three: Reasoning
Yes, you can teach your child how to look at things and reason the outcome. Critical thinking is about curiosity, flexibility and keeping an open mind. If a parent thinks about teaching reasoning, they will find small tasks to challenge their child. Something as simple as the child  making a tower with blocks and discovering that if it’s too tall it will topple.

If we warn the child not to make it so tall, we defeat the purpose of reasoning.  A child needs to figure out the outcome. Reasoning and critical thinking makes kids smarter, more independent and more creative.

Method Four: Creativity – Music and Art
The Brain and Creativity Institute at USC began a five-year study in 2012 to examine the impact of music instruction on children’s social, emotional and cognitive development. The study shows music instruction speeds up the maturation of the auditory pathway in the brain and increases its efficiency. Children exposed to music (especially classical pieces), have a better understanding of math.

The auditory system is stimulated by music and is beneficial to language development, reading skills and communication. The arts are not just expressive and affective, they are deeply cognitive. They develop essential thinking tools — pattern recognition and development; mental representations of what is observed or imagined; symbolic, allegorical and metaphorical representations; careful observation of the world; and abstraction from complexity.

It’s exciting to be a new parent and know you can help shape your child’s brain by providing the learning tools he or she needs. Share some of the successful ways you used to stimulate your child’s learning capacity.