Supporting your child’s brain development is a valuable investment because everyone wants their children to be happy, healthy, and successful. From pregnancy through early childhood, the development of your child’s brain is crucial. These formative years determine your child’s ability to learn new skills and cope with stress. When you understand how your child’s brain develops, you can take a few easy steps in aiding that development and helping your child succeed in life.

How Your Child’s Brain Develops

Brain development in children actually begins during pregnancy, when the basic structure of the brain forms. As a newborn, the brain is one-quarter of the size of an adult brain. Simple connections begin to develop, and over time become more complex throughout childhood and adolescence. These connections aid in learning new skills in the future, as well as have an impact on your child’s behavior and health.

Brain connections are affected by both genetics and experiences. Inherited traits and abilities play an important role, but they are not the only factor in brain development. Experiences and interactions – both positive and negative – create connections in your child’s brain. The more frequent these experiences occur, the stronger the connections become.

Focus on balanced nutrition to support your child’s brain development

If your child is not getting a good balance of nutrients, brain development can be impaired. Providing your child with three meals per day, and between two to three snacks will make sure they’re receiving enough nutrients throughout the week. We love these simple snacks from Amazon.

Iron is extremely important for young children, so provide meat or meat alternatives daily. Simple proteins like beef, pork, lamb, chicken, de-boned fish, lentils, eggs, tofu, chickpeas, and beans are good options. To ensure your child’s body is absorbing the iron from these foods, you can serve them alongside vegetables and fruit high in vitamin C, like mangos, sweet potatoes, or broccoli. Including milk, full-fat plain yogurt, iron-fortified infant cereals, and other grain products such as pasta or toast helps balance it all out.

Develop a trusting relationship

Children need positive, trusting relationships with caregivers and other important people in their lives. Creating attachment will make your child feel safe, loved, and secure. Setting firm boundaries so they know they can rely on you will give them the courage to experience things on their own, thereby creating more connections. They need to know that if they fail, you will be right there for comfort and support. Give lots of hugs and cuddles, smile, sing, and provide comfort when your child is upset. This can even help lower stress for both of you.

Read and talk to your child

Reading and talking to your child creates important brain connections for language skills. Read anything you come across – books, signs, a recipe. For first-time parents, it might feel silly or strange to speak when the other person can’t reply, so try narrating what you are doing. It doesn’t matter so much what you say to your infant, only that you speak. Telling them what you are putting away when you empty the dishwasher, for example, is not a riveting conversation, but will create those brain pathways for language development later on in life. Speaking multiple languages to your child will not harm language development.

Have serve-and-return interactions with your child

Serve-and-return interactions are interactions that go back and forth between two people. When your baby looks at your face, they have just “served” you an interaction. When you smile back, you have just “returned” the interaction. Positive serve-and-return interactions form relationships and build connections in your child’s brain. Watch, listen and respond to interactions with your child. Smile, talk to your child about things they are looking at, rub their back, and copy the sounds they make.

Minimize toxic stress to support your child’s brain development

Toxic stress is stress that is constant, intense, and not aided by adequate support for your child. Stress can create many negative effects, including having a detrimental impact on your child’s memory, brain development, and health. By helping your child learn to cope with stress, you can lessen its negative effects. Practice relaxation, talk about problems, give a name to the emotions your child is feeling, and model appropriate ways of dealing with stress.

Grab these social-emotional flashcards

Perfect for helping your child identify the emotions they’re feeling.

By providing nutritious food and creating positive interactions, you can improve how your child’s brain develops. The brain connections created from pregnancy through early childhood determine so much of your child’s success in life. How they handle stress, interact with others, and learn new skills can all be improved with a few simple actions to aid brain development.

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