With our children facing obesity rates of 24 percent – higher than the national average – it is critical that families have places for kids to be physically active, and our regional recreation sites offer great ways to keep our kids moving.
The research can help us understand how a baby’s mind is formed and what we can do as parents to help our children be their best. Much of this research supports what many parents already do: read to their children, talk with them, interact with them. Some of the research tells us how to do these things better; how to ask questions and engage our children with the written words in ways that increase their understanding and brain development.
Music education is also known to provide benefits across the curriculum. A recent meta-analysis of 25 experimental studies using music education and music therapy activities to teach reading skills showed a significant correlation between music and reading ability.
Yet despite our efforts and knowledge, many believe that they and their kin lack musical talent. How has this happened?
At the University of Oregon’s Brain Development Laboratory, we study attention in children as young as 3 by measuring the brain’s response to sounds as we ask children to shift their “spotlight” of attention from one side to the other. Shifting this spotlight of attention markedly changes the brain’s response to events in the environment – the brain produces a response to an attended stimulus that is twice as large as the response when it is unattended, and this boost occurs within 1/10 of a second! The ability to focus attention is critical in lifelong learning. We have shown that this enhanced brain response is not present in some young children who are at-risk for academic problems.
Unlike some other animals, the brain of a human infant is very immature and isn’t fully adult-like until 25 years after birth. This long period of development means there is a lot of time for children’s experiences to shape their brains, and this is exactly what research has found: In fact, we now know that the architecture of the brain is dependent on the experiences children have. This is called “neuroplasticity,” which refers to how “plastic” or changeable by experience the brain is.
All parents have to manage their children’s behavior, and setting limits is a particular challenge. Parents may find themselves spending much of their day saying “no” to their kids. Sometimes it’s about safety, such as saying “no” to a toddler who is about to walk out into the street. Other times it’s in response to difficult behavior, such as biting or hitting. Sometimes hearing “no” can result in an angry child who may have an emotional meltdown in response. This is stressful for both parent and child.
How much and how well our children learn throughout life is determined largely by the variety of beneficial experiences in which they participate in their first few years of life.
Vision impairment, even small irregularities, can have a profound impact on development. Early diagnosis and prevention are the best approach to infant vision and eye health care because most conditions respond best to early treatment, before additional complications arise.