A recent story “How to Help Your Child’s Brain Grow Up Strong” broadcast on NPRs Fresh Air a few days ago highlighted how a child’s brain develops in an interview with the authors of a new book, Welcome to Your Child’s Brain, by neuroscientists Sandra Aamodt and Sam Wang.

Among other insights, the authors offer these tips to enhance language development:

  1. Parents should talk to their babies, and they should do a lot of talking around their babies.
  2. Parents should respond to their babies’ attempts at talking, or babbling, even if they don’t understand what their babies are trying to say.  The point is to acknowledge that some communication has occurred.  Parents can do this by smiling and giving the baby a little pat; this encourages a baby to keep trying to communicate with others.
  3. Having babies view videos in a foreign language does not help them to acquire the new language because it is too detached and does not draw upon the social nature of language.
  4. Do not try to force a child to read before the age of four because the brain is usually not ready to differentiate similar letters like “b” from “d” before then.
  5. Children who can speak two languages have a cognitive advantage.

The authors also reinforced the critical need for parents to teach self-control and the ability to restrain impulses at all age levels.  (See our posts: “How’s Your Child’s Executive Function?” and “Building Language Skills in Boys is Critical.”)  “At all of these ages, willpower and self-control is a stronger predictor of academic success than IQ.”  Aamodt and Wang recommend activities that are fun while teaching self-control.  Role-playing having a tea party, pretending to guard a castle, and playing the take-turns game are all examples of fun ways to do this.

Go to the NPR site to read an excerpt from the book: Welcome to Your Child’s Brain