Child Care Corner: Spend time with children to give them a good start in life

By: JANE B. JONES

LSU AgCenter Extension Agent

A healthy brain is needed for a good start in life and is essential to achieve one’s potential.

The genes with which a child is born determines his/her potential; however, the nurture he/she receives determines whether that potential is achieved. The experiences in a child’s first few years of life critically determine whether he or she reaches their goals in life. The most importance experience for a young child is the loving way he/she is cared for by their parents and caregiver.

Child development experts have determined 10 essential things children need for a healthy start in life: care, touch, interaction, communication, relationships, play, music, reading, self-esteem and safety. Children thrive when they are given opportunities to explore their world and their abilities with active and loving guidance from parents and caregivers. When the essential needs of children are met, the brain receives the stimulation it needs to develop, thus preparing the young child for success in school, relationships and the work world.

Four areas of the brain are critical for healthy development and future success. These areas control the following functions: sight; hearing and language; perception – touch, smell, and taste; and thinking, planning and reasoning. The ideas which follow provide examples of ways in which caregivers may interact with children to stimulate healthy brain development.

Read a picture book with your baby, pointing to and naming different objects.

When outside with a toddler place a harmless insect such as a lady bug in his/her hand and ask them how it feels.

Play pat-a-cake with your baby, rolling her hands and pressing them into her tummy.

Let your toddler choose which nutritious snack he/she would like, for example a graham cracker or apple slices.

While watching Sesame Street with your toddler, explain what a character is doing and respond to the child’s questions.

Have a pretend tea party with your toddler. Your child pretends to pour a drink into your cup, and you pretend to drink it, saying how delicious it is.

It does not take a lot of money to give a child the best start in life. The best foundation you can provide is your time, guidance, interest and enjoyment!

Source: “Ten things every child needs for the best start”

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