Before children even reach school age, they already have developed 95% of their brain’s mature size. The reasoning, emotional, and critical thinking skills they’ve developed before starting school will determine their success throughout their educational careers. The following five tips are to help promote your children learning and developing cognitive skills while they’re still at home:
- Include your children in decision making. Ask your children if they want to play with blocks or puzzles. Do they want to eat a sandwich or chicken tenders for lunch? By giving them control over small choices on a regular basis, they will model the process you display in making mature decisions for themselves. When you child goes to school, by default they will be given freedom to make decisions (following their teacher’s directions, or doing as they please), if this is their first opportunity to experience the independence of decision making, they will be less likely to exercise maturity.
- Give your child the opportunity to explore. Play involving exploration promotes imagination and problem solving. Rather than limiting their toys to licensed characters who have a predetermined function, give them a pile of ordinary blocks, and let their brain turn it into a rocket ship soaring through outer space and a dinosaur populated jungle. Giving them room to explore offers them the chance to develop their own interests, problem solve, and promotes your children learning abstract thinking.
- Make your child responsible for something. Give your child tasks that they can complete on their own. Give them the job of picking out their own clothes, give them simple food preparation chores that they can complete independently, you can even give them simple household tasks to complete on their own. Giving them a sense of responsibility will help them gain self-confidence, spark a proactive nature, and helps them gain awareness of their expected behavior.
- Hold conversations with your child. Developing the ability communicate will help guide your child’s thoughts and behavior. Engage in conversation both about subjects of interest (“What do you think the dinosaurs did for fun?”) and to convert their emotions into words (“Are you feeling disappointed that your ice cream fell on the ground?”). Many childhood development experts say that emotional outbursts stem from not being able to convey the strong feeling a child experiences in a situation. Engaging your child in meaningful conversations helps them explore their own thoughts and feelings and develops the part of the brain responsible for language and speech.
- Support behavioral self-control. Support your children learning healthy emotional processing by giving them the skills to diffuse frustrating situations. When they are worked up, teach them to take a deep breath and count to five to calm down before addressing the problem. Walk them through conflict resolution they experience with peers (“Tell your brother how it made you feel when he took your toy.” and “What can you do to help your sister feel better about taking her toy?”). Most importantly, your child will gain the ability to process their emotions by watching you handle stressful situations. Set a good example by handling emotions logically, and don’t shy away from saying sorry in the inevitable moments that you wouldn’t want them to emulate your actions.