I am a huge advocate of early education. Lately I have heard so much emphasis on the small window of opportunity during the first 5 years of a childs life. According to studies from Child Welfare Information Gateway, 90% of the brain develops by age 3, so it is only natural that most of life’s fundamentals are grasped early on. It is the most critical time for learning language, logic, fine motor skills and helping children with how they think, feel and behave throughout life. I have a very creative 4 year old who constantly needs stimulation to develop his imaginative ways. I have been reading to him since the day he was born [people thought I was crazy to read to an infant]. Everything we do together becomes an exciting adventure, while MJ is learning along the way.
Here are a bunch of fun things I do with MJ to stimulate his mind:
Offering Fun Examples: A good way to spark a childs imagination is to show them how it’s done! We read a lot of fun books with colorful pictures and many different kinds of animals, vehicles, and other objects. I make up fun stories that go along with each page of the book and make the sounds that correspond with each thing we read about [‘roar’ for a lion, ‘vroom’ for a car, etc]. Then we become the story! We crawl slowly like elephants, or bark loudly like dogs. Sometimes I ask him to continue the story at the end of the book, it comes out hilarious!
Playing Pretend: MJ kinda started doing this on his own. When he was about 18 months, he would pretend like he was cooking whenever I was in the kitchen. His specialty was scrambled eggs, so he would get a bowl and a spoon and mix the eggs like mommy. It was the cutest thing, he cooks with me for real now! Now he likes to pretend to fix things around the house with daddy and build forts in our living room and on our bed with blankets and pillows. He calls it his ‘mountain’ and thinks it is the funniest thing when daddy or his baby sister come and knocks it down.
Listen and Interact: When MJ talks, I listen and talk back. I know so many parents who ignore their children, passing off their early toddler speech as jibberish. If I can understand one word that my son is saying, I act upon it and elaborate with him. Sometimes we sing songs and recite rhymes and I pause at certain parts and have him fill in the blanks. Now that he’s older, he speaks very clear, concise, and we use new words with him and correct him all of the time. If MJ draws a picture and I can’t tell what it is, I ask him to explain it and identify what he’s drawn, what colors he used, etc.
Please take the time to talk to your children. Explain things, no matter how simple they may sound to you. Use correct speech and pronunciation, and correct them if they mispronounce a word. Set aside 5 minutes just before bedtime to read a short story. It really makes a difference in the development of your childs imagination. Best of all, its FUN!