2)Encourage physical development before mental development
Giving importance to play before academics is actually a way to boost their academic performance. A number of studies have shown that physical exercise which can be as simple as walking to school helps children concentrate better in class room. In his book “Spark, The revolutionary new science of exercise and the brain” Author John D. Ratey says that unfortunately our culture treats mind and body as different entities but he argues that in order to keep our brains at peak performance, our bodies need to work hard. In an example he gave in the book, a school by the name of Naperville Central High School had students who were struggling with english literacy and were asked to attend extra classes. The school decided to experiment the student’s performance by engaging them in vigorous exercise before class. This experiment showed that the group that engaged in the exercise improved reading comprehension by 17 percent and the group that did not exercise improved only by 10.7 percent. Hence its only crucial that we as parents stress on the importance of play and physical development and not just on academics and mental development. The next time you planning an outing with the kids think park / playground before malls and also sports coaching before enrichment coaching classes.
3)Play with creative toys before regular toys
It is always a common encounter for all first time parents to see their child ignore the expensive toy they got and instead play with the box that it came in. Ordinary things for adults are actually extra ordinary for the child. Its therefore the right thing to let them explore things that intrigue their curiosity. Card boards from toilet tissue rolls, empty tissue boxes, colourful drinking straws, ice-cream sticks, empty bottles of toiletries, twigs and dry leaves from the park, pebbles of different shapes and sizes, scraps of different fabric with different feel and texture, the list is endless on what can spark their imagination. Getting them involved in creative hobbies like painting, playing an instrument, dance and drama can further develop their ingenuity. The idea is not that they should only play with these imaginative toys but to spark their curiosity before they play with LEGO or building blocks, animal figures etc.
4)Do creative reading before teaching phonics
Reading stories from books with pictures can help foster thinking that is creative. When we read books to our kids it helps them create vivid images in their mind. Another way to get them get more imaginative is by asking him to come up with his own ending of the story or engaging him a conversation that encourages him to to come up with variations of the same story. This approach will in turn help parents to teach them how to read in the later years when they will be using various phonic techniques. Their interest and curiosity in books will help them to read independently at an early age.
5) Play with ordinary puzzles before watching tv or playing on smart phones
No matter how many studies show the ill effects of screen time on the developmental growth in young children, it has become increasingly challenging for parents to keep kids as young as 2 years old away from smart phones and tablets. In the book Failure to Connect, Jane M. Healy, Ph.D., an educational psychologist says that when children are watching tv are actually thinking of other peoples ideas and solutions to problems rather than thinking of their own. More and more exposure to screen time is leading kids to become passive. Regularly playing with ordinary puzzles will help children think independently on the possible solutions to a problem. A way to encourage this could be that they get there allocated screen time if they are able to first solve the puzzles. Parents can join them for the motivational boost and this could also help encourage a positive child led interaction with their parent.
6)Become their play mates before becoming their friends.
It goes without saying that a loving family time creates confidence in kids. Parent’s support and frequent interactions creates confidence. Avoiding comparisions with siblings or friends will create a sense of trust and reliability with parents. Encouraging them to take minor decisions such as choosing to drink from green cup or blue cup will install a feeling of independence. Alongside that kids relish it when a parent becomes a child themselves when playing with them. Parents playing pretend with kids or make believe games or playing dress up with well thought out props will keep kids engaged in this interaction as they costume themselves into pirates, doctors, princesses, policeman etc. As they grow older and we as parents would want them to look out for us when they need to talk. They will later have the confidence to confide in us as their friends if we have developed a relationship with them in their early childhood years first as their play mates.
7) Involve them in complex tasks before encouraging independent Tasks.
Involving them in age appropriate complex tasks along side a parent such as helping in building up a camp tent in the backyard and then camping there for the weekend night or building up a DIY wooden toy bed for the doll or giving bath to home pets along side a parent or decorating cupcakes for the playdate with friends will give them a sense of achievement and confidence knowing that their contribution is important and this will further boost their morale.They may use this interaction to later come up with their own ideas of play such as making a tent with a table that has a sheet draped over it or re-creating the toy bed for the doll out of empty cardboard boxes. This will further develop their mental flexibility and connection of neurons.
8)Praise efforts before encouraging ability
Praising children's ability is far from boosting their confidence it in fact puts them into a worrisome behaviour about what they are capable of doing. It makes them ill equipped to deal with failure when it happens. According to Claudia Mueller and Carol Dweck, researchers at Columbia University praising them for their hard work installs confidence in them to try new and different things. Whereas when kids are praised for their ability they generally prefer to choose tasks that they know they will do well.
9)Encourage delayed gratification before teaching discipline
In the famous Stanford marshmallow experiment conducted for 40 years by psychologist Walter Miscel, children were asked to come in a room and were offered a treat which they could eat immediately or they could wait 15 minutes and get two treats instead of one. The kids who were able to forgo instant gratification of getting just one treat and chose to wait for two treats were described 10 years later as being significantly more competent. In order to develop discipline in kids we need to help them develop the habit of resisting the temptation to get an immediate reward and choosing to do the right thing in order to achieve a better reward later. The way to develop this habit is by strengthening the part of the brain that helps in self control and that is the prefrontal cortex which is responsible for focusing on task at hand, planning ahead, and directing towards a goal. Introducing them to games or activities that have three main factors i.e novelty, variety and challenge will strengthen this part of the brain. Along side playing puzzles and imaginative games they should also be exposed to variety of different languages and sports. In her Ted Talk Patricia Kuhl has spoken about the linguistic genius of babies and how they learn one language over the other and how babies as young as 6 months old use exceptional reasoning skills to understand their world. Martha Pierson, a neurobiologist at Baylor College of Medicine said in The Oregonian, Technology Review that “Early education shapes the basic architecture of the computer i.e. the brain and children need a flood of information, a banquet, a feast therefore if they are exposed to enough things, they will develop a processor that can handle the flood of data that life throws at them later.” Its therefore said that brains are like plastic which means that they have the ability to change or adapt according to the information that it gets exposed to and we as parents can use this ability to help our children to grow into geniuses.
10)Put them to sleep early before calculating ideal number of sleep hours
It goes without saying that toddlers, preschoolers and kids of all ages need an ideal number of hours of sleep every night but getting them to sleep early will further improve their quality of sleep for the night. According to Marc Weissbluth a paediatrician and the author of best-selling book Healthy Sleep Habits Happy Child says that “when a child sleeps is probably as important or maybe more important as how much they sleep,” According to research findings, when researchers were asked to put their kids to bed earlier than normal for five straight nights on an average they slept more each night. Another study showed that sleeping earlier boosted their short term memory, working memory and attention spans. Another study suggested that kids who were put to bed earlier at age 2 had lesser problems with attention spans and aggression issues when they turned 8 years old. So focusing on sleeping earlier in the night will have a better effect on their overall sleep quality.