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Four tips for connecting with your 1-2 year old

Your baby’s developing brain requires your attention – be their favorite teacher

March 17, 2016

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Even though preschool and kindergarten are traditionally seen as the start of a child’s “formal” education, you are his or her first, and most important, teacher. Luckily, you don’t need a lesson plan! As simple as it sounds, every activity, from doing the dishes to reading a bedtime story, can be a learning moment. The first three years of a child's life are the most critical for speech and language development because the brain is best able to absorb language during this period. At this stage, kids are learning to pick up sounds and make connections in their brain. Essential reading, thinking and learning skills are developing. So keep talking to them and keep moving with them!

Sing – Sing your child’s favorite song, using their name when possible. Encourage them to sing along. The more sound they hear, the more they will appreciate language.

Play – Use everyday objects as toys and let them watch as you play. Cover their toys with a blanket and say “bye-bye.” Take the blanket off and say “hello.” Repeat and let them follow. Your child is further exploring the idea that things exist, even when they’re out of sight – a truly essential skill that develops through the years. They’re also learning to hold pictures of objects in their mind.

Feel – Let them play with a dry sponge while you do the dishes. The texture is a new sensation; ask them how they feel about it. New experiences help build connections in their brain, which is the foundation for reading and math skills.

Express – Turn chores into playtime! While you’re doing dishes, show them a dirty dish and say “yuck” with a funny face. Make them giggle, and use a new word with each new dish. Come up with funny words, and let them come up with some of their own. The tone of your voice, facial expression, body movements and words are all helping them build communication skills.

Daily experiences like these will determine how your child’s brain cells will form and connect to one another. Keep up with their development by incorporating age appropriate activities that are not only fun, but also educational.

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Promoting early brain development is part of HealthPartners Children’s Health Initiative, which is aimed at improving the health and well-being of children from pregnancy through age five. Brain, cognitive and behavioral development early in life are strongly linked to health outcomes later in life, including cardiovascular disease and stroke, high blood pressure, diabetes, obesity, smoking, drug use and depression. Learn more about HealthPartners Children’s Health Initiative.

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