Once upon a time you were considered a commendable parent if your child made it to her fifth birthday without dying of cholera. But the introduction of vaccines and modern hygiene has considerably raised the bar for parents during early childhood. Today, it's important not only to provide formal education, but also to maximize her brain absorbency throughout her early childhood years. Fortunately, promoting your child's cognitive development isn't nearly as daunting, or painstaking, as it sounds.
Identifying something based on limited information is just one of the ways to boost her cognitive power. While at the grocery store, ask, "What might we need that's round, red and sweet to eat?" After she correctly identifies apples, pose similar questions about other items on your grocery list. At home, read stories that encourage your little one to find the right tool for each situation in the plot. For example, "The team needed something that was long, strong and could be tied in a knot."
Although formal math problems are rarely introduced before kindergarten, a study at the University of Chicago in 2010 and later published in the academic journal, "Developmental Psychology," revealed that mathematical prowess in high school begins at home, long before most kids even set foot in a classroom. Talking about numbers with your child during everyday activities builds her cognitive understanding of quantity and how different amounts affect each other. This can be as simple as counting the number of rabbits on a particular storybook cover or as complex as asking your child to help you sort and tally the number of socks in a load of laundry. Remove a few items and practice subtraction or introduce addition by increasing the number of items and count them together to see how the amount has changed.
Explaining Purpose and Function
Use and purpose of different objects isn't innate, as evidenced by your toddler trying to brush her hair with your toothbrush. Explaining the reasons for using specific items helps her focus on details, functioning and spacial relationships. For example, let your child stand on a stable chair at the counter, but away from the oven or stove, while you prepare food. Explain the purpose of each item as it's used. Talk about these tool names and functions during everyday activities like cleaning, gardening or brushing her teeth. For example, "Now I'm going to use this measuring spoon to add some butter to the mixing bowl. See how they're all different sizes? This lets me know exactly how much I'm using. Now I'm going to use the spreading knife, which is only for adults, to spread the jam on the slice of bread in my hand. I'm using a spreading knife because it's flat, which helps me move the jam all the way around the bread." Explain alternative functions for the item or other tools that work as well. Eventually you can start asking which item would be best for a particular task.
Developing cognitively means your child learns to think about all the different ways a situation could play out simply by changing a single factor. For example, if you're filling a grocery bag with oranges, ask your tyke, "Which way do you think the oranges will land inside the bag, will they stack neatly in a straight line up to the top? Why does adding more than two oranges or three oranges change the position of all the oranges already inside the bag?" You can also present fictitious scenarios while reading a story. For example, if the main character is making a cake and stirring it with a large spoon, ask your child what she thinks would happen if the character wasn't holding on tightly to the bowl while she stirred. The more your child understands about her world, the more accurately she'll be able to predict reactions of her own actions.
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