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A child’s mind is like a vast and highly absorbent sponge, constantly seeking new experiences and knowledge. The activities they engage in each day and the connections they make with their surroundings are pivotal in molding their cognitive development. This leads parents and guardians to a fundamental question: How can they proactively enhance their child’s growth and provide them with the essential skills for a successful life?
1. Story Time is the Best Time
There’s nothing better than curling up and reading a book or two with your little one. You can see their imagination lighting up as they absorb the story. A love for books is so great for cognitive development and gaining a lifetime love for reading.
“It’s not just about teaching them to read; it’s how they acquire language and learn to speak. And particularly when their mother reads to them. Her voice is special.” Says one parent, to which many others agreed.
2. Keep Those Teeth Shiny and Bright
Good dental hygiene is linked to good overall health. Plus, it helps kids (and their parents) avoid costly and painful dental procedures. And many parents recommend getting them in the habit as young as possible; that way, you don’t have to fight them about it as teens.
“Really encourage good dental health. It’s a small one that I never managed to maintain with myself and I’m facing multiple hundred dollar dental bills.” Say one stressed parent.
3. Show That Big Little Feelings are Normal
Emotional intelligence and learning to express emotions (rather than suppress them) are so important for a little one’s development. It will help them navigate the up and downs of life like a champ. They will accept the bad days and build resilience to enjoy the good ones.
One mom summarizes this well, “I can see you’re sad/angry/frustrated. It’s ok to feel that way. It’s not not ok to do “action” because of it. Can you tell me why you’re feeling this way?” Big little feelings has been a lifesaver with our toddler.”
4. Listen Closely
One of the best ways to show a child they are loved and important in the world is simple: listen. Many parents get busy and ignore or blow off their kids, which can have a huge effect n their self-esteem.
“Make time to listen to your child. It may seem silly to you, but it’s of absolute importance to the child! ” Says one dad.
5. That’s Greek to Me
Do you speak a second language? If so, parents urge you to make your best effort to teach your child that language. It’s so great for the child’s developing brain.
“Speak to them in another language at home. There aren’t many gifts much more precious and harder to obtain later on than multilingualism.”
6. Let Children Dream Big
There are a lot of subtle ways that kids can be invalidated by their parents. For example, they complain about something, and the parent replies, “just wait until you’re older.” Many of these witty replies can make a child feel confused.
Another common one is when a child is laughed at for sharing their dreams of a job or hobby. Let them dream and change their opinions; that’s all part of the fun!
7. Teach them to Stand Up for Themselves
Kids might get in a sticky situation from time to time with a friend, classmate, etc. Learning to assert themselves while remaining respectful is an important life skill. (And one that many adults still haven’t learned.)
8. Remember Parenthood is Not a Dictatorship
Repeatedly telling kids “because I said so” or having your kids afraid of you is not a great way for a family to live. Most of us are guilty of the occasional stern do what I say mentality, but hopefully, it’s mostly followed up with an explanation.
“Nobody likes to be bossed around, much less if it seems arbitrary. But if you give the respect to explain in the future, you (may) gain the trust of following now.”
9. Don’t Forget to Be Their Cheerleader
It’s easy to get stuck in criticism mode unintentionally. If you think your kids are awesome, take the time to make sure they know that.
“Catch them doing something right. Give them positive feedback on it’s own and not only as a criticism sandwich.” Say one mom.”
10. Apologize When You Mess Up
There’s nothing more grounding for a child than to see that adults and parents make mistakes too. When they realize everyone is human, they can focus on being their best selves and release any anxiety they have about trying to be perfect.
11. Engage Them in the World
The world is one big place to play and explore for little ones learning new things. Help them find the beauty in everyday things, such as grocery shopping, cleaning, cooking, etc.
“Also, everyday things are a chance to learn. A trip to the supermarket, or any store, or even just a drive is a chance to talk and explore and to teach.”
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