Stimulating Your Toddler’s Brain

Stimulating play

Stimulating play

In an earlier post, the necessity of providing brain stimulus to young children was covered. It was made clear that children, even at a very young age, require stimulus in order to be successful in school and in life. If this stimulus is not provided, the child’s brain will not develop and, some studies even show, will be smaller than the brain of a child who has received a lot of stimulation at a young age. There are many ways to help your child develop optimally. Most parents just naturally speak extensively to their child. This is a very good starting point, since language development in a child depends on parents talking to their baby about what they are doing, how they are feeling, etc. The tone when talking to a child is generally higher – it’s called ‘parentese’. Singing to your child is also strongly recommended. You don’t have to be tuneful, you can even make up little chants and ditties to stimulate her. Singing to your child will enhance your child’s learning of rhythms, rhymes, and language patterns.

Another important way to stimulate your child’s brain which is used by experienced and involved parents everywhere is playing finger games such as ‘patty cake’ or ‘peek-a-boo’. This helps the child relate hand movements to words creating important neural links which relate fine and gross motor activities to words.

Read to your child. I can’t stress this enough: read to your child. You can start very young, showing wordless picture books of common items like farm animals, foods, methods of transportation, etc. Talk to your child while looking at the pictures, name the items, make noises related to the items (i.e. ‘choo – choo’ for trains, or ‘hee-haw’ for donkeys). Talk about the colours, talk about other items in the pictures. Point at items while you talk about them. Once the child is 12 – 18 months old, you can introduce simple stories with a few words and, as they show increasing comprehension, move up to more complex stories. By the time your child is 3 1/2 to 4 years old, you should be able to read entire children’s stories to them like “The Princess and Curdie” by George MacDonald. By reading to your child, you are building his vocabulary, you are increasing brain connections by stimulating their imaginations, their visual association with objects on the paper, their creativity – so many benefits, too numerous to name.

Provide your child with developmentally appropriate toys. A baby will be endlessly fascinated by a mobile, however once she is able to sit up and handle items with her hands, you can give her stacking toys, or wind-up toys. By playing with these toys, she will learn cause-and-effect relationships and “if-then” reasoning. For example, if she puts a larger piece on top of a smaller piece, it will fall off or if she tries to place a larger cup inside a smaller one, it won’t fit. This ‘wires’ the concept into her brain.

Always respond to a child’s actions. If he points at something, ask him what he means by using the name of the item; if he looks afraid of something like a pet, show him it’s safe. This attentiveness to your child’s actions show him a way of communicating and help him to learn new words. This also reassure him that you are interested in what he wants and provides him a sense of safety.

When your toddler is old enough to get around, you can have her help with clean-up and putting away toys and games. This will promote the ability to categorize or sort items. For example, teddy bears go on the shelf, push toys go in the box and stacking toys have to be put on their stand in the right order. This will prepare your child for school since sorting and categorizing is part of all early learning environments. It will also give them a sense of responsibility and also improve their fine motor skills.

Don’t be afraid to discipline your child. Talk to him about right and wrong actions, never speak of the child as being ‘bad’ or ‘good’. Always refer to the action. Always use a calm voice and speak to her about the correct action. Shouting and striking a child is never beneficial, however you must speak very seriously and firmly about what you expect from her. You can also impose consequences for more unacceptable actions like if she hurts or harms another child. An appropriate consequence would be a time-out chair. The most important point for positive discipline is consistency; never allow a child to do something that you forbade previously without explaining why it’s ok at different times.

Clearly, parental involvement is essential at all levels of child rearing for optimal brain development. Always let your child feel your joy in his progress, in his development. Always let him know that you love him and treasure every moment with him.


Braniac. “How to Stimulate Your Child’s Brains | eHow.” eHow | How to Videos, Articles & More – Discover the expert in you.. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2013.

Ince, Sarah DeWitt. “Play Activities to Stimulate Development in Babies | eHow.” eHow | How to Videos, Articles & More – Discover the expert in you.. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2013.

Norris, Katie. “5 Brain-Stimulating Ways to Keep Toddlers Busy.” POPSUGAR | Moms. N.p., 23 June 2012. Web. 19 June 2013.

Routh, Dorothy . “SC First Steps.” SC First Steps. N.p., n.d. Web. 19 June 2013.

Sebastian, Eisla R.. “A Baby’s Brain Development – What You Can Do to Help it Along.” Yahoo Voices. N.p., 13 Oct. 2009. Web. 19 June 2013.

“20 Ways to Boost Your Baby’s Brain Power | Parents |” Scholastic, Helping Children Around the World to Read and Learn | N.p., n.d. Web. 30 June 2013.

Your Child’s Personality

Before we begin discussing your child’s personality, it is important to understand what we are talking about. The American Psychological Association defines it as follows: “Personality refers to individual differences in characteristic patterns of thinking, feeling and behaving. The study of personality focuses on two broad areas: One is understanding individual differences in particular personality characteristics, such as sociability or irritability. The other is understanding how the various parts of a person come together as a whole.” It is clear, therefore, that personality encompasses intelligence, emotion, motivation and social interactions.

Children’s personalities are affected by many different factors: innate factors, birth order, gender, physical characteristics, early experience and even ethnic affiliation. The innate aspects of personality have been proven again and again. Children are frequently similar to their parents when they were young. This means that some personality traits are hard-wired into a child when he is born. Piaget, a well-known child development theorist, describes a ‘spiral of learning’ (see below) after birth which includes an initial schema (the hard-wired traits) on which the baby builds. At the moment of birth he acquires a view of the world. Immediately upon exposure to new experiences, he assimilates the information, make accommodations for the new understanding and develops a new schema for the world. The spiral repeats with every new experience. This pattern demonstrates how personality can be affected by environmental influences. A child learns that certain actions will result in specific reactions and begins to form his personality as a result.
There are five dominant personality traits which can be identified in children or adults. These traits are hard-wired or innate.

The first personality trait which you might recognize in your child is extroversion or introversion. The extroverted child will be sociable, enjoy meeting new people and will talk early. This will be the child that walks into a room, looks around and immediately identifies someone they want to be friends with. They will be comfortable with new people, even from a very young age. The introverted child will be reluctant to meet new people, will hang back from groups and may even be termed ‘shy’. We strongly recommend not using this term as it brands a child, qualifying them as non-sociable. Using terminology such as ‘it takes her a while to warm-up’, gives her a chance to get comfortable with new situations and new people.

A second personality trait which can be recognized in children or adults is agreeableness. Agreeable children will be trusting, thoughtful and generous. A non-agreeable child will tend to be more egocentric, placing self-interest ahead of others. Such a child will spontaneously hug another grieving child, share without being told and trust others to treat them well. An agreeable child is not necessarily extroverted. An introverted child can be very agreeable, but won’t reach out to people, however is very pleasant when approached. An egocentric child can show appropriate social responses, however ultimately is more concerned about his own comfort.

Another easily recognized trait in children and adults is impulsivity as opposed to conscientiousness. An impulsive child will tend to jump into situations with both feet. This is the child that dashes out into the road to get a straying ball without regard for safety. A conscientious child will think out things and plan what should be done in advance. As he grows up, this will be greatly beneficial because he is the one that plans carefully for his future. On the other hand, the impulsive child will be the one that comes across as ‘fun’ or exciting to be with. Such a child will need a lot of stimulation, or she will be quickly bored.

A fourth personality trait in children is their level of emotionality or neuroticism. A more emotional or neurotic child is the one who worries about things, get quickly angry or sad or infectiously happy. All their emotions are experienced deeply and projected clearly. This is the child who is quickly frustrated or discouraged and often demonstrates negative emotions. A less emotional child will be more stable, easier to get along with. They will also show less negativity. Parenting a neurotic child is always challenging.

The fifth identifiable personality trait for children is openness or imaginativeness and creativity. An open child will be willing to explore new things or situations. She will be more aware of her feelings, more appreciative of beauty and more intellectually curious. A more conservative child will demonstrate reduced risk-taking and a greater need for approval, and effort to be acceptable to others. The open child may challenge authority figures earlier, since he has a tendency to think about the ‘why’ of instructions. The challenge should not be taken as a personal attack; generally the open child really does want to know the reason for things and will ask more questions. Answering his questions clearly and logically will satisfy him and he will likely comply.

How are these innate personality traits affected by learning as described by Piaget? Exposure to the different ways the significant people in the child’s life have of reacting to situations will strengthen or weaken certain personality traits. For example, a child raised in a stressful environment will more likely be less extroverted and more neurotic and conventional, always worrying about pleasing others. A child raised in a loving and encouraging environment will tend to be more extroverted and more trusting and less emotional. The innate positive character traits can be strengthened through early interactions or the negative traits can be eased. Early childhood influences don’t set the child’s personality, but can redirect into more positive or more negative trends, depending on the type of influence. It behooves a caring parent to recognize early their child’s personality traits and understand the type of guidance he needs to become a healthy, functional individual. There are early childhood programs such as FasTracKids which can help parents in this undertaking, to foster characteristics that will benefit them in their youth and as they grow up in an increasingly challenging world.


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Do you know me?

They say, “You did not learn your fifty prepositions
Therefore you flunk English composition!”
But did you know: I read Castle in the Attic in a day.
The Indian in the Cupboard made my heart sing.
And I can answer all the riddles Bilbo did to capture Gollum’s ring.
Did you know?

They say, “Your book report did not follow the form I gave you.
You get no credit!”
But did you know: I am writing a book of my own.
I didn’t know if I could,
but when I tried, the words just came and came.
Did you know?

They say,” You don’t join organized sports. You don’t do anything.
What’s wrong with you?”
But did you know: I wrote a song for my mom
because I found her feeling bad.
My dad smiled and took his guitar and put my song to music.
We played it for my mom and she cried,
but I don’t think it’s because she was sad.
Did you know?
Mignon Pensive[1]
They say, “I am teaching the scientific process here,
and all you want to do is play.
You get a D!”
But did you know: I can name all the constellations
and find them in the sky.
Now I am learning all the Greek and Roman myths that go with each one.
It’s exciting!
I have a million questions,
but you get impatient when I’m always asking,
“Why?” Why do you?
Did you know?

They say, “You did not do your homework review sheet.
You will stay for detention.
You do not keep your mind on the things that are important.”
But did you know: I can feel the minute I walk into a room
if things aren’t going well.
I know when someone needs a hug,
and I can give it too.
I can clown and make you laugh or
sit quietly and listen.
And if you share a secret, even if I don’t understand
I would never tell.
Did you know?

Did you know that I can travel
anywhere I want to in my mind.
I can travel far away from you.
And I do.
Did you know?
Because you do not know me.

By Pamela Quinn May 1988