Just like how running long distances build up stamina, it is believed that engaging the brain in “brain workouts” makes it work better. Here are some exercises to try to train your little one’s brain.
WORDS STEFFI TAN
A child’s brain develops at an astonishing pace in the early years! Neural connectors start forming from day one, and these are key to support future thinking and learning.
So how do you ensure you are properly supporting the mental growth of your little one? It all comes down to providing adequate nourishment for your child’s brain — food for the brain if you will — and of course, brain training exercises.
These are some activities you can try with your child to promote healthy brain development!
1. To Improve Memory
An easy activity to try would be to show your child three to six cards each printed with a different image, then flip them over and ask your child to find the card with, for example, a circle, suggests Jacqueline Neo, principal at Happy Train Pte Ltd. For children 18 months and above, you can start to test if they can properly identify certain animals, places, or people in a game of “memory match”, says Jakeson Garzon Quiatchon, senior training and development manager at Braintelleq Pte Ltd.
Storytelling is another way to promote this brain skill, adds Quiatchon. Listening to a story as it is read out requires children to put their working, visual, and auditory memory to keep track of the different characters and to follow the progression of the story.
Says Cherry Chie, brain fitness trainer at BrainFit Studio, once your child develops the concept of “object permanence” — the understanding that an object still exists even though it is not within sight — you can start playing games like object hide-and-seek to build spatial memory. Let your child observe as you hide the object. Ask him to wait as you count to five and then ask, “Where is the toy?” Gradually up the difficulty of the game by increasing wait time, or hiding more objects and asking your child to find all or specific objects that you’ve hidden.
Lastly, Agnes Ng, principal at Heguru Method Learning Centre says to integrate fun memory games into day-to-day activities. For example, when you go on a family grocery trip, set your child a task to memorise the list of items to be purchased.
You can teach memory tricks such as linking the items through an interesting
story and letting him recite it out loud along the way.
2. To Build Attention Span
Engage your child to complete a 15- to 30-minute project, depending on the child’s age, says Neo. For younger children, parents can try simple art activities such as painting, drawing, or colouring, or other games that help to develop fine motor skills such as using tweezers or chopsticks to pick up small cotton balls. For older children, parents can introduce a variety of fun craft projects such as making a card, bookmark, or a toy using recycled materials.
Children can also develop mental focus while engaging in tasks such as puzzles, says Ng. Picture puzzles or geometric puzzles such as tangrams work to the same effect.
For children two years and older, Quiatchon suggests trying card flashing games. Flash the cards and ask your child to explain what he saw. Gradually, increase the complexity of the game by adding more cards. This trains him to pay attention to a particular subject matter for a longer period of time.