Easy tips to help your preschooler build a better brain


The years from birth to six are a unique period of development. During these magical years, the brain is wide open for input and fully engaged in a self-guided structuring process. This presents a golden opportunity to make a major positive difference in children’s lives.


With the right approach, we can help children realize more of their true potential throughout their lifetimes. The materials and activities for 3 –6 year olds shown in this book are some of the most positive, productive experiences you can provide your child. Children respond very positively when we support and encourage their brain development.


This starts with simple things all parents can do every day. Young children are hands-on learners, so the next step is to provide quality learning materials in an encouraging environment. High quality learning materials are found in Montessori and other good preschools all over the world. Parents can make most of the learning materials in this book very inexpensively. As more parents take an active role in helping their children learn, the home is becoming a place where young children are finding materials and activities that support and encourage their development.


life. Drawing of a Nerve  Wikimedia A baby has around 100 billion brain neurons at birth. Every sense impression, movement, and thought sends electrical impulses racing through a child’s brain from neuron branch to neuron branch.


The pathways these impulses follow become brain circuits. Nerve circuits that are used frequently become very adept at transmitting impulses. They become superhighways for electrical impulse transmission.   The first six years of a human life are a unique time when new brain nerve circuits are opened in huge numbers, with stunning speed.


A young child opens as many as 700 new brain nerve pathways every second for years.  By around six years of age the cerebral cortex, or ‘gray matter’ of the brain, which controls sensory awareness, muscle control, language, thought, memory, problem solving, attention, awareness, visual recognition, and consciousness, has reached about 90% of its adult weight.


Every time your child moves a muscle, receives sensory impressions, thinks, speaks, acts intentionally, even dreams, electricity travels through her brain along nerve circuits. As a child uses brain circuits regularly, these pathways organize into a structural complex of nerve circuits which scientists call the Brain Architecture. This organized network of nerve pathways becomes the functional brain we use for the rest of our lives.  


By six years of age, the foundational brain architecture we will use for life is in place. We have about six years to help a child make fundamental positive changes in their brain architecture. The experiences a child has during those precious six years dramatically affect the quality and capability of the child’s brain nerve architecture.


Independence Discovery Moments “From the moment they are weaned, little children are making their way toward independence.” Montessori saw that young children have a strong desire to master the skills of daily life and become independent people. They are often frustrated in these efforts by adults who are afraid that children will make a mess, hurt themselves, or require enormous amounts of time to practice and learn these skills.  


Children of course make mistakes when they are learning. Montessori made a positive out of this, incorporating the cleaning up of spills into many of her materials and activities. Other materials have a built-in ‘control of error’, which makes it obvious to a child when an arrangement or layout needs to be changed, when the child is ready to see that. Montessori counseled teachers not to interfere to do things for a child, but to let him work things out on his own. “It is well to cultivate a friendly feeling towards error, to treat it as a companion inseparable from our lives, as something having a purpose, which it truly has.” “Never help a child with a task at which he feels he can succeed.”


A big part of doing early learning at home is giving your child the chance to practice and master the skills of daily living during your everyday life at home, and with the Practical Life materials.


Movement “Watching a child makes it obvious that the development of his mind comes through his movements. Since it is through movement that the will realizes itself, we should assist a child in his attempts to put his will into act.” "When mental development is under discussion, there are many who say, 'How does movement come into it? We are talking about the mind.' And when we think of intellectual activity, we always imagine people sitting still, motionless. But mental development must be connected with movement and be dependent on it. It is vital that educational theory and practice should be informed by that idea." “The task of the educator lies in seeing that the child does not confound good with immobility and evil with activity.” Children have to move to develop properly. Movements build brain architecture, just as sensory impressions and thoughts do. Young children have a very close mind-body connection.  As a child gradually acquires large and small muscle control and coordination, her mind is also becoming ordered and structured. Children are almost constantly in motion because movement is essential to their development. You can support your child’s need to move at home with large muscle activities such as exercise, yoga, dance, gymnastics, and free play outdoors; and with learning materials that promote small muscle development of the arms, hands, and fingers.


The Absorbent Mind Cleaning a horse Discovery Moments “Whereas an adult admires their environment, a child completely absorbs it. This absorption transforms the child and forms part of his or her soul.” Montessori observed that young children, rather than learn fact-to-fact in a linear fashion, like adults, absorb information from all around them all at once, in a global way. She called this ability the Absorbent Mind.  Modern neuroscience has shown that children continuously and readily accept an enormous number and wide variety of sensory inputs, all at the same time. In the early years, children open up as many as 700 new brain nerve pathways every second.


They are soaking up everything about the world around them, which is why people sometimes call young children ‘little sponges’. Neuroscience has shown that the world we perceive is actually put together from a small fraction of the total number of sensory inputs we take in. It is in early childhood that we learn to pay attention to the same sensory inputs that older children and adults do.  


By about age 6 children have it down pat, and perceive the world pretty much like everyone else. Early learning materials help children refine and educate their senses and thinking skills, which facilitates this process. “There is in a child a special kind of sensitivity which leads him to absorb everything about him; and it is this work of observing and absorbing that alone enables him to adapt himself to life.”


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