Recent research of the developing brain shows that there is a strong connection between the brain and the body. In fact, studies show that activities, which use the small muscles of the hand, actually help with your child’s brain development. Here are some interesting brain-building activities you can share with your child do at home.
Brain Facts to Use at Home
Small muscle movements encourage the development of spatial-reasoning skills. These are the same skills your young child will need to learn how to read. For example, it is your child’s ability to mentally manipulate shapes and orient them within a context. As children learn to recognize letters and numbers, they are using these skills to see proper formation and orientation of these “symbols”. But before your child can do this with letters and shapes they need to understand these spatial relationships in terms of a variety of objects and processes in her environment.
In addition, studies show that activities that ask children to manipulate their fingers can boost cognitive development in young children by enhancing the connections in the brain.
• Bake with your child. The process of mixing, measuring, and washing ingredients to bake fruit muffins or breads requires your child to use small muscle and coordination skills. The circular motion of mixing and stirring is similar to writing the circular based letters and numbers!
• Share Nursery Rhymes and Fingerplays. Old favorites such as “Jack and Jill Went Up the Hill” and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider” encourage your child to use her hands to create movements with her fingers and hands. While these may seem like just a “fun” thing to do…they are actually building the same section of the brain that your child will use for reading and writing.
• Play a Delicious Counting Game.You can use your child’s favorite cereal or small crackers for a finger-food game. She will be using small muscles to play the game but at the same time she will be using core math skills at the same time.
o Pour some of the cereal or crackers into a bowl for the counting game.
o Ask your child to open one hand and use the other to carefully pick up and place three “pieces” in it. She can count as she places them there. Ask, “How many do you have?”
o Have your child place two more pieces in her open hand. Ask, “Now how many do you have?”
o Next tell your child that she can take one away (and eat it if she likes!). Ask, “Now how many do you have left?”
o Continue the game adding and subtracting cereal or crackers until all are eaten!
• Pick It Up Game. An important hand skill is called “pincher grasp” and it is essential to your child’s ability to hold a pencil and write. Simply put, the pincer grip is the grasp used by the index finger and thumb to pinch a shoelace, a cereal puff, or a pencil. It seems like a small thing but it is huge for writing letters. It is also fun to play with. Invite your child to experiment with pincer grasp asking your child to pick up things such as cereal pieces, cotton balls, pom-poms with a pair of tweezers or chop sticks!
• String Things!Stringing small objects on yarn or string is another way to build hand coordination and pincher grasp. You can use cereal “O’s” on yarn or string to make cereal necklaces! Buttons and large beads are also fun to string. The manipulation of small objects actually increases brain connections.
• Puzzles, Blocks and Dominos, Oh My!Provide puzzles, dominos and small building blocks for more brain-based small motor activities at home. Studies have shown the process of picking up and balancing small blocks and other building toys builds memory centers of the brain.
• Paint with fingers, cotton swabs, sponges and yarn. Share a finger and hand skill building art projects that are more based on the process than the product. Provide your child with simple washable paints and a wide variety of “tools” for getting the paint around the paper. For example they can experiment with finger painting, painting with cotton swabs or yarn. Each of these uses different hand muscles and techniques and not only build the brain but also support her creative thinking. You might have a mess at the end of the project…but it will be YOUR child’s very precious creation…and there is nothing messy about that!