Early childhood cognitive development is a critical issue

Early childhood cognitive development is a critical issue as there is rapid brain development in early childhood. Parents and those teaching early childhood can help optimize this brain development by providing certain kinds of experiences to children and by encouraging other activities which seem to come naturally to them.

The Power of Imaginative Play

Play in early childhood education is how children learn. In many ways, a child's play is his work.

It is absolutely essential that children be given opportunities for imaginative play because reading comprehension is rooted in imagination.

In order for children to comprehend what they are reading, they must be able to imagine what the characters are doing, why they are doing it, and what they might do next. If children have never engaged in imaginative play, it is very difficult for them to do this.

So parents and early care providers should encourage this sort of play daily. One way to do this is to refrain from buying toys which do all the action for the child. If all he has to do is sit and watch a toy truck, for example, there is little opportunity for him to use his imagination to move the truck along, make the sound of its motor, or dump its load at its destination.

Sometimes it is the simple toys which foster creative and imaginative play better than their more flashy counterparts.

Comprehension is rooted in imaginative play.

Imaginative play is an important pre-requisite to comprehension.

Language Development in Early Childhood

I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Education really is about language. This is doubly true in the early years. To put it bluntly: The more words a child knows when he enters school, the better equipped he is to be successful.

More than 60% of preschool children are never involved in interrogatory discussions with adults (asking/answering questions.) That being said, The 3 C's of the Home Classroom are ideal places for parents to begin having these important interrogative discussions.

Physical Activity

Running, hopping, skipping, jumping, and balancing all prepare the brain for reading. Learning to skip builds connections between brain hemispheres that are necessary for reading fluently, and jumping rope improves fluency as well.

There is a definite link between physical coordination and reading because such activities are also exercises for the brain.

So preschool children, especially boys, need physical activity and time to run, skip, hop, jump, and balance for optimum early childhood cognitive development. They also need experiences throwing and catching balls of different sizes and learning to dribble.

Music and the Arts

Music, art, drama, and dance come very naturally to children and enhance cognitive development and learning. Activities like those found at Early Childhood Arts Connection are essential for young children and should be part of every early childhood and daycare program.

Parents, too, can sing and clap in time to music to provide quality learning experiences for children especially during the summer months to help combat summer learning loss.

Go to Parents As Teachers from Early Childhood Cognitive Development

Go to Coordination from Early Childhood Cognitive Development

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Become a Dendrite Farmer

Parents and early care providers dedicated to giving children new experiences are really dendrite farmers. Whenever a child experiences something new, a wonderful phenomenon occurs in her brain - new dendrites sprout! These are the networks of the brain, and the more the better, so this is a very big deal!

Preschool teachers are great about taking kids on field trips. But did you know that it doesn't have to be a trip out of town? It doesn't have to cost any money, either, because there are plenty of opportunities to see and discuss things that are new to your child.

Any green space is full of undiscovered wonders which you and your child can experience together. Insects, plants, and flowers are everywhere.

If you will permit me to share a personal example, we recently had dinner with our daughter, son-in-law, and grandson at a local restaurant. As we were leaving, we saw that a man on a tractor was preparing to bale hay in the small field beside the parking lot.

What a great opportunity to grow a dendrite, I thought, so we stood and watched the man bale the hay, explaining the process as he went along.

When he finished and was gone, I walked into the field with my grandson (despite the fact that Pawpaw was ready to go!!) so that my grandson could examine the large round bales and touch them. (We even rolled one of them a little, but don't tell anybody!)

It was a great experience for my grandson - I could almost hear the dendrites growing - and it cost only 15-20 minutes of our time.

Opportunities like this one are everywhere - if we look for them!


If a child does not hear a foreign language before the age of 3 years or so, the brain will assume that those cells dedicated to this type of language acquisition are not going to be needed. So it prunes them!

For this reason, I always recommend that parents arrange for infants and toddlers to hear a foreign language regularly. Playing multicultural lullabies at bedtime is one way to accomplish this.