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Feature Article


Boost early brain development

Nina Chen, Ph.D., CFLE, former Human Development Specialist, Jackson County, University of Missouri Extension


Mom interacting closely with newbornScientists have discovered how children’s earliest experiences affect the way the brain is shaped. They have also learned how early brain development and the parent-child relationship interact to create a foundation for future learning.


Research on early brain development suggests the following guidelines to help children build their brain power and develop healthy patterns for life-long learning.


  • Talk, read and sing to children. Talk to your child, make eye contact, read aloud, play rhyming and word games, describe what is happening during daily routines, ask them questions, respond to their clues and cues, and sing songs. These ongoing interactions and conversations help young children build a foundation for language, social interactions and later learning.
  • Be warm, loving and responsive. Children’s early attachments affect how their brains grow. They need to feel secure by receiving care and attention in a warm, loving and responsive environment.
  • Encourage safe exploration. Exploration and play are important learning experiences for children. Provide them opportunities to move around, explore and play freely. Opportunities to interact and play with their peers can help children explore relationships and learn problem solving skills.
  • Establish routines and rituals. Daily routines and rituals such as nap time, bedtime and mealtime with positive feelings are reassuring for children. When children have consistent and predictable routines, they know that they can count on you for a sense of security.
  • Limit television viewing. Avoid using television as a babysitter. Research shows that children who were raised in families that limited television viewing time and were selective as to the types of programs they watched learned the best in school.
  • Ensure good health, good nutrition and safety. Have regular prenatal care, have routine child check-ups, get timely immunizations, safety-proof play areas, and make sure everyone eats a balanced diet and gets sufficient rest.


Shore, R. Rethinking the Brain: New Insights into Early Development. New York, NY: Families and Work Institute, pp. 26-27.


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Last Updated 03/13/2017