Ready to learn? You bet.
Rapid brain development in the 0–4-year age range provides an immense opportunity for parents and caregivers to jumpstart cognitive and socio-emotional gains and set a positive trajectory for a lifetime. Researchers, such as those at John Hopkins University, confirmed that the vast majority of neurons form between the ages 0-3 (and therefore the most receptive to learning a child is).
Learning the ABC’s and number’s is useful as a foundation for reading and counting, and the gem underneath is that the child is developing a sense that the world is safe, that they are valued, that they are seen, and that they are competent.
For decades in clinical practice, I told parents that how they parented during this age range set the stage for a child feeling intrinsically safe, i.e. inside themselves separate from the environment. Pause and think about whether generally you feel safe in the world or find it a scary place. This is not about whether there are scary things. There are, and that is a whole other conversation. We are talking about whether you or your child wake up, and before much thought, feel secure.
Reading with your infant or toddler enhances relationship, helps them develop empathy, meets their touch needs as you hold them, and gives them messages that they will internalize … i.e. how smart they are, what a good job they are doing (watching the counting, reading, repeating), and how much you enjoy them as a little human being. Establishing strong, secure, loving relationships is one of the first milestones for a child.
By six months they are social referencing – they will look at a caregiver, as my grandson Atreus is doing above, to gauge their reaction. Is this fun? Is this a safe activity? Is my caregiver happy to spend time with me, singing the ABC’s, counting with me? Am I valued? Artsy Alphabet and Count with Me are also easily made into interactive games which a toddler loves. “What letter comes next? Can you find ten ladybugs, six carrots, two mice?” Remember that at this stage it is about facilitating confidence, not self doubt. Find the success of each experience and know that you are helping create a solid foundation for your little one.
Dr. Kimberly Brayman