December braininsights Newsletter!

Did you know.... when donating, the reward center is activated in the brain.... of the giver!

The December braininsights Newsletter has great information on how the brain benefits from giving and how now is a great time to focus on brain development.  Read more here.
You can subscribe to the free newsletter here
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Comments From Your Child About Holiday Shopping!

I know holiday shopping with me can be frustrating and difficult at times. I really don’t want to be a problem when you take me along. I realize you have a lot to do and you want me to be good so you can get it all done, but, my brain doesn’t always allow me to be perfect. I do like when you take me with you because my brain is curious and I get to see new things. I also love being with you!

So here are some ideas I have so we can have a good time together!

My brain doesn’t like to be bored and it also doesn’t like to be over stimulated. I need interesting things to keep it entertained, but if I get too much stimulation I will need you to help me to relax. My brain is not good at this on my own yet.

               (3 -6 year olds)
  •   Give me a coupon with a picture on it. Make it a fun “treasure hunt” to find this item as we go through the isles together.

  • Have me help you find the items you need by giving me simple directions. For example: Ask me to get the red box or pick the smallest size can, or the item on the bottom shelf.

               (1 – 4 year olds)
  •   While waiting in line, name an item for me to find and point to. Or point to a picture on magazine and have me name it.


               (3 – 5 year olds)
  • As we turn down a new isle name a color. Have me point out items of that color as we  go through the row. Or to add variety, name a shape to look for.

My brain also likes physical activity and using all of the senses. Exploring is how my brain learns. So, I will like touching and trying out things I see.  If you guide me to or provide things that are safe to touch this will be best.  Much of this is all new to me, and do not realize what might happen if I touch, push or pull on something without your guidance.

                (0-3 year olds)
  •  While we shop give items to try out. Let me feel different textures or hear the sounds items  make.  Since my brain learns through repetition I may want to do it again and again. Use descriptive words for the textures and sounds I am experiencing too. My brain likes to hear lots of language from you about objects in my world.

                 (3 – 6 year olds)
  • Have me close my eyes and listen to all the sounds. Have me tell you all that I hear.

  • Have me help you put items on the counter as you get ready to checkout. We could count together as we do this.

I really like it when you give me positive attention . When we are having fun together I will feel good.  My brain will then not react in negative ways to get you to pay attention to me. 
                 (2 – 6 year olds)
  • Let me tell you about all that I see and am interested in as we shop. I get excited about all of the new things I am learning and want to share it with you!

                 (All ages)
  • Sing holiday songs with me while we wait in line.


When I am  hungry or tired it is more likely you will have to deal with acting out behaviors. I really am not trying to be “bad’, my brain is just reacting to what it needs. My brain is not developed to the point of being able to control how I feel yet. I need you to understand and offer support.
  • Bring water and healthy snacks along.

  • Begin shopping after everyone has had enough sleep. Plan shopping before my bed time or after my naps.

With all of this in mind, let’s have a wonderful time together!  My favorite thing to do is spend fun and loving times with you!
For brain development as perfect gifts take advantage of the "brain buster " special at braininisights this week-end!  (Friday, November 27th - Sunday, November 29th)

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Millions of Young And Hungry Brains

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) released a report yesterday finding that 49 million people –17 million of which are children, did not have enough food to eat during 2008, an increase of 3.5% from 2007. The report goes on to say that children, especially young children are usually shielded from hunger because their parents find a way to provide enough food but in 2008, over a half of million children under the age of six suffered from the most severe hunger.

These statistics are startling. . . . and very hard to hear for those of us that care so deeply for our young and vulnerable children. Food plays a vital role in brain function, especially during the early years when nearly 90% of the brain is developed. Hunger causes stress in the brain due to the lack of nutrients it needs. This causes stress hormones to be released resulting in lack of attention, behavior problems, and the brain not functioning at optimal levels.

The nutritional value of the food is also important. Good nutrition can lead to increased serotonin levels in the brain and happier children spending more time playing and learning. Sugary foods or beverages eaten on an empty stomach instead of healthy foods (including enough protein) will result in a crabby and possibly hyperactive child.

With Thanksgiving only a few days away, please think about those families and children who are in need and could use your help. To do its part to feed young brains, braininsights® will be directly donating baby formula, cereal, and food to Feeding America® Eastern Wisconsin. braininsights® will donate additional baby food products with each purchase of braininsights® Activity Packets. You can also donate food to Feeding America® at

To learn more about the braininsights® Giving Thanks promotion visit
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November Newsletter: Holidays With The Brain In Mind

Read the November Newsletter with great information on how to have a happy brain and a happy holiday season.  Read the newsletter here
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Many of you would be surprised to hear me say there are many positives about Sesame Street.  Those of you that follow my blogs or hear me speak know how I do not support children watching television.  In fact, I frequently demonstrate in presentations how brain connections are made best through interaction and play versus watching TV. And I ALWAYS say … no television before the age of two.
However, I do congratulate Sesame Street for the examples the show gives us on how the brain learns .
  •  The brain learns through having fun
  •  The brain learns through positive role models
  •  The brain learns through real objects
  •  The brain learns from repetition  
  •  The brain learns from predictability
Sesame Street does all of this and you can see each of these in the following example. You will most likely be able to sing along!

However, it is critical to early brain development that we do not have children just sitting and watching television. Research shows brain connections made through direct interaction as opposed to just observing are much stornger. The Neilson Company reports, “ American children aged 2-11 are watching more and more television than they have in years. New findings show kids aged 2-5 now spend more than 32 hours a week on average in front of a TV screen”.

So to optimize the type of learning that Sesame Street demonstrates is best, have children play and interact with real people and get outdoors. But, if a child is going to watch television it is critical to make that time fully interactive.  Following are ideas to turn television viewing in to an interactive experience:
  •           While watching have the child respond and take an active part by singing along with the songs,  answering questions out loud, and so on.
  •             Dance and move together along with music on a show.
  •             Ask questions as you watch together. For example ask, “What would you do if that happened to you?”
  •             Have the child imitate and act out actions on a program.
  •            Together clap along with a song or while counting.
  •             As you are watching a program have the child guess what might happen next.
  •             After a program, have the child remember the sequence of events. Ask, what happened first, next and last in the story.
The most important thing to remember is the brain learns best through experiencing fun interactions with real people and objects!  So… “Come and play everything is a-okay…. ….  “
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We Can All Benefit!

It is important to remember, the adults in children’s lives are making a direct impression through every action. Only a small portion of our brain focuses on verbal communication. So, our actions do speak louder than words.
With this in mind I recently learned about a company that is focused on making a positive difference. It is called, Koru Fundraising and I had the chance to have a conversation with the founder last week.

As is stated on the Koru website, Corey believes that fundraising is necessary to improve the education of children but believes in transforming the industry too. This means maintaining a high set of values that will be passed to our youth. Corey’s goal is to help forge an economy that can live through many generations and co-exist peacefully with nature. Koru Fundraising is a vehicle for making these goals happen.

My excitement about the company comes from the belief I also have about making a positive impact. I frequently express that I feel fundraising could make a tremendous impact through selling products that make a difference. When children are involved this is especially important.
So when your organization or group is looking for a way to raise money to make a difference , look for a way to benefit everyone through what you sell. This may be a great resource for you.
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YES… I Am Going To Say It Again!

You may have heard me say this before…. The brain learns and make connections through repetition……!

Through loving interactions and repeated experiences the best pathways are created. This video says it ALL! ENJOY!

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braininsights® is Giving Thanks This November

A baby food product will be donated to the local Feeding America® Eastern Wisconsin food bank for every brain activity packet purchased through the month of November.

Food plays a vital role in early brain development. Hunger causes stress in the brain due to the lack of nutrients it needs. This causes stress hormones to be released resulting in lack of attention, behavior problems, and the brain not functioning at optimal levels. However, good nutrition can lead to increased serotonin levels in the brain and happier children spending more time playing and learning.

You can easily feed two brains! You can promote brain development for the child in your life..... and also support a child in need by purchasing braininsights® activity packets today!

For more information on braininsights® and the Giving Thanks promotion visit To learn more about Feeding America® Eastern Wisconsin visit
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October braininsights Newsletter

Check out the October braininsights Newsletter!

You can subscribe to this Free Monthly Newsletter by clicking on the link in the newsletter
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Interactive Play is MOST Important

The holiday shopping season is quickly approaching and parents, grandparents, and loved ones are already beginning to think about what gifts to get the children in their lives. It is important to keep optimal brain development in mind while choosing that perfect present.

I am frequently asked what toys promote brain development. Many parents also inquire about DVD’s and programs to teach babies to read. My response always is, “Loving interaction and play with real objects is what a developing brain needs most.”

Recently, a report by the National Scientific Council on the Developing Child found that:

“Although a varied array of experiences clearly stimulates learning in the preschool years, promotional statements about the superior brain building impacts of expensive “educational” toys and videos for infants and toddlers have no scientific support.”

So instead of buying these expensive toys and programs, look instead for toys that are best for children that do any or all of the following:

· Provides an opportunity for direct interaction and manipulation
· Gives a child a chance to develop something with their hands
· Offers a variety of ways of using the toy or objects
· Sparks imagination and creativity
· Allows the child to repeat a process
· Promotes physical activity

Examples are: Puzzles, building blocks, building sets, crayons, balls, paints, play dough, dolls, trucks and cars, shape sorters, sand toys, bean bags, nesting cups, pretend play sets, water toys, and books!

Opportunities to just play, create, explore, and manipulate objects provides the best opportunities for real learning. When these activities are driven by a child’s own interests this is when you will almost be able to see brain connections being made!

For the full report from the Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University go to: The Timing and Quality of Early Experiences Combine to Shape Brain Architecture
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Deborah McNelis Selected to Advisory Board for Kids Educational & Entertainment Site

ZiggityZoom Press Release.doc[1]
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Mirrored Learning

Did you know a new born baby will imitate you if you repeatedly stick your tongue out as the baby watches?

It is well known that children are influenced by role modeling and learn through imitation. Watching a young child with a play phone is evidence of this. It is often amusing to see how well a child acts out the actions of a parent.

Related to this, research has now found something extremely interesting happening in the brain. Recent studies have revealed something called mirror neurons. These studies show that a certain amount of mirror neurons are active both when moving… AND when just watching the movement of another person!

The following clip shows a fun example of a child imitating movements seen on a music video. Due to the discovery of mirror neurons we now know that a child watching these movements also has mimicking activity in the brain even if just watching the movements.

Even more exciting is evidence that shows mirror neurons may also be related to emotional areas in the brain. This means when a person sees another expressing an emotion the feeling areas of the brain are activated as if feeling the emotion personally. This may be the basis for developing empathy. This emphasizes how critically important it is for young children to have direct loving interactions with special people in everyday life. Through these positive experiences empathy and emotional connections can be developed.

Enjoy….. and just realize you are likely making mirror neurons activate in your brain as you watch.

Note: Of course mimicking the actions of a real person interacting with the child is preferable to brain development. Direct interaction is always better than watching television or a DVD.
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Answers to Frequently Asked Questions

I have answered a number of frequently asked brain questions at Child Care Aware Parents Network. (log in required)
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"Early Childhood Brain Insights" wins Top 100 Parenting Blogs Award

The Daily Reviewer has compiled the best blogs and "Early Childhood Brain Insights" was included in the Top 100 Parenting Blogs!!

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September braininsights Newsletter

Check out the "Brain Stimulus" issue of the braininsights newsletter!
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Play On!

Stuart Brown, founder and president of the National Institute for Play, had a great opinion piece titled "Let the Children Play (Some More)" in the New York Times today. We need EVERYONE to read this article! In addition to physical and safety needs, what young children need most for optimal brain development is loving interaction and PLAY! It is critical that this information is shared with all parents, educators, and decision makers. We ALL benefit from children with well developed brains. I want to thank Mr. Brown for his work in helping to make this become common knowledge!
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Brain Development and Breastfeeding …. Lots of benefits!

August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month. This month is dedicated to promoting the many benefits to both a mother and a baby through breastfeeding.

Did you know…. the absence of touch, and the absence of eye contact with an infant, leads to limited brain growth? Breastfeeding provides both of these important influences on brain development. The close nurturing time provided while breastfeeding helps in meeting the basic needs for nourishment and love. These caring times spent together create a secure attachment for an infant, which is critical to healthy emotional development. The first 18 months of life are the most important months for a baby to make those critical emotional connections in the brain. This important aspect of development happens through consistently tuning into and meeting the baby’s needs.

Breast milk can make a difference for your baby.
· Breast milk is the perfect nutrition for your baby.
· Your body keeps it at the perfect temperature. No guessing is needed.
· Breast milk can help protect your baby from infections like pneumonia, ear infections, bronchitis, and urinary tract infections. Chronic childhood diseases are likely decreased with breastfeeding.
· Breastfed babies can have less risk of asthma, obesity, and diabetes,
· Some studies are showing that breastfeeding is correlated to higher academic achievement. (American University (AU) and University of Colorado (Denver) studies)
Breast milk benefits the Mother
· Mothers who breastfeed have a lowered risk of premenopausal breast cancer and ovarian cancer.
· Breastfeeding can enhance the bonding process.
· Breastfeeding makes night time feedings easier with no formula measuring and bottles to warm up.
· Breastfeeding also provides calorie burn and assists with losing weight after pregnancy.
· AND…. It doesn’t cost anything!
For more ideas on making critical emotional connections and helping your baby’s brain develop order, the Love Your Baby brain development packet at This is the first in The Brain Development Series.
For more on breastfeeding go to:
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News from braininsights

View the August Braininsights Newsletter here

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Free Brain Development Webinar

Brain Development: You Can Easily Make A Positive Difference!
The brain is an amazing organ that allows each of us to think, feel, learn and act. It is exciting to know how experiences can have a positive impact on the developing brain— and it is not complicated to understand! Join early brain development specialist and award winning author, Deborah McNelis, for an informative session to learn how, with simple, enriching activities, you can make a positive difference in the connections made among your child's 100 billion brain cells. This session will be interactive, and you can ask questions.

Wednesday August 5 at 8:30pm - 9:30pm Eastern Standard Time (EDT)/7:30 pm-8:30 Central Standard Time
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Beyond being healthy is there anything parents want more for their child than to be happy, to be smart and to feel loved?
Did you know reading books together creates all of this for a child?

Studies have shown that in most cases, the highest level high school and college students were read to as young children. This is due to the fact that reading aloud helps children develop language and vocabulary before they start school. The brain develops most language skills from birth to the age of three. When children are talked to frequently during these early years, this results in a better vocabulary and a higher level of language ability overall.

Children love to hear stories. Just watch the face of a child light up when they are enjoying a new book or are hearing a favorite story again. The brain learns through repetition. This is why you will often hear children saying, “read it again”! Children also enjoy books that have a repeating phrase throughout a story.
When children are enjoying an activity many brain connections will be made! It is important to read together when the child is in the right mood to make it an enjoyable time.

Feeling Loved:
Reading aloud helps develop a special bond between parent and child. Reading provides a special time to talk, share, hug, laugh, and feel togetherness. Sharing a book together can be as simple as looking at the pictures! One of the most important things a child needs to learn early is how special they are. Frequent loving interactions creates brain connections that can last a life time!

Ideas for Reading Fun……! (A child’s brain will like these!)
Make new fun places and opportunities for reading! The brain likes novelty. It becomes more alert when things are new and different.
…. Make a “reading nook” by putting a blanket over a table.
…. Read outside under a tree, at a picnic table, on a blanket, or in a hammock.
…. Bring a book to the doctor or dentist office, restaurant or anywhere else you have to wait. (The brain does not like to be bored)
…. Make a cozy reading spot by filling a dry bathtub with pillows.
…. After reading a book together have your child retell the story to a stuffed animal or another family member.

For more learning and loving brain activities go to
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The brain does not like to be bored and children will let you know that!! Summer is an opportunity for LOTS of family fun! The warm weather brings the chance to enjoy lots of learning opportunities outdoors. Even though we are in tough economic times, there are many ways to enjoy fun and cost free time together.

Up In The Air
Provide a blown up balloon for me to play with. Have me bat it in into the air and try to keep it from touching the ground.
----- My brain is developing the ability to better coordinate my visual skills with my advancing movement abilities.

Listening Walk
Take me on a “listening walk”. While we are out walking have me listen for and talk about all the sounds I hear. Ask, “Do you hear a bird, a car horn, the wind,” etc. After the walk have me draw a picture about what I heard.
----- My brain needs to learn to focus on specific sounds while other sounds are screened out. This helps me focus and will help me to hear the sounds in words when I learn to read.

Follow the Path
Using a piece of chalk outdoors, make a path of dots for me to follow. Ask me to step on the dots and suggest different ways for me to move; hopping, jumping and so on!
----- Movement activities help get more oxygen to my brain. My brain uses over 20% of my body’s nutrients and oxygen.

Ball of Fun
When outside, create a game of accuracy by having me toss a small ball into bowls or paper cups at various distances. Help me count the number of times I get the ball in the cup or bowl. Count in English then count in Spanish.
------ At this age I can count, but my mind does not understand the amounts that go with these numbers. My brain will start understanding what numbers mean when I have practice counting real objects.

Enjoy a wonderful summer helping your child’s brain develop while having lots of fun!

Adapted From: Play With Me While I’m Three and Let’s Learn More While I’m Four, by Deborah McNelis found at
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Looking for Child Care with Brain Development in Mind

The need for quality child care is frequently discussed and written about recently. (Thankfully!) However, why quality care is so important is not always fully understood. Knowledge of early brain development provides the answers. The following information can help parents ensure the care their child receives is quality care.

First as a caring parent, it is extremely important that you understand that 90% of your child's brain develops before kindergarten. It is the experiences your child has that primarily influences how the brain is wired. It has been found that child care professionals with higher levels of education often have more knowledge of overall child development. You need to ask about the education and training of the providers.

Relationships are critical to brain development. Loving interaction is what wires the brain best. Due to this, it is essential to look for child care that provides high numbers of teachers to the number of children. This allows the child care professional the time to provide the caring interaction and nurturing a child needs throughout the day. In addition, the brain does not like chaos. If the caregiver is responsible for too many children this may create too much stress for a child.

Children are born ready to learn and explore. Children's developing brains need fun, hands-on experiences. Learning is best when all of the senses are used through exploration of real objects. A child care setting needs to recognize and provide this type of environment for optimal learning.

Research has shown programs that consider the parents as partners in the child's development are the most effective. It is important that you feel welcome and included as a part of your child’s care and development.

Regular routines, a safe and healthy environment, nutrition, and sleep are all very important to the child's brain development as well. These are additional areas of inquiry as you look for quality care.

You are going to feel so much better about where you leave your child while at work, when you know the loving, fun, safe, and interactive care your precious child's brain needs is provided!
Photo by Anissa Thompson
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CELEBRATE!— The Week of the Young Child – April 19 – 25

It is so terrific that the National Association for the Education of Young Children dedicates a week to the importance of the early childhood years! This week provides us the opportunity to realize how our society benefits from optimal development in the pre-school years.

This week highlights the knowledge gained from scientific research that demonstrates that the experiences young children receive in the first three years of life are crucial to brain development. These studies prove that brain development is determined by the daily environment and experiences, rather than genetics alone. This as so exciting to realize, it means we can easily ensure each child has a well developed brain!!

Our increasingly technically and socially complex society cannot afford to continue to allow large numbers of children to miss out on the positive experiences they need in infancy and early childhood; the costs of lost potential and increased rates of emotional and behavioral problems, are too high. Brain research show us what children need; we just need to guarantee that every child receives it!

Celebrate the Week of the Young Child by making a difference. Simple ideas to promote this week are to tell your friends, family, coworkers, and neighbors what you've learned about brain development, donate books or a game to a preschool program, contact your representative to encourage support of programs for children and families, read to a child waiting at a food pantry, or simply compliment a parent you observe having a positive interaction with their child.

Happy Week of the Young Child!
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I could not be more thrilled! There is an increase in the amount of information demonstrating the importance of play and interaction in the media recently!
An article printed in Health & Science on March 3rd titled, TV for Babies: Does It Help or Hurt? points out the value of interactive experiences.
The article supports the recommendation from the American Academy of Pediatrics for no television time for toddlers younger than 2. Two different studies on the effects of television on children’s development are discussed in this article. The researchers from both studies state, “TV exposure in babies younger than 2 doesn't do any good.”

Christakis, a researcher on this issue states, “if you want to stimulate your baby’s brain try simply playing with him.” In a recent study, Christakis showed that basic activities like playing with blocks, can improve an 18-month old’s language skills six months later.
Experts worry that time spent watching television and even baby designed DVDs will continue to replace what babies need most in the first months of life, which face time with human beings. “Every interaction with our child is meaningful,” says Christakis. “Time is precious in those early years, and the new born is watching you, and learning from everything you do.”

The goal of braininsights is to make this common knowledge! it is exciting to see the awareness increase!

braininsights activity packets provide these types of ideas for fun interactive learning experiences in everyday life. For more information on these unique packets visit
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Isn't it great that learning doesn’t have to be serious? Scientific research proves the importance of play in early brain development! Watching this video clip demonstrates the valuable learning that can take place while have lots of fun. (You will probably have fun yourself just from watching this!)

This clip shows the valuable interactive experience this baby is having through simply ripping paper! It illustrates that to provide learning experiences a child does not need to have expensive, flashing toys. Many connections are made in this baby’s brain through a very fun and repeated activity that costs nothing.

Play and laughter activates the care and thinking areas of the brain. These important brain areas are strengthened by having these types of experiences often. It is apparent through watching this, the baby is learning. You can see, through repetition he learned what to expect before the paper was ripped.

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The experiences young children receive in the first three years of life are crucial to brain development. When a child receives loving care and stimulation, connections are formed between brain cells. These connections physically wire the brain. It is primarily the early experiences that largely determine the strength and function of the brain's wiring system. Warm responsive parents, who cuddle and talk to their children and provide fun learning experiences, promote healthy brain development for their children.

Technology allows the study of the brain, like we've never seen before. Scientific research demonstrates that a child's early development is determined by his daily environment and experiences, rather than genetics alone. For us to provide the best for all children, we must all understand how a child's brain works and develops. It is critical that this information becomes common knowledge.

Our education system and entire society cannot afford to continue to allow large numbers of children to miss out on the positive experiences they need in infancy and early childhood; the costs in terms of lost potential and increasing rates of emotional and behavioral problems, are too high. Brain research show us what children need; our challenge is to ensure that every child receives it!

Photo by Anissa Thompson

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Creating awareness of early brain development is so much fun! Through the increasing numbers of presentations I have been invited to do, I get the wonderful opportunity to share what I am finding people are VERY interested in learning. People are often amazed to realize that 85% of a child’s brain develops from birth to age three based primarily on the experiences in a child’s environment!

Throughout this week I am asking everyone that cares about young children to help create further awareness!! It is so important that everyone understands the fantastic opportunity we have to positively impact the development of young children’s brains.
All it takes is loving interactions and opportunities to play with the people in a child’s life!!

Imagine a world where this knowledge is applied for every child! What a difference it would make now and in the long term. We all benefit from children with well developed brains!!

This week start the habit of talking to people you work with, your neighbors, your family members, and even the person that cuts your hair about the importance of early brain development! Have fun!!

To do my part in creating awareness about early brain development, I will be posting a series of blogs regarding brain development research each day during Brain Awareness Week. To make sure you don’t miss out, subscribe to the blog. Also, during this week, I will be offering a 25% discount on brain development activity packets. Learn more about the packets at

Happy Brain Awareness Week!
Photo by Paulo Correa
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It is thrilling to see an increase in information on brain development in the media. One recently published article in particular is valuable in creating an understanding of the impact of experiences in the early years. This article discusses the critical importance of play and interaction!

The article, The Serious Need for Play, published in Scientific American, refers to numerous studies that demonstrate the value of play. The article points out that play adds to the development of better language and social skills. Evidence also show that play is effective in the reduction of stress. And additionally, play also is shown to make kids smarter.

Too often it is thought that the best way to help children develop is to plan structured activities. David Elkind is quoted in this article saying, “Play has to be reframed and seen not as an opposite to work but rather as a complement.” He also says, “Curiosity, imagination and creativity are like muscles: if you don’t use them, you lose them.”

Braininsights activity packets, I have developed, are designed with this understanding of early brain development in mind. For example:


When I am in an active mood, lay on the floor and let me crawl over you. Let me have a fun time while giving me safe physical play time with you.

Studies show gentle rough and tumble play helps the development of the thinking areas of the brain.


Let me have time to just play, be creative and use my developing imagination. Provide items that are safe for me to use around the house. You might be amazed at the creative things my brain comes up with if I have free play time.

Items to get play started: Put a blanket over a table, give me plastic kitchen containers or utensils, junk mail, packing peanuts, cardboard boxes, etc.

My brain will learn to imagine, and to be curious and creative by having lots of opportunities to just play. Play experiences with real things on my own or with friends helps me also develop problem solving skills.


In addition to the time we spend playing together, let me have time to also play on my own. Watch for times when I am very interested in an activity and let me enjoy it as long as I am interested.

My brain needs to explore things over and over. When I do this my brain learns what to expect from different things I try. Playing alone gives me important time to discover for myself how things work.

For more ideas to provide play ideas for the child(ren) in your life go to
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Reading with a young child is an experience that develops the brain in many ways. Holding the child close contributes to making brain connections for emotional development. Hearing words in a story leads to making brain connections for strong language development. Reading to a child provides interactive learning in a way that television and DVDs can not do.

So in honor of Dr. Suess, the following fun activity ideas are centered around the book, The Cat in the Hat. Each activity also includes insights to explain how the interaction helps to support brain development. These activities provide additional learning opportunities to enhance reading. They are designed for the way children learn best……. Having fun with you!

For more brain insights activities to use even during your busy everyday life go to


O – 1 Year Olds

Show the baby pictures in the book. Point to and name the object in the pictures.

Brain Insight: A child’s language development is based on the amount of language heard daily. The first three years are the critical time in the brain for learning language.

1 – 2 Year Olds

Name items and have the baby point to items pictured in the book.
Examples: Say, “Point to the hat.” or “Where is the fish?”

Brain Insight: Providing learning experiences in a fun and relaxed way can reduce the level of stress chemicals in a child’s brain.

2 – 3 Year Olds

Have the child play a, “Cat in the Hat” clean up game. Give the child directions to follow to pick up items after playing.
Examples: “Pick up the ball, put it in the toy box and crawl back.” Or, “Put the
book on the shelf and hop back.”

Brain Insight: A following directions activity gives a child’s brain the practice it needs to remember more than one direction.

3 – 4 Year Olds

Have the child walk around trying to balance a book on his/her head, as the cat did in the story.

Brain Insight: Movement activities help get more oxygen to a child’s brain. The brain use over 20% of the body’s nutrients and oxygen. Research shows physical activity positively contributes to learning.

4 – 5 Year Olds

As you read a paragraph in the story, stop and say one of the rhyming words. Have the child say the other rhyming word.
Example: Have no fear said the Cat,
I will not let you fall.
I will hold you up high
As I stand on this ball.

You say “fall” the child will say, “ball”

Brain Insight: By the time a child is five a vocabulary of about 2,500 – 3,000 words can be developed. This is an increase from the 50 words known as a toddler. This only happens when a child has the chance to hear and use lots of words through direct interaction. TV and DVDs do not contribute to language development.

5 - 6 Year Olds

As you read the story, ask questions.

Examples: What do you think will happen next?, What do you think will happen if the Cat in the Hat balances more things?, or What do you think the fish will say about that?

At the end of the story ask, “What would you do if your Mother asked you?”

Brain Insight: Brain development is impacted positively when a child is listened to and responded to while talking. Additionally, the highest thinking areas of the brain are developed through opportunities for the child to imagine.
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Finally Information on the Early Years is Getting Out in a Big Way!

President Obama’s budget proposal states……

“research has shown that there is a high return
for investments made in high-quality, comprehensive programs supporting disadvantaged children, and their families, from birth. Some studies show that for every dollar invested, there is a $4 to $9 return to society in higher earnings, higher
graduation and employment rates, less crime, decreased need for special education services, less use of the public welfare system, and better health. However, we have yet to make a serious commitment to our youngest learners. We know that a dollar invested in early education will pay off handsomely as these children grow older.”

Read more of the President's budget proposal here
I am so excited to have our president understand and emphasize the importance of the early years! This is something all of us can celebrate!! As President Obama explains we all benefit from providing a positive and enriching environment for our children. Just imagine our country where all children have well developed brains!

The 100 billion brain cells a child is born with make connections based primarily on the environment and experiences early in life. So it is critical that these nurturing and stimulating opportunities are provided for every child. For the past 20 years scientific research has increased our understanding of the physical growth taking place in the brain during the critical early years. One of the goals I have and the reason I started braininsights is to make this common knowledge! Even though there is a long way to go, getting national attention and increased funding toward positive brain development for additional children is a reason to cheer!
Add comments about your excitement or share ideas on ways we can create further awareness!
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"Touching" brain development

Our brains develop primarily through every day experiences we have in our early years! My daughter sent this wonderful clip knowing how much I would enjoy how it provides an example. This event captured on video shows a heartwarming experience impacting this baby's brain.

It shows first of all the natural curiosity the baby has which creates the motivation to move closer to "check out" the item on the floor. The baby then uses touch in addition to vision. This combination creates more learning than just looking at something. This is extremely apparent in this clip.

It is most fun to watch the cause and effect learning that is taking place. The baby sees a reaction happen from touching the dogs foot. The same action is repeated to see if it will create the same result. This is how we learn! And repetition is what creates strong connections between brain cells. How valuable this learning experience is for this baby --- and what fun it is for us to watch it taking place in such a pleasurable way!!
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The Best Valentine's Day Gift for Your Child: Love and Play

Are you trying to decide what special Valentine to give your child? Should you buy the box of chocolates or the candy conversation hearts? This would not be the healthiest choice! Would they really prefer the cute stuffed animal? That may not be the best way to spend your money either!  Instead of these purchased items, you can give your child something they will like and time to play with you. It’s free and you don’t have to deal with the repercussions of a sugar high!

It really is that easy and inexpensive to give your child the best Valentine’s Day present, a parents love and interactive play. This is what a developing brain needs most. A child’s brain grows best from positive experiences in every day life. Incorporating them into daily activities is very simple. Since Valentine’s Day is devoted to letting people know how much we care, it is a great time to give your child the love and play time they will cherish and benefit from for years.

Here are a few special Valentine activities that you can do with your child and a description of how the brain grows with each activity:

0-1 year oldsFuzzy KissesPlay a game with one of those stuffed animals your child already has. Use the animal to give your child a kiss on the belly. Make a kissing sound. Next, you give them a kiss. Continue going back and forth.
A baby’s brain likes patterns. Having a fun loving game make learning fun.

1-2 year oldsHide and Seek with a mirrorHold your child in front of a mirror then turn away. Turn back to the mirror and say, “I love you”. Continue this fun game as long as they stay interested.
Showing you love your child through fun interactions makes connections in the emotional part of the brain. This is very important to develop especially in the early years.

2-3 year olds
Heart Hop
Using several small pieces of masking tape, make the shape of a large heart on the floor. Encourage your child to step on the dots and walk around the heart. Give ideas of different ways they can move: hop, jump, crawl, etc.
Movement activities help get more oxygen to the brain. The brain uses over 20% of the body’s energy, nutrients, and oxygen.

3-4 year oldsFind the HeartsCreate a hide and seek game. Use a deck of cards and hide the Ace, 2, 3, 4, and 5 of hearts somewhere in the room. Have your child find all 5 cards. Next let your child hide them for you to find.
The easiest time for connections the brain needs to learn basic math skills is during the preschool years. Your child learns best while having fun.

4-5 year olds
Count and SortProvide a sorting activity. Give your child various conversation hearts (or various shaped cereal or macaroni) to sort by color (size or shape). Using muffin tins makes sorting easy.
The thinking part of the brain organizes by making associations with things that go together. It helps your child to think about how things are alike.

These ideas are adapted from brain development activity packets. For more activities go to
  Happy Valentines Day!!! 
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Welcome to Early Childhood Brain Insights!

I am so glad you are here!

Do you know that you have the perfect chance to make a difference in the brain development of the children in your life or community? Isn’t it wonderful to know that all of us have that opportunity?

Did you know that 85% of a baby’s brain development will happen after birth? And do you realize that a great deal of the development will happen based on the experiences a child has in the early years?

It is my goal and passion to have everyone understand that experiences early in life have an impact on the developing brain.

The good news is brain development isn’t as complicated as it may sound.

Brain development isn’t about pushing children to learn more at early ages or having the perfect toys. It is about providing fun learning experiences and loving interactions with your child. Doesn’t it feel good when you know that in addition to physical needs, play and loving attention are the experiences a baby’s brain needs most?

Brain development can easily fit into your busy life. You just need to have ideas and information about what to do……… because children do not come with instructions.

It is my genuine hope that from this blog, my website and the materials I have produced I provide you will gain insights about brain development and as a result, experience tremendous joy with the children in your life.
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