Smiling in Haiti? A Wonderful Example of the Need and Benefits of Play!

I frequently write and speak about the importance of play.  I also emphasize that children do not need expensive toys, gadgets, and programs to have fun and learn.  Play is natural and can take place anywhere.  The brain craves opportunities for fun and interaction.

This NBC story of children in Haiti is a fantastic example of the positive impact of play.  It is sure to make you smile!

To help the children of Haiti you can make a donation to Save the Children or the American Red Cross.

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Give Kids A Smile Day!

braininsights not only likes happy brains but likes to see healthy smiles as part of a child’s development.  A child that is in pain or that cannot chew food properly is going to have increased stress and decreased nutrition which all lead to negative experiences for the brain.  Luckily, the American Dental Association sponsors the Give Kids a Smile Day each year where dentists across the country provide free oral health care services to children from low-income families.  This year the event takes place on February 5th.  To find out more information or to find a participating dentist in your area visit the American Dental Association’s webpage.

You may also be interested in the Colgate Healthy Bedtime Habits Program for Parents and Kids.  Colgate teamed up with Reading Is Fundamental to provide a FREE Colgate Character Toothbrush after completing a log of the healthy habits your child does such as washing hands, brushing teeth, and reading a book before bed.  Not only does a bedtime routine help your child sleep better it helps encourage positive brain development and with this offer you get a free toothbrush.  It’s a win-win for everyone!  Click here for more information or to sign up.

For more information on children’s dental health visit the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry’s website. 

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January Newsletter: The Importance of Imagination

Check out the January issue of the braininsights newsletter here.  This month's issue focuses on the importance of imagination and creativity. 

View past newsletters or sign up to have the free newsletter delivered to your inbox here.

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Helping Others Helps the Brain

Today we honor and celebrate a great man in American history, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  His vision of equality and serving others has enhanced our nation.  To properly honor and remember him, Congress created the National Day of Service.  On this day and throughout the year, you and your children can help others while helping your brain at the same time.

The brain benefits by activating the reward centers when we give to others. Research has demonstrated when giving, the brain releases dopamine which is responsible for the feelings of euphoria. Additionally, it has been shown that the hormone oxytocin was released in study participants. This increases levels of trust and cooperation.

Isn't it wonderful to realize that the pleasure areas of the brain respond to not only what is good for ourselves but also to what is good for other people?!

To help develop this, following are some activities to do with your children that will also helps others:

One For You 
Give  the child the opportunity to have an item and give an item to someone else. For example:

Say, “Here is a book for you. Can you give the other book to (name of another child)?”

Note: Toddlers do share, but the brain isn’t ready to completely understand sharing at very young ages.  At this age giving something to someone when they have the same thing will be the best way to practice.

Doing Nice Things Makes “Cents” 
Provide a “giving jar” and a supply of pennies. Every time someone in the family does something nice or thoughtful for someone else, a penny can be added to the jar. At the end of the year use the money to donate to a cause you want to support or help.

Write or Draw for Someone
Set time aside regularly (once a week or once a month) to have your child write a letter or draw a picture to send to someone.  This could be sent to a relative or friend, someone that is sick or hospitalized, a deployed military person, etc.

Celebration Give Away
At each holiday or birthday, give the child an extra gift to give away. Your child’s brain reward center will benefit most when involved in deciding who should receive the gift.

To find more opportunities to serve, visit
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