I am sure many of you may remember or know of this PSA clip...

It was one that was effective, because it made an impression!!  
It got attention!

Every newborn baby needs this to also make a dramatic impression!! 

This is a brain with experiences .... 
this is a brain without!!!

In looking at the brain scans of these two three year old brains, you can see the dramatic difference in size! One child has had "normal" experiences, the other child experienced extreme neglect. 

When children are provided with  repeated experiences of good nutrition, nurturing touch, responsive interactions, direct language, opportunities to play and explore, time outdoors, predictability and LOVE ..... the brain physically grows in a healthy way.  It is THAT simple......

                                                                 ................... ANY QUESTIONS????

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The ability to self-regulate is critically important to success in school and in life. The full maturation of brain areas responsible for these abilities takes many years. However, experiences in the first months and early years of life have a dramatic impact on wiring the brain in ways that will lead to the capacity for self-control. Through the guidance and consistency of responsive parents and caregivers a child’s brain eventually gains an increased ability to pause, think, and plan, before reacting.

A recent report  from Science Daily, shared the results of a long term study on the self-control of 1,000 children. The researchers looked at behaviors in childhood such as, "low frustration tolerance, lacks persistence in reaching goals, difficulty sticking with a task, over-active, acts before thinking, has difficulty waiting turn, restless, not conscientious."   

The study followed these children into adulthood and found: “the kids scoring lowest on those measures scored highest for things like breathing problems, gum disease, sexually transmitted disease, inflammation, overweight, and high cholesterol and blood pressure. The impulsivity and relative inability to think about the long-term of the lower self-control individuals gave them more difficulty with finances, like savings, home ownership and credit card debt. They also were more likely to be single parents, have a criminal conviction record, and be dependent on alcohol, tobacco, cannabis and harder drugs." 

The wonderful news is, self-control can be learned! The article quoted the researchers to say,  “Self-control is something that can be taught, and doing so could save taxpayers a pile of money on health care, criminal justice and substance abuse problems down the road.”

The current newsletter from Bright Horizons includes a wonderful article on the importance of self control. This article provides valuable ideas and links on how to help develop this essential skill. Bright Horizons has given permission for me to share this information below:

A researcher in the 1960’s by the name of Walter Mischel, then at Stanford University and now at Columbia, studied self-control in young children. Working individually with four-year-olds in a laboratory setting, he put one marshmallow in front of each child.  He told the child she could eat that one marshmallow, but if she wanted two marshmallows, she would have to wait longer. Those who chose to wait for two had to wait up until 15 minutes.  Only 30% of children were able to exercise the self-control to wait for two marshmallows.
Mischel followed these children over time and found that those who waited for two marshmallows (demonstrated impulse control), had higher SAT scores when they were in high school and were more goal-oriented in academics and other pursuits, got along better with others and were more effective problem solvers.  Apparently being able to delay gratification to achieve a greater goal is an important life skill.
It turns out there are ways to teach delayed gratification to children.  For example:

·   Give children ideas for things to do while they are waiting (hum a favorite song, tell a favorite story, etc.). You can help children learn distractions to keep from focusing only on eating the marshmallow or another activity they are waiting for.
·   Use natural waiting times (riding in the car, waiting at the doctor’s office, etc.) to reinforce this life skill. Talk about how long you have to wait.  “When the little hand on my watch gets to the 6, it will be time for us to go in.” Or, “I see you are looking at your book. That is a good thing to do while you are waiting.”
·   Validate that it is hard to wait.  “I know it is hard to wait, but you are doing a good job. I sometimes find it is hard to wait too.”  Acknowledging your child’s feelings is a powerful way to strengthen a behavior. At the same time, don’t expect children to wait just for the sake of waiting. There will be plenty of natural opportunities to wait without creating opportunities.
·   Help children develop their imagination during waiting times. “While you are waiting, can you think of a time you were really happy?” Or “If you could have any animal in the world for a pet, which would you choose? What do you think it would be like to have that kind of pet?”

If you try this with your child, don’t worry that their fate is sealed if they immediately eat the marshmallow!  You can help build this important life skill of self-control.

Additional Resources:
·   To learn more about the marshmallow study, self-control and other life skills children need, read Mind in the Making: The Seven Essential Life Skills Every Child Needs by Ellen Galinsky. New York: HarperCollins Publisher, 2010. Or read a NY Times review of the book.
·   Get some more ideas to do while waiting - I Spy with My Little Eye, Packing Up for a Picnic Word Game, and What If?
·   Learn more ideas in the article - Teaching Your Child Self-Control - from

Braininsights activity packets provide several activity ideas to have on hand while waiting for appointments, in a checkout lane, at a restaurant, for a ride, etc.

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I had the wonderful opportunity to do a presentation on early brain development on Saturday. There were 80 early childhood professionals participating in this training. It was a -20 wind chill Saturday morning. Even though it was a extremely cold week-end morning, these very dedicated early education providers attended this workshop to learn how they can do even more to support the optimal development of children!

Their commitment initiated my desire to reiterate how critically important it is for us to support, recognize and fund quality early childcare. We need to do ALL we can to ensure every adult provides a safe, healthy, nurturing and stimulating environment.

The brains of young children develop due the experiences they have every day. Their brain adapts to whatever environment it is exposed to. It is critical that we do all we can to ensure every environment is as positive as possible, because brain connections will be made from either positive or negative experiences. Strong brain pathways will be created due to these repeated experiences and will have long lasting impacts on social and cognitive skills.

I was recently asked weather it is better for the brain development of a child to attend a child care center or to stay at home with a parent. My answer was the environment that is going to provide all that the developing brain needs is best. Not all homes provide what is best and not all child care centers provide all that is best. We need to ensure that no matter where I child is cared for, it is an environment that is focused on what growing brains need most.

There are several studies that reveal that early education programs that have positive results are programs of high quality. These are programs where among other factors the teachers are well educated and the number of children per adult is low. Numerous studies have also demonstrated that when schools and families work together for children the benefits are greatest. As a result, economists are now demonstrating how cost beneficial it is to support quality early education and parenting programs.

This article shared in the Huffington Post called, Teach Your Children Well, the author states,
"A commitment to improving the quality of early education benefits everyone and may be the most cost-effective economic investment for our future."  She adds, "Investment in high-quality pre-school and home visitation programs in terms of subsequent educational attainment and in lower rates of social problems, such as crime, teenage pregnancy, and welfare dependency, is wise investment in tomorrow's future."

I feel strongly that the best thing we can do toward making this happen is to first create awareness and understanding. We need to ensure EVERY adult knows that EVERY child needs all of the following every day!

Warm Responsive Care
        Children’s primary need is to know they are loved. This is only learned through consistent nurturing interactions with primary caregivers.

        The brain makes connections for learning language only from what a child hears. A child needs to hear lots of language throughout the day. Language is learned through direct interaction, not from a television or video.

Safe, Healthy Environment
        A variety of nutritious foods, a lead free and safe environment for a child to explore contributes to a well developed brain. A young brain requires predictability and little stress to feel safe and relaxed. Sleep and rest are also necessary to a healthy brain.

        Play is the way the brain learns about the world. Lots of interaction and exploration help the brain form connections that make later learning easier. Play outdoors additionally impacts brain development in healthy ways.

What a child’s brain needs most is adults that understand development. Parents, educators, social-workers, foster parents, nannies, and medical professionals that are aware and well educated on brain development can provide all that a growing brain needs most. Community leaders, employers, judges, politicians, the media and the general public also play a vital role in implementing this valuable knowledge. Through working together we can ensure all children receive the experiences that will most positively impact long lasting brain connections.

        ~ We ALL benefit when ALL children have well developed brains! ~

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Below are two photos. One of the photos shows a child doing an activity that is providing valuable learning. The other photo shows a child that is having an experience that does not support optimal learning. 



Do you know which photo depicts the way a child’s brain will develop the strongest brain connections?
Information from this article will provide the answer to the question, "Which type of experience is best for growing brains?" 

“Many parents don’t know that the American Academy of Pediatrics has    established guidelines that recommend no televisions, video games, or Internet access in children’s bedrooms; no screen media for children under two; and no more than two hours of educational television a day for children older than two."

"If most parents don’t know the recommendations, they certainly don’t know the reasoning behind them."

“In the first 18 to 24 months of life, the brain is developing rapidly, primarily in response to environmental stimuli,” Strasburger says. “Stimuli that optimize the development of brain architecture include personal interactions, motor skills practice, and problem-solving activities. And the best way to teach these skills is not through screen media.”

So obviously photo #1 shows an activity that is going to lead to learning in the way the developing brain needs most.

Additionally, below are findings that reveal a need for concern. This research was reported on VentureBeat.

"If you were in any doubt that technology is now a fundamental part of kids’ lives, these statistics prove it: 69 percent of children aged 2-5 can use a computer mouse, but only 11 percent can tie their own shoelaces. More young children know how to play a computer game (58 percent) than swim (20 percent) or ride a bike (52 percent). There is no gender divide. Boys and girls under the age of 5 were equally adept at using technology.
These are the results of a study commissioned by Internet security company AVG on how children aged 2-5 interact with technology. 2,200 mothers with Internet access in the USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Japan, Australia and New Zealand were polled."

The results of this study demonstrates the critical need to create wide spread awareness. We need to ensure every adult understands that early experiences directly impacts the way children's brains are wired. It is essential that every child is provided with the opportunities that will impact their development in the most beneficial way. And we KNOW that play and direct interactive experiences are going to have the most positive impact!!  

For ways to promote and provide optimal brain development go to:

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ANNA HAS INSIGHTS… and questions!  

Anna says………

“I realize I am only a few months old…..but there are several things I would really like to share from my perspective. Also due to the fact that I am new here, there are numerous things I would like to try to understand.  I am hoping you can help clarify the things I need to understand, and hopefully I can create some insights that will be beneficial. ”   

Anna – Week  #2

Good morning! I just woke up and see I am in my crib. I feel good after having all those hours of sleep. I can’t fully express that feeling yet, so I just coo a little to myself.
But wait… the feeling of contentment is beginning to fade. I am beginning to feel lonely in here all by myself. I am also beginning to feel wet and hungry. These sensations make me cry.  I need someone to come and take care of this discomfort I am feeling.
When I cry, I have found that my mommy or daddy comes to me to see what they can do to meet my needs. This feels so good and comforting. I am completely helpless. I have to have someone take care of me.  See…  I told you, here comes my daddy already. He looks like he is glad to see me. He smiles at me and says, “Good morning Little Sweetheart!”, as he walks into the room. (He calls me a lot of different names. It is fun to see which name he will call me each time). I stop crying right away, smile back and wave my arms and kick my legs in excitement. I am so glad he is here!
He picks me up and holds me. It feels so warm and secure in his arms. I feel so special when he looks at me and talks to me. He asks me if I slept good and if I want my diaper changed. I just continue to smile back at him.
Daddy lays me on the changing table and takes off the wet diaper. He continues to talk and then stops to make silly faces at me. It makes me laugh. We are having so much fun together. Because my daddy and I have times like this so frequently, it makes me know I am someone special.  
The hungry feelings are getting stronger now. I start to cry a little again. Daddy says, “I know you are hungry!”  It is wonderful to have him so tuned into my needs.  It sure makes me not cry and scream much.
Daddy carries me in to the other room. Oh…. I see Mommy! She is smiling and holding her arms out for me. I give her my biggest smile! I can hardly wait for her to hold me and give me a morning kiss. Because my brain is still very immature I do not have the ability to wait very long to get my needs met. But, due to Mommy and Daddy being so consistent in paying attention to what I need and then meeting them, I have already learned to calm myself a bit.
Mommy takes me, sits down, and positions herself. Because of the repetition of this process, I already know this is in preparation to feed me. I get so excited with the anticipation. It feels so warm and soothing to be fed and held at the same time. Mommy usually loves looking at me and caresses my hand while I eat. I feel so incredibly secure!  
Not only does this feel wonderful, but I am excited to know that scientists have shown that what I am experiencing is having a positive impact on my developing brain. Research demonstrates that secure attachment can have an impact on my ability:
  • ·         to form healthy relationships with others
  • ·         to delay gratification
  • ·         to problem solve
  • ·         to have empathy for others
  • ·         to put up with the frustration of failure and have more patience
  • ·         to calm down from excitement
I may also:
  •           have a longer attention span
  •           be able to better manage physical reactions to emotions
  •           have an increased capacity for empathy
  •           feel less anxiety
  •           have greater skills in communicating emotions in healthy ways
  •           exhibit fewer behavioral problems
  •           have more confidence and a positive self-perception
  •           be less fearful
  •          have more willingness to explore and learn through challenges
I am such a fortunate baby to have all of this happening in my life. The thing that makes me very sad, is to know is this doesn’t happen for all babies. There are many babies that do not have their cries answered or have their needs  met consistently. These babies become very fearful, distressed, frustrated, and hopeless. When this occurs repeatedly their emotional development remains “stuck” at this stage. When these babies grow up they will still have a focus on needing someone to care about them. Their stunted development will affect relationships and learning throughout their lives.

I really do not understand why all parents are not given this information at child birth classes. Do you? It could make such a difference if this were known by every parent. Is there anything you can do to help?
There is not much I can do from my crib, except to share my insights with you. But, I would love it if every baby could have the wonderful experiences I am having.... because every baby deserves it. I would really appreciate it if you would do what you can to take steps to ensure EVERY baby develops with a secure attachment.

Now that I am fed and got the attention I needed ... I really need some playtime! 

Love Your Baby Brain Packet provides ideas and information for loving interaction leading to secure attachment. 

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M  Z  @  Y  X  Q  R  #  W * G  L  D T

Does the above have meaning to you? What if I asked you to say it out loud repeatedly? Would that help you know what it means? Maybe you could sing as you say the names of the letters and symbols!
The repetition and singing will likely help you be able to memorize this sequence of letters and symbols. But, in the end will you have learned anything?
Did you realize that frequently two, three, and four year old children are encouraged to do this type of activity?  Children of these ages are often asked to say or sing, A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L ….
There is no meaning to a young child when they say the alphabet. They can do it, but there is no REAL learning taking place. As adults we understand that these are letters and they represent sounds and they create words. But, to children these letters are abstract.
The brain learns with real objects first. Later, as higher areas of the brain develop, the brain is able to think and learn about things that are not experienced with the senses. 
This is the same when flash cards are used with young children. Children are just memorizing and repeating back words, but there is no real learning taking place. 
Think of a child that is looking at a flash card with the picture of an orange and the word, ORANGE printed below the photo. With the repetition of a parent saying orange when showing the picture, the child will learn to say, "orange". 
Now, compare a child seeing a photo on a card to a child holding, smelling, and tasting a real orange while hearing the word "orange" .. .. (and other words like juicy, sweet, soft, and round). It is easy to see that a child would make MANY more brain connections through experiencing a real orange. It is really simple.... REAL learning for young children happens through real experiences.

For EASY ways to promote and provide REAL Learning and optimal brain development even during busy everyday life.....check the links to The Brain Development Series on the right of this page or go to: 

The children in your life will thank you for providing what they 
really want and need most... and you will feel wonderful to be providing it while you are getting all of your daily tasks completed! 

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     To put it very simply... Scientific research provides the wonderful opportunity to understand that early experiences impact the way a brain is wired. It is not complicated! 

       We KNOW for healthy emotional development brains need:  

                                             Consistency in meeting needs.....

                                         NOT unpredictability! 

Touch and comfort ....

NOT stress, chaos and over-stimulation!

Loving interactions from nurturing care givers ....

NOT ....

For ways to promote and provide optimal brain development go to:
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I frequently write and speak about the fact that secure attachment has an enormous impact on success in life. Consistently meeting the needs of an baby has a dramatic, positive and long lasting influence on brain development. Children that are securely attached as a result of the the loving interaction from attuned parents are going to be most successful in learning.  

Making it a priority to provide what a growing brain need most is essential. When an infant learns that a caregiver is dependable this creates a secure base for the child. With this security wired in their brain a child is then ready to learn and explore the world. 

However, when reading or other cognitive learning is pushed on children at early ages optimal development does not occur. Children are not set up for success through ignoring the primary need of the brain. The needs of a developing brain does not change just because society has decided learning should happen earlier.

Due to my intense interest in making this critical information well know, I am thrilled to share an article entitled,  Your Baby SHOULDN'T Read written by Marsha Lucas, Ph. In the article Dr. Lucas states,"Early reading doesn't do much for your child's success in school, and there's evidence that it may even be detrimental."

Following is a portion of this excellent article:

"First and Foremost: The fundamental task of early childhood isn't learning to read, or to "get ahead" for school, or to impress the neighbors, or to give the folks something to brag about. Encouraging children to surge ahead beyond their real developmental needs leaves them with some really sludgy clean-up to grapple with later on.

The most important task of early childhood is experiencing a healthy, secure attachment in which the child's caregivers are attuned to the child's inner state and respond in a contingent manner.
Let me say that again. What kids need from the get-go is a parent who "gets" them, who pays attention to what's going on inside them, and who responds to them in a way that's actually related to what the kid is feeling.
Healthy, secure, attuned attachment gives kids some much deeper "advantages" in life than whether they learn to read early (and learning to read early doesn't actually give them any advantages, anyway - which I'll get to in section II below).
The research on attachment shows that there are a number of benefits which last a lifetime including but not limited to at least the following dozen:
  1. The ability to sustain attention
  2. Better management of physical reactions to emotions - leading to improved immunity and fewer stress-related illnesses
  3. Less anxiety
  4. Better relationships with childhood peers, and healthier relationships as adults
  5. Fewer behavioral problems
  6. Increased capacity for empathy
  7. Greater ability to regulate mood (for example, calming down from excitement, or not getting caught up in frustration)
  8. Enhanced skills in communicating emotions in healthy ways
  9. Greater confidence and self-esteem(and it isn't just based on performance and grades, but rather a sense of abiding and healthy self-worth)
  10. Better able to generate alternative solutions to interpersonal conflict
  11. Enhanced insight into themselves, and others
  12. Better modulation of fear, allowing for a willingness to explore and take on growthful challenges"
You can read the entire article here

* Marsha Lucas, Ph.D. is a licensed psychologist and neuropsychologist, and has been practicing psychotherapy and studying the brain-behavior relationship for nearly twenty years.

Love Your Baby Brain Packet gives parents ideas and information for loving interaction leading to secure attachment. 

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During brain presentations, participants frequently ask if DVD’s or programs to teach babies to read are a  good idea. I recently had grandmother ask if these are good gifts to give. I so appreciate these questions because this gives me the opportunity to continue to create the awareness that these are NOT good for children. It also provides the chance to share how much more advantageous book reading is for optimal learning and brain connections.

It is difficult for many well intentioned parents and grandparents  because these products  are marketed to say they are good for early development. The reality is they are just the opposite of what growing brains need!  

The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child reports:
“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.”

 Sharing books with children however has been proven to benefit learning in numerous ways. Reading books to children needs to begin in infancy.
  •         When a child is read to, cells in the brain are triggered within seconds.  Some existing connections in the brain are strengthened while new connections are formed.  This helps create a more defined and complex wiring in the brain. Repeated book reading experiences strengthen connections, which will benefit a child for life. 
  •         Reading to a child is so important that the American Academy of Pediatrics now recommends that pediatricians prescribe reading activities to parents during their well child visits. The AAP also recommends no television for the first two years of a child’s life.
  •        When reading a book, the child has the opportunity to hear direct language.  The brain makes connections for language development only through experiences of being spoken to directly.  Television and DVD’s do not provide the give and take of interactive language. 
  •         A National Wildlife Federation report states, ““By the time most children attend kindergarten, they have watched more than 5,000 hours of television–enough time to earn a college degree.”
  •        Studies have shown that children who are read to at home have a higher success rate in school. The National Commission on Reading found that reading aloud to a child is the single most important intervention for developing literacy skills.

Literacy skills development isn’t the only brain benefit that results from reading to a child. 
  •         The time spent cuddling while reading is also very important.  This closeness helps the brain make valuable connections contributing to healthy emotional development.  Young babies also find the sound of the voice reassuring and calming.
  •       Reading with children also presents the possibility for children to open up about feelings or things that are bothering them in a comfortable way.
  •         Books also provide a way for adults to begin discussions to help children gain new perspectives and learn about people, places and things outside of their immediate environment.  

    The tag line I often use for braininsights is, "Inspiring REAL brain development for ALL young children."  Several of the points above are the reason I stress the word "REAL". Through sharing information based on scientific research, we can ensure that children have interactions with people and real objects. We will not be promoting the use of items that are detrimental, we will instead provide all that developing brains REALLY need!

For for information and REAL brain development activities ideas to use in everyday life go to


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