Apr 21, 2015

Unlock Your Child's Potential with these 10 Fun Activities

Metro Detroit Mommy Guest Blogger: Alexa Elheart

Did you know that the human brain finishes 85 percent of its total development by the time a child turns five years old? Research has proven that the first five years of life are the most crucial development years for children. According to Facts for Life, these first years “are the foundation that shapes children's future health, happiness, growth, development and learning achievement at school, in the family and community, and in life in general.” Facts of Life says that the activities a child experiences by the time he or she is five years old has “a direct impact on how children develop learning skills as well as social and emotional abilities.”

Since the brain develops intensely all before a child even starts attending school, it’s clearly pivotal that your child’s brain is stimulated properly at home. As Keith Gibson, Ph.D., explains, “The root of later learning is grounded in strong cognitive skills...By helping their children build skills like memory, comprehension, logic and reasoning among others early, even before school years, parents are actually increasing the chance of academic success, and likely life success.”

Here are some fun and effective ways to stimulate your child’s brain at home!

1. Play 20 Questions

When your child is old enough, the two of you can begin playing the classic game 20 Questions! If you’re not familiar with this game, here’s how to play: you each take turns thinking of an object, a person, an animal, etc. The other person then asks up to 20 yes or no questions until he or she guesses correctly. 20 Questions is a great way to help strengthen your child’s memory, visualization, planning, focus, and problem-solving skills.

2. Work With Puzzles

Puzzles are another great brain-stimulating activity to play with your child. They’ll help build up your child’s eye-hand coordination, shape recognition, and matching skills. For your child’s first puzzles, the best options are sturdy ones with large pieces that are easy for him or her to grab and pick up.

3. Read Together

One of the most effective ways to stimulate your child’s brain at a young age is to read to him or her as often as possible. Not only will this increase your child’s attention, memory, and problem-solving skills, but it will also build a foundation for strong literacy skills. This is crucial because in recent years, children literacy in the United States has become a major problem that foundations such as the United Way’s Women’s Leadership Council have been striving to correct. You can do your part and prevent this from becoming a problem for your own child by reading to him or her each day!

4. Sing Nursery Rhymes

Teaching your child nursery rhymes is actually a great way to stimulate his or her brain. The repetition of the words helps develop your child’s language skills, and singing the rhymes often will help strengthen his or her memory skills.

5. Explore Nature

Another great way to stimulate your child’s mind is to take a day and walk to the park! On your way there, point out any birds or other animals you see, as well as the different trees and plants you see. It will dramatically help him or her see so many new sights out in nature, particularly plants and animals that live close to your family. Then, the next time you and your child see those plants and animals again, he or she will be excited to recognize them and know their names!

6. Have Conversations

A very important way to stimulate your child’s brain is to have conversations with him or her on a regular basis. Ask them questions about anything when you are playing with them or watching a children’s show: what color is that? Why did this character in this story or show do this? Who is your favorite character? What sound does this animal make? And any other questions you can think of--just get your child’s brain working in a different way!
If your child is still too young to speak many words, you should still talk to them throughout the day and respond thoughtfully whenever he or she says anything. This will help develop your child’s language skills, and he or she will pick up on your vocal cues, even just the sounds.

7. Make a Mess

Set up a supervised, easy-to-clean-up area for your child to play with some new, messy materials! Letting your child play with new textures, such as water and sponges, homemade oozy goo, sand, or even mud, will provide brand new sensory experiences he or she hasn't experienced yet. It will teach them about the many differences between contrasting properties of liquids and solids.

8. Count Everything

As you and your child go about your day, make a point to count everything aloud: how many steps it takes to get to the car, how many toys are in the toy box, how many pillows are on the bed, how many pieces of food are on the plate for lunch, etc. Encourage your child to join in! Counting is an important skill that will help them as they prepare for kindergarten, and this will obviously develop this ability.

9. Talk About Feelings

Make sure to talk about feelings with your child. Definitely address feelings as moments happen where your child is noticeably upset about something, but also take time to reflect at the end of the day. Before he or she goes to sleep, ask what things made him or her happy or sad that day. This activity will help in multiple ways: your child will become familiar with defining and expressing his or her feelings, recalling the previous day, and even just speaking in the past tense.

10. Turn Everyday Moments Into Learning Opportunities

Some of the best teaching moments are the ones that aren’t planned. Sometimes you may just see something out the window at home that your child hasn’t seen before, like a fire truck or a rainstorm. Point everything out to your child and explain, for example, what fire trucks and firemen do, or what happens when it rains. Anything and everything around you is a potential learning opportunity--get creative!

Start Developing Your Child’s Life Skills Early On!

Your child’s first five years at home are crucial to his or her long term development, and the daily activities you participate in with your child can build a solid foundation--get started today!


Alexa Elheart is a writer based in Salt Lake City, Utah. She earned her bachelor’s degree from the University of Utah and has a passion for volunteering and writing about childhood development.