As a parent, ensuring your growing toddler properly develops in all aspects of life is likely a top priority. However, it can be overwhelming to try to keep up with all the things you’re supposed to do to give toddlers the best foundation. This period of a child’s life is important as 85% of brain growth occurs in the first three years. Here are several ways to ensure your child engages in activities and habits that will simultaneously foster their brain health and development.
Regular Reading: One of the best ways to build language and literacy skills prior to your child reading on their own is reading to them on a regular basis. This will promote early vocabulary and listening skills that will, in turn, predict later success in reading and other school subjects. Books that are best bets at this age have engaging, imaginative illustrations and help develop basic language and number concepts. Let your child help pick out books they’re interested in will make it more fun.
Action Toys: Anything toddlers can ride on, push, pull, or use in motion helps them practice motor skills and coordination—and burns off some of their boundless energy. Consider toys such as wagons, pedal-free bikes, strollers, play grocery carts, pull toys, plastic bowling sets, pounding and hammering toys, and large and small balls.
Get Outside: Research has shown that children who spend time outdoors are more physically active, more creative in their play, less physically aggressive, and show better concentration. Exposure to nature also plants the seeds early for becoming more eco-sensitive later in life.
Try a big net for catching bugs or minnows, toys for outdoor play (such as balls), a sandbox and sand toys (shovels, dump trucks), and gardening tools (like a child-size rake and watering can).
Plan Some Playdates: Playing with other children is a great way to help your child learn social skills, but it is also great for helping them learn to make decisions and to work in a group or in parallel with another person. These types of interactions now are setting the stage for your child being able to master higher-level cognitive tasks later in life, so the more practice they can get when they are young, the better.
Make Believe: Pretend play is fun for your toddler and great for helping them develop the skills for sequencing, storytelling, and logic. Encourage your child to engage in pretend play by prompting them with ideas, like “Let’s pretend we are pirates…” and have your child act out what you both should say. You can also pretend to play with dolls or action figures, and ask your child to tell you a story about what is happening.
In addition to traditional toys and activities, nutrition also goes hand-in-hand with fostering healthy brain and cognitive development. Poor nutrition during your toddler’s pivotal years of growth can have negative long-lasting effects, so it’s important for parents to regularly consider their child’s food intake. Try some of these food-focused tips:
Grocery Shopping/Meal Preparation: Involving your toddler in grocery shopping and meal preparation are additional ways to encourage incorporating healthy foods into their diet while expanding their awareness of smart food choices. Directing them to the produce aisle to pick out fruits and veggies is also a great way to teach colors and counting.
Smart Snacking: Children love snack time but providing the proper food options is important to ensure your toddler receives nutrients they need. Often during the younger years, toddlers are picky and require additional attention when trying new foods. In this case, opt for incorporating a toddler nutrition drink like Enfagrow Toddler Nutritional Drink Powder. It’s made with real milk and has nutrients like DHA (Docosahexanoic Acid) which is an important omega-3 fatty acid and a building block of the brain, as well as vitamin D and iron. Mix with water or add one scoop to recipes such as muffins, pancakes, and smoothies to easily deliver nutrients important for your toddler’s growth, brain, and immune health.