5 Things to Give Your Child
NOT ALL GIFTS ARE EQUAL. HERE'S MY LIST OF IMPORTANT THINGS TO GIVE TO A CHILD!
We’ve all heard it (especially if you are a momma!), kids are capable of being multilingual and that they’re sponge-like absorbers. Yet reading one of my most favorite parenting books, Brain Rules for Babies by John Medina, I realized that babies’ brains are apparently, not primarily interested in learning. See what he says here:
“Many well-meaning moms and dads think their child’s brain is interested in learning. That is not accurate. The brain is not interested in learning. The brain is interested in surviving. Every ability in our intellectual tool kit was engineered to escape extinction. Learning exists only to serve the requirements of this primal goal.” And John follows it up with an advice, “If you want a well-educated child, you must create an environment of safety. When the brain’s safety needs are met, it will allow its neurons to moonlight in algebra classes. When safety needs are not met, algebra goes out the window.”
Isn’t this interesting information? That the primary goal of a child is to survive? I think so many of us parents are quick to pursue IQ how to’s when the secret to raising a happy and thinking child begins by acknowledging that we have a huge role to play in making them feel safe, and preparing an environment where they also feel safe enough to discover and experiment.
So eager parents, today I am sharing some of the things you can give to your child so they can feel safe and free enough to thrive! Note that these are largely based on the book mentioned above: Brain Rules for Babies!
Give them space.
A space where they can freely move around without worrying about plugs, breakables, and making a mess. I know we don’t want spilled liquid, crayons on couches, but this is all part of it. They need space where they feel it is their own, and where they can own even their mistakes. It could be opportunities to introduce the value of cleaning, repairing, making up.
Also ideally, some space where they can regularly run around and “exercise” regularly. Medina says, “Exercise—especially aerobic exercise—is fantastic for the brain, increasing executive function scores anywhere from 50 percent to 100 percent.” (It is actually good for adults, too!)
Give them thinking tools, not toys.
Thanks to my sister for teaching me that not all “toys” are equal. What is an awesome lot of space if it isn’t filled with purposeful materials for the child? I know we all got those colorful, stuffed, and noisy battery-operated toys that are more attractional than educational and it’s time to put them away. Less is more, even in preparing an environment for children. Reduce the clutter, and increase materials that build critical thinking skills, perseverance, and inventiveness or creativity in the child.
Give them language.
It is never too early to talk to a child! Medina says:
“Children whose parents talked positively, richly, and regularly to them knew twice as many words as kids whose parents talked to them the least. When these kids entered the school system, their reading, spelling, and writing abilities soared above those of children in less verbal households…Talking to children early in life raises their IQs, too, even after controlling for important variables such as income. By age 3, kids who were talked to regularly by their parents (called the talkative group) had IQ scores 1 1/2 times higher than those kids whose parents talked to them the least (called the taciturn group). This increase in IQ is thought to be responsible for the talkative group’s uptick in grades.”
In my experience, Philip who is always thought to be a calm baby, I think, is especially so because he started speaking early in his life. Medina articulates my observation perfectly, that the “ability to verbally label an emotion is an important strategy for emotional regulation…” Philip rarely cries because he has the words by which to express his frustrations, pain, thoughts.
And while we are at it, let me encourage the parents out there to never be dismissive of a child’s emotions. Let’s remember that all feelings are valid, but what makes the difference is how they will act on it. Too often I see parents who say, “Stop crying” or “Don’t cry,” when it is much better to ask, “Why are you crying?” “What’s wrong?” “Can I help you?” “Are you sad? Angry? Frustrated?” It actually helps them process very well when we talk them through an emotion, and it causes them to be open about being led to a proper action.
You’d probably be surprised to hear that Philip is able to tell me something like, “I want to hurt other people.” But that’s because he is confident to know that mere thoughts do not always have to end in supplementary action. The trick is to ask him the heart behind the sentiment, and what he thinks is right to do. I am telling you that it doesn’t take much for a child to realize it isn’t very nice to think those thoughts, and even better, that we have the ability to act in a spirit that opposes our nasty thoughts. If I am not mistaken, this is also a practice for their inhibitory control or the ability to inhibit oneself of his propensity, especially when he doesn’t exactly want to do a good or proper thing. Biblically, this is actually known as a fruit of the spirit: self-control!
Another thing on language. Let’s remember that “words create worlds.” Here is a simple thing I taught my son every time he felt frustrated about making a mistake, “It’s okay to make a mistake, but it is not okay to give up!” I think I introduced the tenet about a year ago and he still uses it today. He says it to himself for times when he feels something is too hard for him, or that he cannot get something right immediately.
Last thing about language. (And I promise you this is the last, really.) Speak to them with a wide variety of words. Make it a goal to give them a range of good vocabulary. Introduce synonyms like scared, afraid, terrified. And do not be afraid to use sophisticated, complex words, along with simple ones. There is something true about not baby-talking babies and I see how beneficial it is even at the age of 3, for my son Philip!
Okay, I am ready to move on.
Give them exposure.
It is an increasingly global world and part of my own education for Philip is exposing him to different tongues, nations, cultures. Travel with your child, even when it’s hard. I do not mean by this to break the bank just so you can go, but if and when you can, just go. Even simple land travels within the nation is great, by the way! Because I find that by bringing our little Philip along with us on travels short and long, near or far, has taught him adaptability, to be cooperative, mindfulness, and made him an overall great team player!
Give them love.
The first point of this long post is that kids won’t thrive in an environment that does not make them feel safe. And what is greater than love to assure a kid that s/he is accepted and appreciated no matter what? This is the best way to gear them for success and happiness – love and secure them enough to draw out the gifts that God has placed within them!
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