Starting a child off on the right foot is often a challenge and leads parents on a merry chase to find the correct preschool offering or setting that will give the child the best opportunity to make it big in the world. But what all parents want most is a happy, well-adjusted child who will flourish and not struggle. The demands of the curricula today are most difficult for many parents to wrap their heads around, much less to assist their student in the learning process, especially in the math field where the methods of teaching and performing math have changed drastically from their own experiences in the classroom. Gone are the days of math facts recitation repeatedly on a daily basis and here are the times of multiple ways to get to a solution and show me each way. The process has become more important than the answer and this is hard for many to grasp. Here are a few thoughts to help guide parents in this new competitive world of choosing the right path for your littles.
Cognitive development is the upmost importance in a child’s development of skills that will follow him/her all the way through the school system. Unfortunately, many parents do not know to get a cognitive assessment done or even where or when to start this process. When to get this assessment done is before starting school, but it is never too late. Adults can benefit from knowing their own cognitive strengths and weaknesses so they too can work on enhancing their own skill sets. Where to get this assessment is from a respected resource like a local psychologist, school specialist/diagnostician or a reputed resource such as LearningRx. Many preschools even partner with some of these resources to get screenings or offer discounts to these facilities. For example, getting a child’s vision/hearing checked is essential to making sure that the student has the ability to see and hear the information being delivered, but what if the brain cannot process the information at the speed of delivery? This makes the student struggle to keep up with the others in the class and ultimately fall behind. Or what if the memory is not as strong as it should be because the apple didn’t fall far from the tree? Then the child struggles to remember what the teacher has told them or to follow multi-step directions when orally given…so how do these things get addressed? Knowing the strengths helps to continue to build on these and knowing the weaknesses allows for the intervention necessary to get the child off to the right start. After getting the results, then the fun begins.
Cognitive intervention/exercise is much like that of the physical exercise and many times even involves using body movement as this connection is crucial in the brain. Gross body movement includes large muscle groups and fine motor movements include things like handwriting. If a child struggles with motor movements, an Occupational Therapist or Physical Therapist can assist with assessing and treating this difficulty just like a Speech Therapist can assist with assessing and treating speech difficulty such as delayed language or difficulty with forming certain sounds. Cognitive Therapy falls into two categories: behavioral and foundational. A Cognitive Behavioral Therapist assesses and treats the behavior much like a counselor but with intensive intervention such as play therapy and other techniques to help address behavioral concerns while a Cognitive Trainer such as those at LearningRx actually exercises the brain’s ability to use memory, processing speed, attentional issues and logic. Cognitive exercise is something we all do to some extent because we use our thinking skills daily but when an area is weak it is used less and thus never strengthens. It is the purpose of cognitive exercise to deliberately work these weak skills until they become stronger. As a result, IQ is boosted and the student becomes a better learner at any age. IQ is simply the sum average of all of our thinking skills and the stronger these skills are, the better the IQ. Neuroplasticity means that the brain is malleable and that it can be trained, which in turn boosts the sum average of the skills (IQ). **
One of the most incredible ways to work on cognitive skills is simply through games. Games of all types including limited technological games have value but it is the interaction with the adult that increases the vocabulary and trains the child to think. Learning to cook well means that one must practice the cooking and not just watch and read a recipe; learning to play the piano means that one must practice doing so in order to become a master at it… the same is true with thinking skills. In order to become a master at thinking and processing lots of new processes, thoughts and data, one must practice doing so. Games and toys that are difficult and challenge the child are beneficial and can boost great thinking skills. Local toy store owner Sarah Toups at LearningExpress Toys prides herself on carrying the best thinking games and toys to challenge the brain and her staff is eager to assist anyone in the purchase of games that will target specific skills that the child needs to work on. In addition, there are many free games and activities both online and homemade that can be beneficial for boosting a child’s cognitive function.
LearningRx and LearningExpress Toys are partnering to offer a special Mommy & Me classes in February aimed at teaching family members to use these games and activities to boost cognitive function in the littles.** Gymboree and many of the other local facilities such as Bricks for Kids, Code Ninjas, music/dance/karate/gymnastics and so many more also offer classes that work on different parts of whole body/brain connections. The main point is to be deliberate. Do not wait and do be purposeful in starting your child off right whether it is the left foot or the right. And SchoolHouse Rocks still has benefits so put some music on that teaches a few facts and dance the night away with your preschooler, for after all, the parent is the best toy/learning activity that a child can have, and that includes the cardboard box with which to make imaginary places, for it is the imagination that takes us places through incredible reading and playing together.
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