The first five years of a child’s life are explosive in terms of their overall development and will set the stage for the person they will become. By age three, your toddler’s brain is 80% the size of an adult’s and reaches 90% of its potential size at age five. According to First Things First, “The early years are the best opportunity for a child’s brain to develop the connections they need to be healthy, capable, successful adults. The connections needed for many important, higher-level abilities like motivation, self-regulation, problem solving and communication are formed in these early years – or not formed.”
The developing brain
Ronald E. Dahl, in a study published in Sleep, reviews the widely held belief that the three “most fundamental requirements for healthy growth and development in young children include a) loving support and protection by parents/caretakers, b) adequate nutrition, and c) adequate sleep.” It’s the importance of sleep that keeps my phone ringing and my email inbox full of messages and questions from concerned parents who simply want their little ones to sleep better.
Books and babies
Ongoing stimulation in the form of reading goes a long way to building important, lifelong brain connections for your little one. Study after study has shown the correlation between reading to young children and emergent literacy. And indeed, according to Kids Health, your baby will have mastered all of the sounds needed to speak their native language by the time they’re one. While this early language mastery can be accomplished by regularly talking to your baby, reading aloud to your little one is where it’s at! (Psst! Listening to audiobooks together counts, too.)
The benefits of reading to your baby are many, including:
- teaching a baby about communication
- introducing concepts such as numbers, letters, colors, and shapes
- building listening, memory, and vocabulary skills
- giving babies information about the world around them
And perhaps most surprisingly, a recent study points to a correlation between reading aloud to children and an absence of behavior problems. Dr. Perri Klass explains the study findings in a New York Times article, saying, “A new study provides evidence of just how sustained an impact reading and playing with young children can have, shaping their social and emotional development in ways that go far beyond helping them learn language and develop early literacy skills. The parent-child-book moment even has the potential to help curb problem behaviors like aggression, hyperactivity and difficulty with attention, a new study has found.”
Sleep is key
If you’ve heard the term, “Sleep on it,” it refers to waiting overnight to make a decision, allowing your brain to recharge before jumping in with both feet; there may be some science to that.
Referring to another study, this one entitled, “Sleep and the Developing Brain,” Dahl shares that a study showed an incidence of cognitive deficits and high hyperactivity scores in six-year-old children who did not get enough sleep when they were two-and-a-half. Says Dahl, “This suggests that obtaining insufficient sleep during the first few years of life may have long-standing consequences.”
Research shows that both reading to your children and ensuring that they get enough sleep have lasting impacts on their social, emotional, behavioral, and mental development. The brain needs sleep in addition to stimulation to develop healthily. Now you can understand why I’m a such an advocate for books being a part of a child’s bedtime routine.
Books and bedtime
Creating a consistent bedtime routine can help your little one get the sleep their tiny body so desperately needs. Whether you read a book before bathtime or directly before the lights go out, make sure that reading to your child is part of their bedtime routine each night. Not only will it help build those essential brain connections, but it will also it will help you relax and unwind at the end of the day, too!
If you need help coming up with a bedtime routine that works for your family, please don’t hesitate to reach out to me HERE!!