Your baby’s brain: If you want to build a better mind, tell stories

How do we help children thrive and stay healthy in today's world?

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

How do we help children thrive and stay healthy in today’s world? Check out WHYY’s Modern Kids series for more stories.

Maybe your toddler knows something you don’t know. Every night, she insists she isn’t sleepy, and she wants you to read one more book …New research using functional MRI shows your little one is right. Reading, storytelling, looking at pictures, counting the bears, showing Mommy what the caterpillar ate or telling Daddy what color Pete the Cat’s shoes are — the more of it, the better, neurologists are finding. These activities furiously direct white matter, the neuron fibers to those places in her brain where the magic of language develops.

The interaction between you is helping to establish her vital, lifelong neural groundwork — things like memory development, attention, information processing, decision making, and more. It’s setting one of the habits that might help establish how healthy your child becomes as an adult, too.

And the earlier you interact, the better, the research shows. Much of the evidence is not just with toddlers, but also with infants whose umbilical stumps are still attached.

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