May is a busy month in Memphis, with things to do blooming in every corner of the city. Festivals are packed with people; the Redbirds are playing ball; attractions like the zoo and botanic gardens are bustling with activities; and outdoor venues are alive with music. Good weather invites us to explore the parks, farmers markets, and neighborhoods, even our backyards offer daily delights.
This is great news for parents; it means we have an entire month of experiences we can share with our kids.
Like hydrangeas in May, children blossom when they explore new things. It is what they’re built to do — growing and changing in response to what they experience. At birth, their brains contain 100 billion neurons, each with up to 10,000 connections.
In these early years, up to 700 neurons a second are sparking to life in response to input from the world around them. Only those used regularly will stay active, so the more brain-training that happens in the first three years, the better.
Tots want you close
Turning everyday living into foundational experiences for our young children is easy. We can fill the first years of rapid brain growth simply by being present and engaging in our children’s lives.
Being physically close to our little ones as they explore is vital. They want you close because you keep them safe and help them understand what they’re experiencing. Through your gentle guidance, you turn experiences into lessons that are their foundation for what comes next. Taking your kids to the park is great, but think about how you might be diminishing that experience when you talk for a half-hour on your phone while they play in the sandbox. Children need our attention, if only to answer, “What’s this?” when they ask.
Supplying a narrative is a great way to turn a mundane errand, like an oil change, into a learning experience. Tell your child what the crew is doing to the car, and why you must wait inside. At the post office, let her help you pick out the next batch of stamps. At the nursery, let the twins choose a plant for the beds, and at home, let them poke and dig with a spade. Get their hands in the earth, the whole time talking about how great the garden will look and how important their help has been.
Be a kid again
Here’s one more bit of good news for parents: being a kid again can be fun. As adults, it’s easy to get bogged down with our everyday routines and responsibilities. But for a little person, there’s potential for fun in just about anything. Harness that enthusiasm and invest in it with your own.
We are important to our kids as their first teachers. They are important to us for reawakening our awe, reminding us of the miracles of everyday life.