There was a legendary attorney in Memphis who often said in his closing argument to the jury: “My client can’t say anything now. But he is begging for me to think of something I can say that will open up your mind so you can really hear the facts and what’s most important.”
All of us who advocate for the early interventions that can change young children’s lives know just how he felt. Children’s brains will reach 80 percent of their adult size by their third birthdays. We have the power to help our future leaders’ brains reach their fullest potential.
In numerous ways every day, with your help, we search for just the right words to engage more of the public and to make them understand the importance of brain development for the future of our children - and our community.
Four words describe the most important activities for parents to consistently engage in with children: Touch, Talk, Read, Play. How do these four, easy-to-remember words impact social and emotional development?
Touch allows your baby to feel safe and loved and instills trust between the two of you. Additionally, with touch, your baby can begin to recognize faces. Using gentle touch to respond to your baby’s cues can comfort him, and contribute to a strong emotional bond.
Talk encourages language development, communication skills and voice recognition. Your little one learns the structure of a conversation when you give her a chance to respond back with coos, gestures, or facial expressions.
Read aids in language development and the reading and writing that will blossom as your baby grows. Story time is a great bonding opportunity for the two of you. Creating a consistent routine that involves reading will teach your little one that his environment is safe and predictable, which in turn will help to develop self-confidence and self-control.
Play has a key role in the development of problem solving, decision-making and creativity, and it can better your baby’s attention span. The experiences during play help to build your baby’s social skills, which is a key component of healthy social-emotional development.
These activities stimulate your baby’s brain by creating more connections every time he or she experiences something new and exciting. As you begin to prepare your baby for pre-school, having skills developed through touching, talking, reading and playing will directly affect his or her social and academic performance.
Working with the Neighborhood Christian Centers that produced the Touch - Talk - Read - Play mantra, we have developed a curriculum that offers a bottom-up understanding of the science about brain development. It includes a specific module on each of the four words - touch, talk, read, and play - that highlights developmental milestones and specific activities for parents and caregivers to engage in with their young children. For example, the module on reading stresses the power of talking to infants and toddlers, how to tell if you’re doing it well, the power of repetition, and how to do it all so it produces the best results.
The messages and the lessons in the curriculum have been tested and refined, and we will continue to make changes to the Touch, Talk, Read, Play curriculum based on the responses by participants and trainers.
The verdict is in on Touch, Talk, Read, Play, and that’s why we continue to make it the centerpiece of all that we do. Put simply, it is the best gift that children can get. Best of all, it doesn’t cost a thing and the benefits last a lifetime.