There’s an old saying that “play is the work of childhood,” and this issue of Research to Policy looks at the ways in which play works to shape the developing brains of young children in Memphis. Research shows us that play supports early brain development in impressive ways.

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Ethnographers have long noted a striking phenomenon: Inuit and African babies generally tend to be much calmer than western babies. In fact, they cry very little – certainly much less than babies in much of the rest of the world.

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As the parent of a child who lives on grilled cheese sandwiches and chicken nuggets, developing healthy eating habits in children has always been a mystery to me. Nutritionists tell us that the senses of taste and smell are developing even in the womb, and parents can begin to support their children's nutritional health by eating a healthy diet throughout their pregnancy, and by breastfeeding – whenever possible – for at least six months.

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According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), vision problems are the single most prevalent disabling condition among American children. By the time they reach school, a quarter of American children suffer from a vision problem.

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The next few editions of Research to Policy focus on the early childhood development of the senses: hearing, vision, taste, touch, and smell. These senses are critical to the developmental well-being of children. In the current issue, for example, we focus on the sense of hearing.

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