Creative Child

Three Things You Didn’t Know about Your Child’s Brain

by Erin J. Bernard


Music is a tuning fork for little minds.

The science: According to research conducted at Northwestern University and published in the Journal of Neuroscience last year, exposure to music may help kids develop a more sophisticated response to spoken syllables. At-risk children enrolled in a music enrichment program for two years were better able distinguish between similar-sounding syllables than children enrolled for just one year. Such differentiation may help with activities such as reading and listening comprehension. 

How to use it: Starting music lessons at an early age is a fantastic way to take advantage of this cerebral quirk. And don’t insist on silence when your child is studying; play non-distracting background music and let the mental tuning begin.

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Prolonged stress is toxic to developing brains.

The science: A little stress is normal and even healthy for brains, according to the HCDC. When a child is surrounded by supportive adults, the physical effects of stress are usually short-lived and teach kids the healthy stress responses they’ll need to navigate an unpredictable world. But chronically high stress levels coupled with a lack of supportive guardians may permanently damage neural connections. It’s called “toxic stress,” and it can impair health, social skills, and a child’s ability to learn.

How to use it: Maintaining a calm, predictable environment free of extremely stressful conditions such as abuse and mental illness is key, says HCDC. No need to shield your child from every little difficulty – the key is to teach kids to cope appropriately when life’s road bumps and disappointments arise. And when you can’t control the world around you, simply offer your unwavering support – this can be a vital balm in unavoidably high-stress situations.


Harvard Center on the Developing Child:

Journal of Neuroscience, 2014:


Erin J. Bernard is a freelance writer, editor, and photographer from Portland, Oregon. Before becoming a writer, Erin worked as a nanny and an ESL classroom teacher. She taught English at a Montessori school in Mexico and then ran an after-school language program in South Korea. Erin is the editor of the parenting guide, “Instructions Not Included: A Pediatrician’s Prescription for Raising the Best Kids on the Block,” written by Irwin H. Berkowitz, MD.

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