My Heart Says... "What If?

Sunday, December 16, 2012

This post is a bit different than most of the insights shared here. This one is written to share and express feelings, thoughts and dreams due to the school shooting in CT. It is the result of having a conversation last night with Debi Schwid, a wonderful friend, combined with the expression of care and concern being shared by people everywhere. This is a post to ask important questions.....

The shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in CT was (ANOTHER) horrible and extremely heart breaking event for our country. When horrific and tragic events such as these occur they evoke a variety of overwhelming emotions including disbelief, anger, heartbreak, and intense grief. 

These events also create an outpouring of incredible love, compassion, a sense of community and a very strong connectedness. It is my dream that instead of only coming together when horrible horrific events happen this would be felt every day!

What if...... we hold the memory of the innocent and beautiful children and these heroic adults in our hearts every day.... and have their lives serve as a reminder to use the feelings of togetherness we feel today to continue an ongoing connection with one another?

What if..... we value and cherish every moment of the lives of every child?

What if..... we recognize the dedicated, caring educators and the other numerous committed professionals who are doing heroic acts to make a positive difference for children every day?

What if....  we use all of the research we have that demonstrates the consistent love, safety, nurturing, play, nutrition, predictability and attention children need to help develop healthy brains right from birth?

What if.... we better recognize and support those who are suffering as an open-minded and caring community?

What if.... we just continuously and warmly hold in our hearts the feelings of coming together... rather then only when a tragedy occurs?

What if.... we felt this wonderful sense of connection with each other
.....EVERY DAY? 


 With heartfelt thanks to everyone that is making a positive difference in meaningful ways every day!



Monday, November 26, 2012

Sleep enhances cognitive functioning and influences moods. Having  enough sleep contributes to a more positive mood. When the brain lacks the sleep it needs, brain systems become out of balance. Young (and adult) brains become more easily agitated when sleep deprived.

Brains need sleep Printable #10 ~
Research shows the quality and amount of sleep not only affects our moods, it also influences our mental sharpness, productivity, creativity, physical activity level, and also weight. Sleep provides all of these benefits... and it feels so good! The printable for this week shares information on the benefit of sleep.

Learning and family interactions can be easily affected by lack of sleep. Here are a few tips to help ensure your family is getting enough of the quality sleep your brains need to keep everyone happier

  • Plan activities to take place before or after children's nap times or before bedtimes.
  • Do all you can to keep bedtimes and bedtime routines as consistent as possible. 
  • Provide calm activities like reading a book, giving a massage, taking a warm bath, or listening to soothing music as part of the bedtime routine.
  • Eliminate watching television or using other electronics with bright lights prior to bedtime routines.
  • Provide "brain calming"  foods as a bedtime snack such as warm milk, a banana, toast with almond butter, or oatmeal with a bit of peanut butter added.
A research study reported in Child Development found, "Higher proportions of total sleep occurring at night time, at both 12 and 18 months, were related to better performance on executive tasks, especially those involving a strong impulse control component."

This post provides valuable information on sleep pattern issues in babies. This is very helpful for parents wanting to understand sleep regression.

If you are looking for resources to help promote sleep, Lori Lite of Stress Free Kids provides Music CDs for Relaxation.

The following guide might be very useful for you as well.

 The Average Amount of Sleep Needed By Age

Newborns (0-2 months)12 - 18
Infants (3 months to 1 year)14 - 15
Toddlers (1 to 3 years)12 - 14
Preschoolers (3 to 5 years)11 - 13
School-aged children (5 to 12 years)10 - 11
Teens and preteens (12 to 18 years)8.5 - 10
Adults (18+)7.5 - 9



BRAIN INSIGHTS TO SHARE: Movement Activities Advance Brain Growth and Learning

Monday, November 12, 2012

Brain Insights to Share: Movement Activities for brain development! 
It is very exciting for me to see an increasing amount of research and wide ranging information on the benefits of play for healthy brain development. One area in particular that is demonstrated to make an extremely positive effect on growing brains is, movement and physical activity. The thing that seems to be occurring however, is that while the awareness of the value of  movement and play is becoming better understood, the amount of time children play is not increasing. 

The printable for this week explains the benefits of physical activity and movement. When children move, various brain areas are activated and essential connections for a wide range of abilities are created. As a result of repeating these activities the connections become stronger. There is a saying, "Brain cells that fire together...wire together." The opportunity for this to occur is exactly what play and movement activities provide.

This past weekend I had the wonderful pleasure to sit down and talk with Gill Connell while here from New Zealand. Gill is the founder of MOVING SMART, and co-author of MOVING TO LEARN. In one of her extremely valuable blog posts she writes, 

"The most powerful tool for fostering the growth and development of neural connections in your child’s brain is physical movement. "

Printable #9  

Movement Activities Advance Brain Growth and Learning!

Too often it is thought that the best way to help children develop and learn is to provide structured activities that require children to sit and not fidget. However, research demonstrates that play and physical activities contributes to the development of better language and social skills. Evidence also reveals that movement is effective in the reduction of stress and leads to greater ability to pay attention. 

So, it is essential that all adults ensure that children have the opportunity to use their energy in the ways that comes very naturally! The brains of children say "to learn best, we NEED to move and play!" 

Your brain will also benefit, 
so join in and have lots of fun!!

BRAIN INSIGHTS TO SHARE: Brighter Brains Result from Good Nutrition!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Nutriton affects learning, attention span and moods! I Brain Insights

Sadly, the brain sometimes gets neglected when it comes to nutrition. Often healthy foods are only thought of as impacting the body. However, growing brains need certain things to function well. When it doesn’t get what it needs, it doesn’t work at its best. 

At times the brain actually gets the opposite of what it needs. There are many things that are provided for children that the brain doesn’t know what to do with. When this happens, a child's brain does not perform well. And, an immature brain does not yet have the ability to control the unbalanced brain systems. The printable for this week focuses on the impact of this. 

It is wonderful that the solution is extremely simple.... give children the nutrients their brain needs most!  

It especially helps when children know which foods are most healthy. Many children feel a great amount of pride when they learn about healthy foods. It is very fun to hear children share excitement as they eat nutritious foods and express ... "this is good for my brain."

When presenting I am frequently told by audiences, that many school breakfast programs are comprised of sugary cereals and sugary juices. This is completely the opposite of what the brain needs....Especially for breakfast! 

When eating these types of foods without adequate amounts of protein, the brain does not have the nutrients to function well. It is not fair to a child to be expected to listen, sit still, pay attention and learn, if their brain is not given what is needed to help make all of this happen. 

Printable #8   

Kelly Dorfman has written an extremely wonderful book that is full of very valuable and important insights on nutrition for children: What's Eating Your Child? 

It is a book that is based on real kids to make it an easy and inspiring read.  Check out this terrific video clip of Kelly to find all she provides for caring educators and parents.  

Have a very healthy day! 

Brain Insights Printable #8 Nutrition and the brain



Friday, November 2, 2012

The Creating Great Connections and HOPE (Helping Other People Everywhere) Newsletter has been revised. Through the wonderful feedback received, I am thrilled to share with you the new version of the newsletter.

It is filled with a wide variety of information from various areas to continue to make brain development common knowledge on the part of EVERYONE! The newsletter includes links that contribute to better understanding and also bits of brain information that are easy to share!

It is such a pleasure to share it with you, because the intent is to make this interactive. If you know of a terrific book, research, blog, website, conference, etc, that should be included, send the link to me and if it is used,  I will give you credit for contributing.  It will be wonderful to share something that you would like others to be informed about relating to life skill development and healthy brains.

Hopefully, you will also enjoy visiting the sites of the sponsors for this issue. Moving Smart and Healthy Foundations are both very dedicated to making a great difference for developing young children. 

Thank you for your part in making a positive difference and creating the needed understanding of what is need most for young children! As I always say... "We ALL benefit when ALL children have healthy brains!"

HOPE Newsletter 
November 1, 2012

BRAIN INSIGHTS TO SHARE: Loving Relationships Are Critically Important In Many Ways

Monday, October 29, 2012

Brain Insights to share: Printable #7 Self regulation is developed through early positive interactions.
Far to often it is thought that loving relationships only impact the emotional development of children. And further, there is frequently the belief that the emotional development of children is not as important as cognitive development. 

The understanding that is critically needed however is that early relationships impact overall brain development. It is extremely beneficial that everyone understands that when a child experiences nurturing, stimulating and predictable interactions early in life, this leads to the necessary ability to self regulate.   

Printable #7 shares some of the valuable results that occur when self regulation is developed through early positive interactions.

Printable #7

This excellent video Executive Function: Skills for Life and Learning from Center on the Developing Child also clearly explains the development of these critical skills.

 Have enjoyable week sharing this 
important information!


BRAIN INSIGHTS TO SHARE: Play Is The Way To Develop Brains Best!

Monday, October 22, 2012

Hillary Crowley sent this wonderful poem. She was inspired and wrote it in response to the article I posted on iPadding Toddlers When is Too Soon? and a few other posts I have previously shared on the topic of screen time for young children.  

Photos have been added to the text of the poem to share with you. 
The poem and photos emphasizes the importance of play and interactions with people and real objects for learning and healthy early brain connections!

The printable explains the valuable difference play makes. 

I read a tweet and saw a blog
Young minds, affected, in a fog
Television, switched on all day
Destroying childhood, killing play.
Photo of Baby brain influenced by TV

I felt virtuous - only half an hour
My wee one was a protected flower? 
I thought some more and then said why?                    
No TV a few days c’mon-let’s try.

Photo of The brain benefits from reading together

Next day we did not switch it on
Instead played blocks and had some fun
Out came play dough and some books
Lots of cuddles and a few funny looks.
Photo of Positive parent child interaction

Out came the tea set and a teddy bear
Bottomless pretend tea and cookies to share
On goes music and we go grooving
Wow yes it’s true our brains, improving.


Photo of Valuable parent Child Interaction during everyday life activities

That half an hour, we have it back     
To play, to share, to have a yack.
As I chop and cook a dinner for 3
My wee one plays and enlightens me.

Photo of Mom and Daughter enjoying fun interaction together

Enjoy Sharing and Have FUN!

The Brain Development Series was developed with all of these scenes in mind. Each packet is filled with ways to easily provide this opportunity for every child and family ... and the best thing is... it works perfectly during your busy everyday life! 

More Evidence! Childhood Stimulation is Key to Brain Development

Friday, October 19, 2012

Fun brain stimulation activities for 4 year olds to make a long lasting impact on language and cognitive development
New research was recently shared to give further evidence of the importance of positive stimulation in the preschool years.

A long term study revealed that the age of four is a critical time of enrichment for language and cognitive development. 

This article, Childhood Stimulation Key to Brain Development, reports that,

"Scientists found that the more mental stimulation a child gets around the age of four, the more developed the parts of their brains dedicated to language and cognition will be in the decades ahead."

I find it extremely important to emphasize what this research designated as the important 'stimulation' that contributed positively to healthy brain development. The article shared the following perspective:

Andrea Danese, a clinical lecturer in child and adolescent psychiatry at the Institute of Psychiatry, King's College London, said the study suggested that the experience of a nurturing home environment could have an effect on brain development regardless of familial, perhaps genetic, predispositions to better brains. Danese added that this kind of research highlighted the "tremendous role" that parents and carers had to play in enabling children to develop their cognitive, social, and emotional skills by providing safe, predictable, stimulating, and responsive personal interactions with children.

Read More on this important research here

This valuable research supports the reason for the Brain Insights 4 year old brain packet! 

Following is a fun activity example adults and children can do together while, folding laundry, making dinner, riding in the car, waiting for an appointment, etc.

Sentence Completion

Make sentences for me to finish using opposite words. 

Make up sentences about things around us. For example: Say, "Grass is soft, but sidewalks are ____."

Another way we can do this: Have me finish the sentence abou the presenta nd then the past. For example: Say, "I am riding my bike and yesterday I ____ my bike."

Let's Learn More While I'm Four provides ideas for exactly what these developing brains need in a way that is easy for parents to provide even during busy everyday life! Do you know a four year old?

Brain Stimulation at age four makes a long lasting impact - Activity ideas for busy everyday life!

Isn't it wonderful when we continuously get additional 
information to support the importance of the early years? 

BRAIN INSIGHTS TO SHARE: Healthy Brains Begin With Consistently Meeting Needs

Monday, October 15, 2012

Responsive relationships are essential for healthy brain development!   

Brain Insights:Printable #5’t it wonderful that what we naturally want to do is best for a developing young brain? When a baby cries it is our natural instinct to comfort the infant. It is through consistently responding to and tuning into the expressed needs of a baby that will impact the base of the wiring in the immature brain. 

Through these repeated nurturing responses, the brain begins to learn. This is the beginning of the brain wiring for self regulation and healthy emotional development. These loving interactions early in life can have an extremely positive and long lasting impact on relationships and learning throughout life. You can read more how this occurs in, Anna Wants This For Every Baby.

You can share this critically important information with the printable for this week!

Printable #5   

The following quote from, The Blossom Method by Vivien Sabel, shares how essential this need is and how desperately a baby needs adults to realize and understand how they are communicating.  

 “A baby starts talking from the moment she takes her first breath. A child’s instinct for survival and human interaction drives her to communicate with her caregivers using unique movements, facial expressions, sounds, and mouth, lip and tongue shapes."

Brain Insights and the communcation of babies ~

You can learn more on this exceptional book and this essential aspect of early brain development in Astonishing Communication with a Baby Beginning at Birth.


Brain Insights Activity Packets for Early Brain Development - 

The printable also includes an activity idea from, the LOVE YOUR BABY brain development activity packet and App.  

 For more wonderful ways to provide loving interactions throughout your busy day go to



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