How to Teach Children About Their Brains

Reading to your toddler is a brain-strengthening activity.
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Since the brain is such a complex part of our bodies, it is a difficult subject to teach to young children. Many parents will teach their toddlers or preschoolers about other parts of their bodies, but they don't often talk about the brain. Maybe, they think it's boring! But the brain is far from boring. The brain is a fascinating subject, and teaching not only about the brain but also practicing brain processing through activities and experiences both teaches your kids something new, and also hard wires their brains for later learning.

Use plenty of visual aids to teach your preschooler about their brains. Since kids can't see inside their heads, you can show your child pictures of their brains. You can point out that the brain has two sides. Ask your child, "Why do you think there are two sides instead of one?" (Kids probably think the brain is just one big piece!) Explain facts like the right side is in control of the movements of the left side of the body and vice versa. This might seem a little confusing to him at first, but he'll remember that our bodies are different from what we think they are. Ask him, "Raise your right arm. Which side of the brain controls that movement?" This activity is also a great way to teach your kids right from left.

Compare the brain to other objects familiar to your child. For example, you can say the brain is like a ball because both are round in shape. Show your child a picture of a brain and ask him what he thinks the brain looks like. If he says, "Looks like worms" or "Looks like spaghetti," it may seem gross, but he's on the right track.

Play memory games or other brain-strengthening exercises. Children as young and 2 and 3 years old can play simple memory games; you might need to guide your child through these games. Set four to 10 cards upside down, and tell your child to turn over two cards and ask if they match. If they do, set them aside. If they do not match, turn them back over and ask your child to turn over two cards again. Play until he matches all the cards. These “brain teasers” are fun and engaging, and at the same time they improve brain processing. One of these days, your little ones will remember all of them faster than you do and will remember them for a longer time.

Teach your child about the way our brain is in charge of emotions. Read a book to your child. After you get to an event in the story -- perhaps where a child's dog ran into the street, but a nice man rescued the dog. Ask your preschooler, "Was the little boy scared when his dog ran into the street? How did he feel when the nice man rescued his dog from the traffic?" Ask your child what things make him happy, sad, angry, or excited, and tell him that these feelings come from the brain.

Try art or musical activities to show how the brain works. For example, use a musical keyboard to play two notes while your child keeps his eyes closed. Ask him, "Were the two notes the same or different?" Explain that it is his brain that helps him tell the difference. Paint with several colors and ask him to name the colors. Then, ask him how he knows the names of colors. He'll probably say, "You told me." And yes, he's right. His brain remembers what you taught him.

  • Make learning about the brain fun. Many kids don't learn about the brain until late elementary or even middle school, but teaching your toddler or preschooler some ideas about the brain earlier helps them learn more about their bodies and how things work. Kids are much more motivated to learn when they are engaged in fun activities. Don't be afraid to use the computer or mobile devices for games.

Cara Batema is a musician, teacher and writer who specializes in early childhood, special needs and psychology. Since 2010, Batema has been an active writer in the fields of education, parenting, science and health. She holds a bachelor's degree in music therapy and creative writing.