Flashcards and fancy educational toys are not as effective as good old-fashioned playtime
Raising children has become a competitive sport
Sure, we all want the best for our children, and want them to go far and reach their full potential and grow up to be smart, successful adults. And hence, parents today pretty much make it our job to make sure they get the best start possible start in life.
We read books, get educational toys and attend classes in baby sign language, baby music lessons and there are even baby yoga classes out there to attend should you fancy it.
But what it all the flashcards and parenting books and sophisticated educational toys are all a little bit unnecessary? As in, could it be that good old fashioned parental interaction might be just as useful – if not better – in supporting your child's growth?
"Playing, talking, singing and cuddling are by far the most effective actions you can take."
Casey Lew-Williams is on the faculty at Princeton University and co-Director of the Princeton Baby Lab (meaning, when it comes to babies, this guy knows his stuff!) and he argues in an interview with World Economic Forum that when it comes to raising kids, playing, talking, singing and cuddling are by far the most effective actions you can take in order to shape them into happy, skilled and successful adults.
"For younger children, it can be as simple as rolling a ball across the floor, talking and singing to your baby, and cuddling," Lew-Williams explains. "It's about showing the baby how fun it is to be with another person, and how communicating with others is rewarding. Live interaction is better for learning than passively watching TV, which is why some medical organisations now recommend no TV viewing for the first two years of life."
In fact, when it comes to learning, making time for simple play can, in Lew-Williams' words, "make an enormous difference."
"If you think about this at the neural level: in the first years of life, we have more neural connections than we’ll ever have again. We lose many of them over time, which is actually a sign of learning. The connections that matter remain strong, while the others dissipate. Healthy neural development is sculpted by high-quality interactions and play. And infancy is the time to help the best connections form."