This week, spring has sprung! We get to make all kinds of flower crafts. To go along with all the fun, I wanted to share some fun facts about kids’ brain development. I even have a diagram of a brain cell…which sort of looks like a flower…
Interestingly, we have all the brain cells we ever will, which is a lot, by about 18 weeks after conception…before we’re even born! However, where the acquisition of knowledge and memory comes in is more related to the cell connections, or synapses. We actually are at our peak for the number of brain cell connections around 2 years of age. This may have a lot to do with language development at that age, not to mention all the other skills being acquired during those toddler years. The terrible two’s may have something to do with all that! Furthermore, the number of cell connections is influenced by synaptic pruning, or cutting out connections that aren’t being used; the old “use it or lose it” refers to brain cell connectivity. Honing in on what we actually need to keep and focus on helps with speed and efficiency of information processing in the brain.
This efficiency of processing is also affected by the presence of a myelin sheath around the axon of the brain cell. An immature brain cell does not have a myelin sheath, but after myelination, or the process of growing the myelin sheath, the nerve cell is able to process signals and information more quickly and efficiently. This fatty layer of protective tissue keeps the signal where it needs to be, thus helping with focused attention and faster processing. Myelination is affected by maturation, just time for development, as well as experience. A nurturing environment can actually affect the formation of myelin sheaths. Love is important for babies and early child development.
The processing of memory is also changing during early childhood. While the basic organization of our memory systems seems to be stable by the age of 6, the speed of processing and capacity of working memory increases greatly over time. Furthermore, mental strategies for improving memory do not show up until the ages of 5 to 8 years old. For example, we can help ourselves remember a new friend’s phone number by repeating it over and over again in our head until we can write it down; this strategy of rehearsal has to be learned and developed. We can also use selective attention to filter out what is not important to remember to save “room” for remembering the important details of our surroundings, or a conversation, but young children try to remember or encode anything they can, without differentiating what is or is not important. Even if you tell a 3- or 4-year-old child to remember only the animals from a list of words (e.g., bird, plane, house, turkey, pig…), they will try to remember all of them. You can imagine how this would not help them succeed in a memory test of the animals! Parents play a huge role in directing their young children’s ability to remember information and to encode what is important to learn and know.
Hand-picked flowers for Mommy
This was very easy to pull off, despite the painted handprint involved, and I love how it turned out! In the inspiration, they just drew the flowers, but my almost-2-year-old isn’t coloring scribbles that resemble flowers at this point, so I let her glue/tape on paper flowers after drawing the stems myself.
First, I let her color with crayons however she pleased while I set up with paint, brush, and handy baby wipe (or wet rag). Then, I quickly drew some stems that crossed each other like in a bouquet.
(Now, she loves getting her hand painted, so I knew she would sit still for that part. If you have a wiggler, though, I recommend stripping them down or wearing p.j.’s you don’t mind painting, and being over a safe surface, such as high chair, outdoors, or the floor on top of old shower curtain or drop cloth. *Alternatively, if your kid loves getting their hand painted and will ask for more after you’re done and have washed off their hand, I recommend having a clean paintbrush and even a bit of water to “paint” their hand some more or let them do it themselves.)
So, lastly, I painted a coat of craft/acrylic paint on her palm and placed it firmly and quickly on top of paper/flower stems. (**If I’d been thinking, I would actually have prepared multiple flower pages, so as to go ahead and handprint enough to give to all grandparents because you can easily get two handprints from one coat.) I quickly grabbed wipe with other hand and washed off all paint before it gets anywhere else, ha! Then, I set picture out of reach for drying – I love it!
CRAFT/ACTIVITY #2: Daffodil Suncatcher (source: BabyCentre)
This activity requires a bit of prep if you are doing this with a toddler, an older preschooler who can cut could do more of it though. The middle photo on left is what I had after preparing it for my toddler activity time.
Materials required: (besides scissors & double-stick tape, or other type of adhesive)
1. yellow square of paper (I used a paint sample chip!) – you cut it into the shape of a 5-point wavy flower, then cut along inner edge to have outline of flower…use inside piece to cut a strip with waves on top, straight on sides and bottom (see middle, left photo below, this second piece will be used for center of flower)
2. contact paper – 2 squares the same size as yellow paper/big enough to cover flower (one will go on front and one on back of flower outline, with tissue paper bits stuck between)
3. strip of thick, sturdy paper to fold and use as stem (I used double-stick tape to hold together strip folded in half, lengthwise, use two strips if still not sturdy enough to stand up)
4. tissue paper – I kept it whole, then let my toddler help tear it into small pieces and stick onto contact paper
CRAFT/ACTIVITY #3: Handprint Flower
This is the easiest craft for this week; simply trace your child’s handprints, cut them out, then use them as the flower with a crayon-drawn stem and leaves. So cute and easy to send in the mail for mother’s day, father’s day, grandparents’ day, or just a happy spring! My daughter absolutely loves getting her hand traced – in the picture, it looks like she’s tracing it herself, but that’s just her waiting for me to do it with anticipation!
Here’s three books…I just love springtime stuff so much, that I couldn’t stop at just 2 crafts or 2 books this week! I am a Bunny, pictures by Richard Scarry, is a lesser known classic, I’d say. The illustrations are magical and sweet, which include a full page of butterflies, blowing dandelions, and lots of pint-sized fun. We received the board book version for Easter.
A Tree is Nice by Janice May Udry is a Caldecott medal winner, and I checked it out from the library after its recommendation on Turtle and Robot.
No childhood is complete without reading Are You My Mother? by P.D. Eastman, and spring is a great time to enjoy this story of a baby bird and make all the appropriate animal sounds!
This first song rec has really fun hand motions to go along with all the animals mentioned, so please watch the youtube video to fully enjoy it!