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Spending time supports child’s brain development

WellChild News Release 23.02.07

Spending time supports children’s brain development

Leading paediatricians say giving children time is especially important for growth and development in the first three years of life.

New Zealand Brainwave Trust’s medical spokesperson Dr Simon Rowley, says research suggests children who are nurtured, given every opportunity to explore the world and enjoy a variety of positive experiences, become flexible, empathetic and intelligent members of society in later life.

The Brainwave Trust was set up to use existing scientific research on brain development to enable children in New Zealand to reach their full potential.

“At birth our brains are only 15% connected. The other 85% of brain connections happen after birth in response to what we experience, particularly in the first three years,” says Dr Rowley.

“In order to become connected or 'wired up' we need lots of sensory experience to stimulate the brain cells to 'switch on' and talk to each other. This is most effectively done by parents and caregivers spending time with children and encouraging and facilitating exploration,” says Dr Rowley.

Research shows children who are neglected or raised in chaotic, abusive or violent circumstances fail to develop important characteristics like warmth and empathy.

“Their brains are ‘wired’ up for negativity and this does affect people in later life,” says Dr Rowley.

Well Child paediatrician Dr Marguerite Dalton agrees. She says giving time is the best gift a parent can give a child.

“The theme of Children’s Day this year is timely, given the recent United Nations Children’s Fund report which paints a bleak picture of how much time New Zealand parents and caregivers spend with their kids.”

“Interaction and engagement with our under 5’s is so important,” says Dr Dalton.

“Parents don’t need to spend a lot of money – getting kids involved in ordinary, every-day tasks, is a great way for them to feel connected, loved and special.”

“We need to make spending time with kids a habitual activity – something we do frequently and for the duration of a child’s youth,” says Dr Dalton.

This Children’s Day, Well Child encourages parents and caregivers to praise, talk to and spend time with children.

“Spending time can mean many things, but it does involve doing things together; like reading a book, playing a favourite game, eating, cooking, cleaning up the house, going for a walk or just having a cuddle – it’s only limited by your imagination,” says Dr Dalton.

Parents should also make time to immunise on time. Research shows delaying immunisation by as little as 30 days makes a child 4 times more likely to be hospitalised with whooping cough.

And don’t forget the routine Well Child checks – they’re free and provide a good opportunity to discuss the health and wellbeing of your child.


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