I volunteer at my daughter's preschool and the things I see in her classroom are equal measures entertaining, terrifying, hilarious, disgusting, delightful, and perplexing. You have all of these three-year-olds bouncing around the classroom, doing exactly what they want to be doing at that very second. Imagine operating entirely from your ID and that's what it's like to watch preschoolers in action. But what's really going on in their little brains? Here are five things your preschooler's brain is like, to help make sense of all the unpredictable behavior.
In order to better understand your pint-size person, it's probably best to turn to science. "The neurological processing in the [3-to-5-year-old’s] brain is twice as busy as that of a college student, and perhaps three times busier than an adult’s," explained Great Schools.
With so much developing so quickly, it's an exciting time to kick back and watch your kid in their element. Children between the ages of 3 and 4 are developing crucial things like problem-solving skills, an interest in their bodies and environment, and a better understanding of the order of events in their days, according to Kidcentral TN.
But for all the positive developments taking place, there are a some challenging aspects of parenting a preschooler. For instance, they start to understand the concept of "mine" (i.e. "No, you can't have that, it's miiiiiiiiine."), and they also start to develop more active imaginations, sometimes leading to unrealistic fears, according to Web MD.
So, to try to better understand the driving behaviors behind a preschooler's patter, let's try to peek into their craniums to see whats really going on. Here are five things your preschooler's brain is like right about now.
1. You Preschooler's Brain is Like a Body Builder
Your preschooler may be rapidly outgrowing their clothes, but what's really growing at a truly astounding speed is their brain.
"Though many brain patterning processes are complete at birth, the human brain exhibits further dramatic biological development during the preschool years, and roughly quadruples in weight before the age of six," according to an article published in Neuropsychology Review.
Whoa, that's a lot of brain gain!
2. Your Preschool's Brain Is Like A Teddy Bear (That Needs Love)
You probably don't need an excuse to love up your preschooler, but it turns out that the preschool years are an absolutely vital time to provide an abundance of emotional support.
"Children whose mothers were nurturing during the preschool years, as opposed to later in childhood, have more robust growth in brain structures associated with learning, memory and stress response than children with less supportive moms, according to research at Washington University School of Medicine in St. Louis," reported Science Daily.
These findings are even more of a reason to lay on a ton of maternal love during the critical preschool years.
3. Your Preschooler's Brain Is Like a Closet
Preschool-aged children are constantly observing, making connections and creating frameworks to interpret the world.
"Our brains (and our children's brains) are not built to remember random bits of information. Information is stored with other similar knowledge. I like to imagine our brain as having lots of closets. Each closet is a framework for a particular subject, and when we learn new things that fit inside that framework, we can hang the information up in that closet," explained Preschool Powol Packets article.
4. You Preschooler's Brain is Like An Eager Debate Partner
MIT cognitive scientists recently found that back-and-forth exchanges, or 'conversational turns' between a parent and child, appear to actually change the child's brain — for the better. The more conversational turns a preschool-aged child is exposed to, the higher they scored on standardized tests of language skills, including vocabulary, grammar, and verbal reasoning, according to MIT News.
One of the most fascinating findings from this study was that it's not just about dumping words on a child (i.e. talking at them, or putting them in front of a screen), but rather engaging them in conversation.
"You can talk to a child until you’re blue in the face, but if you’re not engaging with the child and having a conversational duet about what the child is interested in, you’re not going to give the child the language processing skills that they need,” said Roberta Golinkoff, a professor of education at the University of Delaware School of Education, in an interview with MIT News.
5. Your Preschooler's Brain is Like an Empirical Scientist
Now is the time to get yourself very well acquainted with one little word: Why. Your preschool-aged child is trying to understand why things happen, and therefore will be asking you questions constantly. "Why is the sky blue?" "Why do I have to go to bed?" "Why does broccoli taste bad?"
You can thank rapid growth in the left hemisphere of the brain (the part of the brain tied to language), for that, according to Parents.
"Kids are starting to see that certain things happen consistently, but they can't understand what makes them happen,” said Dr. Nyp in an interview with Parents.
Hopefully, these insights into your preschooler's brain will help give you added patience when you need it most. And if you're looking for some awesome ways to encourage you preschooler's development, click here for some ideas.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.