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Brain-Boosting Activities for Your Preschooler

How activities such as playing, reading, and learning languages stimulate your preschooler's mind.

Having a Social Life

Learning the rules of play by spending time with friends helps improve social smarts. Practice with self-control, sharing, and negotiating all build the relationship skills kids will need in the future, Macias says.

“A child who doesn’t develop well socially could be the most brilliant person in the world in terms of IQ, but their poor social skills can make them less successful in terms of health, school outcomes, and even jobs,” Macias says.

Being social with other kids also helps preschoolers form handy stereotypes. They learn things like what younger or older kids are like, and that boys and girls act differently, Gallagher tells WebMD. “That helps them make a mental map for future reference,” he says.

Games and Puzzles

From Candy Land to “Duck, Duck, Goose”, games with rules help improve social intelligence. Kids practice patience in taking turns, and learn to accept the frustration of not winning. Remembering rules also gives those memory muscles a workout. Physical games help sharpen the brain’s motor coordination.

Stick to games with three or four simple rules, and shorter games that can be played again quickly.

Working puzzles promotes nonverbal reasoning and the ability to visualize. The brain’s fine motor coordination area gets a jolt as little fingers learn to fit the pieces. And puzzles can help more energetic kids spend some quiet time on their own while still stimulating their minds.

Learning Another Language

Research shows that younger kids can pick up multiple languages much faster than when they get older. Learning a second tongue early on also gives a double punch of stimulation to the areas of the brain responsible for storing, sequencing, and saying words, Gallagher says.

A second language also helps with developing verbal and spatial abilities, and promotes better vocabulary and reading skills. An added perk: Kids get a greater sense of cultural diversity.

Questions About TV, Video Games

Wondering if that alphabet computer game your 4-year old plays or those educational videos he watches actually help? Here’s what experts tell WebMD.

Yes, educational electronic games, videos, and certain educational TV programs might benefit your preschooler, but with several qualifiers.

First, your child needs to be engaged in a back-and-forth interaction in order to really get a benefit, not just sitting there. Parents should carefully choose high-quality programs and be with the child when he’s watching or playing. Your job is to guide and reinforce what’s being shown.

Limit your preschooler's total amount of screen time to no more than one or two hours daily, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. That includes time with TV, computers, game consoles, and anything else with a screen. Keep the TV and other gadgets out of their bedrooms.

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