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5 ways to support your child’s early learning and development

Dr Justin Coulson

Dr Justin Coulson

Dr Justin Coulson is the co-host and parenting expert on Channel Nine's "Parental Guidance" and the founder of happyfamilies.com.au. He holds a PhD in Psychology and is one of Australia’s most trusted parenting experts. He is also a dad to 6 daughters.
Created on Oct 30, 2023 · 3 mins read
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When it comes to learning and development, the first few years of a child’s life are critical. In fact, the human brain is already at 95 per cent of its peak size by age six, so it’s important that we provide young kids with the right nutrients and stimulation for optimal brain health.

Amongst other things, a healthy brain will assist with all areas of development, including growing skills like attention, learning, memory, and concentration.

With this in mind, here are five simple ways you can support your child’s early learning and development:

Give them a yummy head start:

healthy diet is number one for developing healthy brains. Brain-building omega-3 essential fatty acids, known as DHA and EPA,,, are crucial for the growth and function of the brain. These fatty acids are considered essential because the body cannot make them itself, so it’s important we consume fatty fish such as salmon, kidney beans and blue or blackberries. Eggs add protein, while peanut butter adds vitamin E, both of which protect the membranes of the nervous system. By creating a strong and healthy brain, learning is made easier.

Supplement their diet:

If your child’s a fussy eater and doesn’t like the taste or texture of such health foods, you can ensure they can still access brain-benefiting fatty acids by complementing their diet with DHA Fish Oil,, supplements. Research shows 50% of Australian children have low levels of DHA from fish in their diet, which may be associated with impairments in cognitive and behavioural performance.

Teach through play:

Singing with actions (think: ‘Incy Wincy Spider’), talking about what you’re doing while playing (“we’re building blocks to make our tower higher”), and generating surprise through games like ‘peek-a-boo’ can help your child to enjoy learning and pick up on social cues, quickly. Even something as simple as naming the colour of the toy you’re playing with or highlighting its size and shape expands your child’s cognitive capacity.

Move your body (and theirs!):

Wiggling your baby’s body and encouraging young children to refine their skills by using a non-dominant hand can help with brain-body coordination. In addition, active bursts of exercise throughout the day – especially together – helps improve sleep hygiene and cultivates balance and other motor skills. Set a good example and ride together or run around the backyard playing ball with your older child or go for walks with bub in a pram to stimulate their senses (flower smells, bright colours, forward motion, etc).

Talk with your child:

Whenever you can, keep the screens away and talk with your child.

Read books, sing songs, and talk as much as you can to bring them into your world and explore life together. Let them see your facial expressions, your body language, and especially let them hear you talking. And when you feel all talked out, read, read, read! Don’t use a screen for reading. Hold a real book in your hands and read slowly, ask your child questions about the characters and their feelings and experiences, and help them pick out letters and words. If your kids are older, have them read to you – and make sure they have fun with silly voices!

Giving your child the room to develop at their own speed cultivates trust. Remember, everyone learns at their own pace, but if you’re ever unsure or have any questions about your own child’s development trajectory, speak with a healthcare professional.

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