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The Best App For Your Child

Updated: Jun 27, 2022

Brain development has constantly been one of the most sought-after topics for research over the past several decades. While we are still in the infancy of understanding how our brain works, brain researchers have just proven, through scans and fMRI, that our brains need “Goldilock” conditions to thrive. What are “Goldilock” conditions? If you remember the story of Goldilocks and the Three Bears, Goldilock needed to find porridge that wasn’t “too hot” nor “too cold”... she wanted the one that was “just right”.

So, what does that mean for our child’s brain development? Media like television, iPads and any other type of device with a screen are simply “too hot”. The brain does not develop many connections and consuming that kind of content becomes too easy for us. On the other hand, pure audio content like audiobooks or stories you tell your children are “too cold”. They do not provide enough stimulation to the visual cortex to form new neural connections, and the consumption becomes too hard for most kids.

So, what is the alternative? The alternative is the best “app" ever invented for your child: books! Books offer the perfect conditions for brain development, with a mixture of verbal and visual cues in an illustrated story. Also, books stimulate sensory experiences of touch and smell which most people will remember for years.

As an educational psychologist, this information is not new to me. However, what is new is the fact that now we can show parents the images of a brain that has been primarily exposed to books vs. a brain that has been primarily exposed to technology. To be quite honest, this is both powerful and frightening: the same areas of white matter that are organized and well developed in children exposed primarily to books turn out to be chaotic and underdeveloped in children exposed primarily to screens and devices.

We need to recognize that we live in a world with increasing layers of abstractions and that children’s brains have a hard time dealing with all of them. Children’s brains need interactions, close contact, and lots of 3D-type of stimuli in order to make sense of the world. Things need to be concrete and real for kids to learn. Holding a physical book does give the brain a much more impactful message than simply reading it on an iPad. Books are tangible, weighty and provide the brain with a unique ‘aroma’ that helps the brain process and hold information much more effectively. These powerful combinations are essential, and no existing technology has gotten even remotely close to replicating them. How wonderful it is to visit a bookstore and feel the smell of hundreds of new books, how marvelous it is to be able to touch the ones that call our attention and spend some time browsing and feeling them! These feelings and sensations are indeed magical and have many important roles into our brain development. My advice for each one of you is: feel and enjoy these magical and enlightening moments. These are the moments our kids need and will thrive from. So, grab a book, forget the apps and invite your kid to sit on your lap!

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