I see so many people with their kids jumping in before their child has a chance to be smart on their own. I read a great book right after my daughter was born called “What’s Going On In There”. I highly recommend it to anyone who is curious about the mental development of their child.
The key item from the book for this purpose is that as a human brain grows, it makes pathways between neurons. This is what allows your brain to work. In an infant, a pathway grows for basically every single new experience. This creates too many pathways. So, around 3 years old, the brain starts to prune off the unused pathways to make it more efficient. However, until this happens, the toddler has the brain with extra pathways. This means that sometimes, it is physically impossible for them to process something any faster. So, although they might have the right knowledge, it seems like they don’t know because it takes three or four or five seconds for them to access the part of the brain they need correctly.
This morning, I put some Cheerios in some of the plastic Easter eggs we stumbled across. I left some empty. I set them down and she looked at them and then at me. After a few seconds, I was getting ready to move my arm and show her what to do when all of the sudden, she just “clicked” and began shaking the eggs one by one. The empty ones were placed unopened to her left. The ones with Cheerios, or “Os” in our house, were dutifully opened and the Cheerios eaten. If I hadn’t paused long enough, I would have never seen the skills she had and she would not have gotten to use them.
Don’t wait long enough for your child to get frustrated, but especially when doing a new task, or after you have just finished a long sentence or multi-part question, pause. Give your child four or five seconds to process what is going on. Don’t look like you are anxious or waiting or impatient. Act like it is perfectly natural for you to be waiting. You might be surprised at how smart your child is when they get the few extra seconds they need for those inefficient pathways to be used. Even more important, you’ll be making sure that they are using those pathways, so that they aren’t the ones that get pruned off!