BRAIN-BOOSTING ACTIVITY : Splashing Around
Water play is another great way to harness kids' love of exploration. "Right in the bathtub, they're learning about basic physical concepts like whether something sinks or floats," says McAdam (not to mention water displacement, volume, gravity, and cause and effect). To jump-start the learning, ask your toddler if his rubber ducky will float. "Children are natural experimenters. Your questions will lead your toddler to form a hypothesis, predict what might happen, and observe the results," says Lindemann. "Later in life, as he learns more complicated information and concepts, there will be a foundation of experience to which this knowledge will stick."
BRAIN-BOOSTING ACTIVITY : Building Art Smarts
Whether your child is singing, scribbling, or painting, encouraging her to express herself through music or art can have big benefits. "Researchers have found that learning to play music -- even just banging on pots and pans -- fosters a child's development in a huge way," says Lindemann. After all, it encourages self-expression and teaches rhythm and beat counting. "Fractions will eventually come more naturally to a child who has mimicked rhythms on instruments or through song," notes Lindemann. What's more, dancing to music and playing an instrument build coordination and motor development.
Drawing and painting offer similar advantages: They boost imagination, improve hand-eye coordination, and strengthen hand and finger muscles (which helps prepare little hands to write later on). Painting, especially, gives children a chance to use their senses (feel the paper or brush, smell the paint, and see the colors as they combine), which is critical for making connections in their brain.