Question: How do brains develop?
Sam Wang: One thing that’s interesting about child development is that so much of it… There’re so many changes that take place in children’s brains, not only from birth to the age of 6, ‘cause this when people think of brain change, but also even through childhood into adolescence. So one thing that probably does not help is passive experiences for the child.
In the classic example, this is the Mozart myth. The idea that playing Mozart or the classical music to a baby will make the child smarter. What seems to be important is active engagement. So, for instance, learning to play a musical instrument is associated with improved spatial reasoning. And that seems to be something that really helps a lot. Another thing that helps is talking to children. It’s been shown that there’s a positive relationship between the number of words the child hears per day and IQ scores.
And this is true even when you crook for social economic status. And so, just simply speaking to a child, playing with her, talking with her, that kind of cognitive stimulation seems to have a lasting positive effect on the child’s development. And that’s something that I think any parent can and should do.