Playing is essential for children: it awakens their creativity and imagination and fosters social relationships. No matter the age: children like to play, and more if they do it with their parents.
A new study broadens this spectrum and concludes that when parents and children play together, even when they are babies, their brains communicate.
Research conducted at Princeton University tried to measure the brain activity of adults and babies when they interact naturally.
For the experiment, which began with 42 participants but ended with 18 babies between nine and 15 months, researchers designed a new dual-brain neuroimaging system, called near-infrared functional spectroscopy (NIR), which in addition to being safe and comfortable, records the oxygenation of the brain and neuronal activity.
The data collection consisted of two parts. In the first, an investigator interacted with the child for five minutes while sitting on his father’s knees.
In the second, an investigator told a story to another expert while the child played silently with his parent. The total information collected came from 57 episodes that consisted of predictions, language processing or understanding of the other.
After analyzing the data of the sessions, experts found that in the face-to-face meetings, the brains of the babies synchronized with those of the adults in the areas corresponding to the understanding of the world, and that such a connection disappeared when they were separated.
The strongest synchrony was observed in the prefrontal cortex, which is the area that involves learning and executive function, among others.
Something that surprised scientists was to discover that the baby’s brain sometimes led the adult’s brain for a few seconds, leaving aside the thought that the brain of these little ones is only able to receive information. These are suitable to guide the adult about the next thing they are going to choose, whether it’s a toy or the word they are going to say.
The conclusion is that the brain activity of both, parent and child, fluctuates depending on eye contact and when they share toys. So, when a baby and an adult play together, their brains connect in a dynamic way.
It is the first time that these conclusions are reached. Previous research showed that the brain of adults synchronizes when watching movies or listening to stories together, but little was known about this neuronal synchronization during the first years of life.”
The authors would like to extend this knowledge to preschool children and their early language acquisition.
The benefits of playing with your child
According to psychologists, when we play there is a direct and fun action. It also helps creativity, imagination and knowing our children better and truly.
During that time shared between parents and children, interaction helps them to get to know each other better. It is a place where we are the best version of ourselves, which leaves out authority.
In addition, games and playing generates memories, positive experiences that are stored in memory and that are a thrill.
Playing also helps us to know our children better, to know how they really are. It allows us to observe what emotions our child has. For example, if your little girl is playing with a baby affectionately and suddenly becomes very angry, she is trying to tell you something.
Many children are not able to express their emotions, they do not know, and the game is a great tool to know what happens to them. You have to observe.
The game is a way of educating in values, leaving aside authority. Having fun encourages adults to enter different environments, making us more creative and flexible and while allows us to improve not only the relationship with our children, but also, for example, our behavior in our work, providing new ideas or objectives.
It is also good for children to play alone, especially at younger ages. Experts explain that it is essential that the little ones invent their own world, always under the paternal gaze, since they like us to be present to feel protected.