March 28, 2022

How to Explain Neuroplasticity and Growth Mindset to Kids?

limitless children, Baby learning to walk

For children to develop a growth mindset, it’s important that they also learn about the connection between their thoughts and actions and their ability to change over time through neuroplasticity. There are plenty of ways to help kids get this message across, including fun brain exercises, creative ways to apply growth mindset strategies to daily life, and even some simple ways that parents can utilize neuroplasticity at home.

This article will discuss some practical ways to help your kids develop a growth mindset through neuroplasticity activities to support a growth mindset.

 

Neuroplasticity Activities to Support Growth Mindset

What is Neuroplasticity in Early Childhood?

Neuroplasticity refers to how our brains are constantly rewiring themselves based on new information and experiences. This is a part of normal development in early childhood. While research has shown that there are many different forms of neuroplasticity, one type that may be less obvious is related to mindset.

A growth mindset refers to thinking about intelligence, skills, and talent as something that can be developed through effort and experience. Your child’s teacher can play an important role in teaching them about how their brain continues changing throughout their lives.

Baby learning to walk with their parents

Below are some ways teachers can introduce a growth mindset and encourage neuroplastic change among students.

 

Ways Teachers Can Incorporate Neuroplasticity into Their Lessons:

  1. Talk about why it is easy for our brains to develop habits or pathways for what we do every day (such as walking or singing). Introduce how these habits might not always be best if our behaviors or thoughts need to change – because we can build new pathways for our brains if we try different strategies for doing things differently than usual.
  2. Use examples of athletes, musicians, and other successful people who have had to work hard at something and have practiced a lot over time to get good at it. They probably started out being just like you are now when they began!
  3. Introduce cases where someone else gave up too soon or didn’t even try, but then later in life wished they had tried harder when they did finally get around to trying again after some time had passed
  4. Explain that sometimes children believe their abilities are fixed from birth, but that really abilities can be improved with effort over time
  5. Brainstorm ways kids can use neuroplasticity to make changes in themselves (for example, figuring out their own learning style and changing their study strategies based on that)
  6. When kids experience failure, share stories about times other people faced similar challenges. For example, talk about someone whose family moved across the country and was having difficulty adjusting until he/she found friends who also liked reading at his/her old library.
  7. Tell stories where characters went through challenging experiences but then used a growth mindset to persevere; for example, say “How Many Ways Can You Think Of?” Give an example such as If your brother says something rude to you before school one morning… think of three ways you could respond so that he doesn’t feel bad.

 

What is Neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity is a property of your brain that enables it to rewire itself by forming new neural connections. Your environment, genes, thought patterns, and experiences all have an impact on your neuroplasticity.

While it’s generally believed that you’re born with a fixed number of neurons, synapses and cerebral pathways that can’t be changed later in life (known as hard wiring), modern research has shown that human brains are much more plastic than originally thought—and they change throughout our lives.

According to Drs. Gopnik and Kuhl, the crucial point about cognitive development is that these changes aren’t just an input-output process but a dynamic interaction between nature and nurture (2014).

Confident child about to fly with pilot and wing costume

When we learn something new, it strengthens certain existing connections or creates brand-new ones; likewise, when we don’t use certain skills for long periods of time—such as when we forget a language or math facts—the neural pathways related to those skills start withering away.

If you want to give someone powerful tools for living well into their senior years without experiencing memory loss or other age-related issues, then harnessing neuroplasticity may be one way to go about doing so.

 

2) Teach Kids How The Brain Works

Neuroplasticity refers to a brain’s ability to change in response to experience. The concept isn’t new—neuroscientists have known about neuroplasticity for decades—but it has become one of the hottest topics in education and psychology because it is inspiring more effective approaches for learning and living.

Neuroplasticity allows our brains to form connections between neurons, which, in turn, allows us to learn new things. At first glance, neuroplasticity seems like a great idea for improving kids’ self-esteem and critical thinking skills. But it also helps them develop their growth mindset—the belief that people can change in response to challenges and negative feedback.

The work of Stanford psychologist Carol Dweck has shed light on how children develop their mindsets and suggest ways that parents can support positive self-image through simple activities at home or school. It all comes down to how children view failure:

In a fixed mindset, failure indicates that people are inadequate.

People believe that abilities are static characteristics, so when they fail at something it is because they have not been blessed with those abilities (or perhaps have even lost them due to failure). In other words, there is no point in trying harder if you will never be able to succeed; you are either smart or you aren’t.

Teacher and student writing in journal

How To Teach Neuroplasticity To Kids?

If you want your kids to see that their mindset is important, it’s necessary for them to understand how neuroplasticity works. You can do that by showing them visual examples of what happens in their brain when they start new habits and ways of thinking.

This will help them learn about how neuroplasticity actually works—and how changing your mind isn’t something that just happens once (or twice) but instead is a lifelong process.

It helps kids understand that there are two types of neuroplastic change: hardwiring and softwiring. And ultimately, teaching neuroplasticity might be easier than you think!

Here are some great ways for supporting growth mindset and teaching neuroplsticity with interactive activities

 

What Are The 3 Types of Neuroplasticity?

The three types of neuroplasticity are functional, metabolic and structural. Neuroplasticity is simply how our brains change when we acquire new information and skills or experience new things. When we experience something that changes how we think or act, our brains undergo synaptic plasticity in order to learn.

Let’s take a closer look at each type of neuroplasticity.

Functional plasticity happens when we try out new ways of thinking or behaving and it improves cognitive functions such as attention control, inhibition, decision-making abilities and planning. Plasticity isn’t always good — stress can cause functional loss as well! But one way to help kids improve their function by exposing them to different situations as often as possible so they can practice forming novel connections between neurons.

Metabolic plasticity occurs every time nerve cells communicate with each other. Each brain cell has thousands of connections, but when we learn something new, some of those connections are strengthened while others weaken. Every time a cell uses its synapses, it is consumed and must be replaced; however, if we don’t use our synapses for some reason (maybe because we haven’t practiced what we learned), they can eventually degrade and even disappear completely! The key to protecting synaptic connections from degradation is to create new neural pathways that make learning easier—something that grows increasingly difficult as we age—and provide rich input experiences for young kids who are still building their brains up.

Structural Plasticity refers to how neurons grow and branch out into networks. It takes place at an individual neuron level: When we do new things, change our behaviors or focus on information in novel ways, tiny branches called dendrites grow on our brain cells so they can connect to other cells better in order to learn better and faster!

Younger children’s brains have an abundance of these dendrites, which is why early childhood education is so important — these little guys need lots of stimulation so they can quickly build efficient networks within their brains to help them absorb information.

Child learning with the teacher

How to Explain Growth Mindset to Kids

Dr. Carol Dweck’s seminal book, Mindset: The New Psychology of Success introduces us to two distinct mindsets—fixed and growth. A fixed mindset assumes your talents are set in stone, whereas a growth mindset assumes that talents can be developed with hard work.

It’s important for children (and adults) to understand neuroplasticity – our brains change every time we learn something new or practice something over and over again. This is why it’s critical to avoid a fixed mindset, which will lead kids to give up in times of challenge—even when failure is an opportunity for growth!

Luckily, there are many different ways you can support growth mindset development in your child—starting with explaining it using fun activities that highlight neuroplasticity.

 

Which Area of The Brain is Most Active With a Growth Mindset?

The pre-frontal cortex (PFC) of your brain. It is where most of your reasoning and planning happens, as well as all your decision-making.

The PFC is also in charge of your personality, which I think can help explain a lot about why people with a growth mindset are able to overcome obstacles so well.

With that said, any activity that increases blood flow to that area can be effective at strengthening these behaviors and therefore supporting a growth mindset. Here are some ideas yoga (any style), meditation, reading for pleasure, playing brain games like Lumosity, taking classes like chess or public speaking.

Boy learning the flute from flute teacher

Consistent neuro-stimulation from activities will support neuroplasticity in your PFC and help create a growth mindset in kids!

The easiest way to explain neuroplasticity is with flowers: Flowers grow in many different ways: some have sturdy stems and petals while others have more flexible stems and petals. It’s really a trade-off; if you want something that’s strong, you can’t be very soft. If you want something that looks elegant and lacy, it probably won’t be very strong or rigid.

We humans are much like those flowers; we come in all shapes and sizes! We all think differently, are good at different things, act differently depending on our moods—we’re all very unique!

So when someone says they’re not good at math or no good at sports, they are being untrue to themselves; each person has their own strengths and weaknesses—there is no one who is simply good or bad at everything—nor should there be!

 

How Does Neuroplasticity Relate to The Growth Mindset?

The growth mindset is a concept introduced by Carol Dweck in her book Mindset: The New Psychology of Success. In essence, she argues that our brains are neuroplastic – meaning they change based on our experiences and environment.

We can strengthen pathways in our brain that support success or we can allow them to weaken and fade. This applies both personally and professionally.

 

Difference Between Growth Mindset & Fixed Mindset

According to Carol Dweck, a Stanford University psychologist who pioneered research on mindset and authored two books on the subject, there are two types of mindsets: growth and fixed.

People with a fixed mindset believe intelligence and abilities are innate traits that cannot be changed; those with a growth mindset believe that people can improve their skills through hard work and effort.

Carol Dweck suggests those with a growth mindset often have better learning outcomes because they don’t give up when faced with challenges or setbacks.

Mother and son playing with alphabet blocks

1) Amazing Brain Facts

To help kids understand the incredible power of their brains, share amazing facts. For example, in one study, brain scans of London taxi drivers revealed that their posterior hippocampus was much larger than those of non-taxi drivers. This suggests that learning a new profession can actually alter your brain structure! And not only do scientists know which parts of our brains are most plastic, but they’re also beginning to identify factors that promote neuroplasticity.

For example, studies have shown that aerobic or physical exercise and meditation both stimulate neurogenesis—the creation of new neurons in adulthood.

In fact, meditation has been found to double levels of BDNF (brain-derived neurotrophic factor), a protein essential for neural development and growth.

Given these exciting findings, talking with kids about how different types of exercise can improve cognitive function is a great place to start.

For example, walking not only lowers your risk for dementia in later life but also enhances creativity and problem-solving skills—and it’s easier than you think!

Studies have shown that taking a brisk walk five days per week (about 30 minutes total) has been found to have an incredible impact on brain health.

Kids also love to hear that certain foods are beneficial for brain development and function. In fact, leading Harvard nutrition expert Dr. Walter Willett has said it’s important that children eat a diet rich in nutrients from fresh fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes (such as beans), nuts and seeds.

And studies suggest that omega-3s—found in fatty fish like salmon or mackerel—help enhance learning ability. Even vegetarians can up their omega-3 intake by eating tofu or edamame.

 

2) Celebrate Mistakes

As children grow, they make more and more mistakes. In a growth mindset, every mistake provides an opportunity for your child’s brain to change. Encourage your child by telling them that mistakes are important because they show us where we need help, and that we learn from our mistakes if we ask for help.

Whenever you notice your child making a mistake, pause and look at it as an opportunity rather than a problem.

For example, if your five-year-old is attempting to tie his shoes but he keeps dropping one of them on the floor again and again, instead of saying Don’t drop it! That’s silly! Why can’t you tie your shoes? try Oops! Watch out—you dropped it!

 

Singing in the music Class

3) Build a Brain Model & Brain Poster

Brain models are a great way to engage kids and show them what’s happening in their brain as they learn. If you’re looking for something simple that can be created with materials found around your house, you might want to try using balloon pieces and food coloring.

Fill balloons with water then tie them off at one end so that they don’t fully inflate. Then squeeze out some food coloring into each balloon; when it reaches its maximum inflation, remove air (and excess color) by firmly pinching both ends.

Then insert into an empty white poster tube. The poster tube adds structure and prevents your new creations from rolling away!

Leave a small opening at one end, use thick tape or something similar as a plug, and then allow them to dry overnight with their little heads sticking out of a brain-shaped hole in your wall. When dry, remove tape and blow up balloons fully so that they fill out their shapes again before removing them from their tube enclosure.

Brain posters are great classroom tools because they can get students thinking about how learning changes our brains while providing a visual reminder of what growth mindset looks like in action. Plus, teachers who have worked hard perfecting growth mindset in their classrooms love having these hanging on their walls as tangible examples of what they’re trying to teach students when it comes to embracing challenges and finding ways around obstacles.

 

5 e=Exercises to Teach Kids About Brain Elasticity

Whether you’re hoping to inspire your kids to be neuroscientists, or simply want them to be healthy and happy, neuroplasticity exercises can be a lot of fun! If you’re not familiar with neuroplasticity, it refers to the brain’s ability to physically change and learn throughout life by forming new neural connections within the brain.

That’s right — your kids can actually get smarter as they grow up! The following five exercises will teach them about neuroplasticity without even realizing it.

Teacher and Students on the tablet

Neuroplasticity Exercise #1

Sensory Exercise:

Sensory exercises teach your kids about neuroplasticity. A great way to introduce them to plasticity is through sensory exercises. First, gather some supplies: an egg timer or stopwatch, a ball (tennis or soccer ball are good), and plenty of big pieces of paper. Go out into your yard and draw a 10-foot circle on the ground. Now, sit in that circle with your child and get comfortable! You can hold hands if you like—there’s no wrong way to do it!

Next, make yourself as still as possible and close your eyes while waiting for time to run out. Then tell your kid they can move their feet however they want but they have to stay inside that circle until time runs out.

This exercise teaches patience at first because they will be constantly moving their legs—then, it teaches them how important it is to be quiet so as not to break concentration.

Remember: you aren’t allowed to move at all! Once time runs out, go back inside and write down five things you noticed about how much easier or harder it was for one person versus two people remaining completely still for a period of time.

 

Neuroplasticity Exercise #2

Shapes with Clay:

If you are looking to introduce kids to neuroplasticity, then what better way than through exercise that stimulates their brains? Try our next exercise which includes a fun brain teaser. Let’s give kids a workout and see what kind of shapes they can make with clay! First, get some ready-made polymer clay and show your children how it is used. Then let them shape any figures or animals they want by rolling out lumps and kneading them into a form.

Art class painting

In addition to giving physical activity, their brain will also be getting an intellectual workout as they mold something out of nothing from scratch—and in record time at that!

It might take longer for them to make something symmetrical, but encourage them all along; have patience because these exercises are teaching kids about neuroplasticity before they even know it!

 

Neuroplasticity Exercise #3

Magic Mirror:

The magic mirror exercise is based on Dr. Elkhonon Goldberg’s research and book The Wisdom Paradox: How Your Mind Can Grow Stronger As Your Brain Grows Older. This works great with older kids (over 6 years old) because it helps them to understand that their brain has a long list of muscles, and like any other muscle in their body, they can build those mental muscles by practicing daily.

First, explain to your child that all brains have six major learning zones, just like they have six major muscle groups in their body. They are visual/spatial, auditory (hearing), linguistic (language), logical/mathematical, kinesthetic (touch), olfactory/gustatory (taste). Point out each of these areas as you name them and then ask your child which one of these areas does not have any learning zones in her brain?

It might take a little more explanation for a younger child but once they understand there are six learning zones—including ones associated with vision, hearing, taste, and touch—they should be able to conclude that smell is an important sense too!

Girl asking questions

Next give them some time alone with an object from nature (like a flower or leaf) to help develop her powers of observation by smelling it deeply. Ask questions about what they can smell about it now? What did it smell like when they first put it up to their nose? Does it smell different than something else they’ve smelled before? Why or why not?

 

Neuroplasticity Exercise #4

Favorite Animal:

Write down your favorite animal and draw it. Then write down what you know about that animal and draw it. Repeat steps one and two with a different animal each time.

Doing so will help build spatial awareness, hand-eye coordination, and encourage creative thinking in children of all ages.

For older children or adults, you can have them study animals online and record their findings—then sketch an image that illustrates what they learned about each animal.

You’ll be surprised by how much you learn about any given animal when you study it from multiple perspectives! It’s not what a thing is that matters, observed Richard Feynman, it’s what it becomes. This exercise helps your kids begin to grasp that concept early on in life.

Group learning with the teacher

Neuroplasticity Exercise #5

Color in Shapes:

This simple exercise encourages kids to think creatively. Draw shapes on paper or tablet and have kids color inside them while coloring outside of lines is discouraged, similar to traditional coloring books.

It will also encourage your child to think about what shapes look like when they’re turned sideways or rotated. These kinds of exercises help encourage a child’s creativity and imagination by encouraging abstract thinking at an early age.

It can also help boost their brain power. New research shows that kids who engage in creative play—such as drawing outside of lines—achieve higher levels of academic achievement, social competence, and emotional development than those who don’t.

Do you remember doing these sorts of activities with crayons? Maybe it’s time you reintroduced them into your kid’s routine.

Brain plasticity is also commonly referred to as neuroplasticity. Neuro comes from neuron, which are brain cells. Plastics just means malleable or flexible. So when you combine these two words together, you get a pretty good idea of what we’re talking about here—your brain is malleable! It can change in different ways depending on your experiences.

You have to realize that our brains don’t stop growing until they’re at least 25 years old. That means they grow differently than other parts of our bodies. You have around 100 billion neurons in your brain, and each one has some 7,000 synaptic connections that can make more than 1 million possible synaptic connections with other neurons.

This explains why there’s no such thing as too much repetition when it comes to learning new things!

Repetition reinforces neural pathways by linking new information with existing information stored in memory—that helps solidify what you learned into long-term memory and makes it easier for future recall…as long as you repeat it multiple times over an extended period time!

So when we talk about learning, we’re really talking about creating or strengthening connections between neurons. The more you do something or practice a particular skill, that synaptic connection gets stronger until it eventually becomes automatic.

Mother and daughter writing in a learning journal

That’s how repetition helps us learn, memorize things and master new motor skills. But it’s not just about practicing something again and again; if we only focused on trying to learn things perfectly each time we did them, well…then we wouldn’t be growing our brains!

Neuroplasticity comes from taking risks and making mistakes during practice.

 

How Does Neuroplasticity Change With Age?

With age, our brains become more set in their ways. It’s pretty common knowledge that when we’re younger, it’s easier for us to learn and process new information. But what about into adulthood? Do we lose these capabilities as we get older?

Actually, no! As long as you stay active and try to challenge yourself, you can maintain a growth mindset throughout your life (and retain skills like creativity and intelligence).

 

What Activities Increase Neuroplasticity?

Neuroplasticity is a big word for the brain changes throughout life. Neuroscientists have studied kids with and without growth mindset, from ages four through 12, and found that positive experiences promote neuroplasticity.

Our brains naturally try new things. What can we do to encourage our children to keep moving toward challenges? These five science-based ideas might help.

1. Model constant learning and growth. What better way is there for kids to see how their mindset affects their lives than by watching you, their primary caregiver, work at building your own personal growth mindset every day? Celebrate little wins, rather than successes and failures. The key is that whatever you do—even chores—you need to make a habit of doing it well; without focusing on perfectionism or outcomes. You are always growing through learning new skills and sharing them with others.

2. Seek out opportunities to learn things that we aren’t good at: One study found that students who focused on trying their best—rather than succeeding at something—had brain activity in areas associated with growth mindset, like right lateral prefrontal cortex (rLPFC). So look for new challenges and always try your best, even if you don’t succeed at first.

3. Find small ways to challenge ourselves through everyday tasks: Whether it means challenging yourself to do better every time you fold laundry or practice handwriting skills as a part of creative play, these moments can help your child develop a growth mindset.

4. Actively encourage risk-taking and being wrong: Model encouraging kids’ own efforts and mistakes by saying things like how does that feel? What could you try differently next time? I love watching how hard you are trying! instead of come on, get it right or stop messing up.

5. Help Kids Recognize When They Are Making Mistakes in a Way That Feels Good: When you ask your child a question about something they did (or had done), acknowledge their effort, even if they made a mistake in making it; being told they were smart for trying is more important than them getting every answer right all of the time.

Child learning to read with teacher

How Neuroplasticity is Related to Learning?

The brain is made up of billions of neurons that communicate with each other by sending electrical impulses down long fibers called axons. These electrical signals pass from neuron to neuron and can either excite or inhibit activity in a particular neuron.

When we learn, we create new connections between neurons as well as strengthen existing connections. This strengthening process is known as synaptic plasticity. The act of forming new synapses can also be referred to as neurogenesis and occurs in parts of our brain that are involved in learning and memory such as our hippocampus.

Neurogenesis doesn’t just apply to babies; it happens all throughout life! Neurons that haven’t been used for a long time are more likely to get pruned back than those that have recently been used, so keep practicing if you want them fresh in your mind down the road!

 

How is Neuroplasticity Used in The Classroom?

Neuroplasticity refers to any situation in which one’s mental processes are altered by experience. In terms of growth mindset, neuroplasticity is how students learn and grow; when they change their mindsets, they’re practicing neuroplasticity.

For example, a student may start out feeling incapable of learning math because she was bad at it as a kid; with practice and persistence, she can reverse her mindset and find new opportunities in math.

 

Why Do Children Have More Neuroplasticity Than Adults?

Children have more neuroplasticity than adults because, in adults, neural pathways become stronger with use and weaker when disused.

Our brains change throughout our lifetimes. But at any age, we can increase our brain power by exercising and strengthening certain neural pathways.

Ballet instructor holding ballerina's foot for balance

Relationship With Neuroplasticity and Growth Mindset

Neuroplasticity is an exciting and up-and-coming field of research that has garnered significant attention in recent years. It refers to a changeable nervous system. The brain, as well as neural pathways throughout our bodies, are malleable, meaning that they can be changed and developed over time based on our experiences.

Neuroplasticists believe that understanding neuroplasticity is crucial for both academic success and happiness. This explains why growth mindset—the belief that intelligence can grow through effort—is so important: it enhances neuroplasticity by creating a positive environment for learning.

This is because having a growth mindset helps students accept new information instead of rejecting it if it’s outside their comfort zone.

 

What Are Some Everyday Examples of Neuroplasticity in Children?

A few everyday examples of neuroplasticity in children are when they learn how to read and write. For example, sometimes it can take a child longer than their peers or siblings to learn how to read because reading involves both auditory and visual recognition.

Also, there is no set age for a child to begin reading, some kids catch on at 2 or 3 years old while others have not caught on until they are 10 or even 12 years old.

Another example of neuroplasticity in children is handwriting skills. When younger children learn how to write, it is usually with print because most people associate cursive writing with being an older student.

However, in early elementary school when students are just learning how to write their letters and numbers, it has been shown that cursive writing can make learning faster and more efficient than print because by using both hands independently it requires more brain activity that strengthens neural pathways used when you write by hand.

As neuroplasticity progresses, those same children will transition from print to cursive easily because of neuroplasticity’s flexibility.

The final example of neuroplasticity is a child who learns a new language or skill at a young age. For example, as soon as they enter elementary school they start learning two languages instead of one like most people learn growing up.

 

Teacher showing kids countries on the globe

New languages make brain connections easier and communication between different brain regions better. It has been shown that being bilingual can boost brain power and learning capacity by 40%. This is because it requires using more of your left hemisphere than your right hemisphere and thus strengthens that side’s ability for verbal expression.

 

Conclusion

“Neuroplasticity” is the brain’s ability to adapt by rewiring itself when it realizes it needs to. Children who possess a growth mindset will find themselves better prepared for life’s challenges. They are more likely to continue growing, learning, and improving their neural connections throughout their lives. And because neuroplasticity is present from birth through old age, those with a growth mindset may live happier and healthier lives.

No matter where your journey takes you, be sure to have fun and enjoy yourself! Remember: Life is an adventure! The world around you doesn’t stand still while you learn; in fact, it changes constantly—so let go of any preconceived notions of what learning/doing well at school/life in general means.

Look forward to new experiences; appreciate them as they come! Work hard! Challenge yourself! Have fun! Do what makes you happy!

Taryn Crimi

Taryn Crimi

Taryn is an international intuitive, focused on helping to empower you manifest your best life!

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