EUGENE, Ore. -- When it comes to giving your child a head start, new research suggests it’s never too soon.
Scientists at the University of Oregon recently produced a DVD to help parents improve their children's brain development. It's called Changing Brains.
"You want to do everything you can to be a good mom," said mother Jamie Vineyard.
She and her husband Mark Swick watched the DVD. Now when they watch their two young daughters play, they notice more than their smiles and laughter.
"I think of their brains changing and growing and developing," Vineyard said.
It's a process that actually has a name.
"It's called neuroplasticity," said Dr. Helen Neville, the head of UO Brain Development Lab, and the brain behind Changing Brains. "The brain is like plastic wrap that can change depending on the kind of input it receives."
Through decades of research, Neville found that kids' brain systems are shaped in part by the environments in which they're raised.
"We ourselves as neuroscientists knew all this, but then we realized that parents are the people who really need to know this," Neville said.
That's how Changing Brains was born. Neville produced the DVD, which explains how kids' experiences shape brain systems that are important for vision, hearing, language and more.
"I've watched the DVD a couple of times and it's been great, just reinforcing good behaviors to have with my daughter," said Mark Swick.
Behaviors as simple as communicating, he said. For example, Swick and his wife don't use "baby talk" with their kids.
"(My daughter's) language has developed really rapidly and I attribute that to talking to her like she understands what we're saying," said Vineyard.
"There's a lot of people that don't give their child the credit they deserve for what they can absorb and what they can understand," Swick added.
When it comes to parenting, Neville says consistency is key.
"We see parents all the time who go, 'Johnny, I told you not to hit...Whack!' That's not consistent," said Neville, who added that giving kids simple choices also reaps benefits.
"Ask your child, 'Do you want to go to bed now, or in 5 minutes? It's your choice.' Little choices like that, show respect for the child, yet give parents control," said Neville.
"You're raising the future," said Vineyard and Swick.
It's a tall order, but they feel more prepared for it than ever.
"If you can teach them and show them how, and have the patience to talk to them, they can understand almost anything," said Swick.
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