Parents need more face time with kids to help stimulate their developing brains, experts say

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Experts agree parents need to do more face time with their kids -- the kind that doesn't require a screen.

Two working parents are no longer the exception. It's now the norm.

This means many are spending less time with their infants and toddlers, which is a stage that science shows is extremely crucial to brain development.

One local foundation aims to arm parents with knowledge.

At a time when many toddlers own their own tablets, mom Sarah Chiarella goes to great lengths to have more human interaction with her 3-year-old Simone. It started when she was born.

"I just wanted to take every opportunity to spend time with her, talk to her, read to her and most importantly just play with her," Chiarella said.

"That interaction, the touching, the smell, the child's senses are all awakened when they're sitting on their parent's lap," said Dr. Pat Levitt, who researches developmental neurogenics at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

From birth to age 3, the brain forms 1,000 trillion neural connections. How this brain architecture develops can affect a child's social, cognitive and academic skills for a lifetime.

"There's no question that that kind of interaction develops more complex language for that child," Levitt said. "They're able to use more complex language, more words."

Levitt and other top neuroscientists took part in the third annual Simms/Mann Think Tank for child development educators and practitioners.

Since many working parents rely on child care, the goal is to bring the latest, cutting-edge brain research to those who interact with parents and caregivers.

"We need to have qualified child care workers that are working with the families. They almost need to be in partnership with the families," said Dr. Victoria Mann Simms of the Simms/Mann Institute.

Educator Mark Whitney says it's his job to translate theory into practice.

"How when a baby engages you in some way, how you can be responsive and return that baby's interest," he said.

Busy, overscheduled parents often rely on technology to engage their toddlers. Experts agree parents need to do more face time with their kids -- the kind that doesn't require a screen.

The research presented Tuesday centered on how parents interact with their babies and the importance of stimulating developing brains.

To find out more on how parents can use this research, visit http://littleorangeproject.org.

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