By Jessica Kelmon, Associate Editor
Want to invest in your child’s future? Put away your wallet (for this one) – and give your child a hug.
A new study by child psychologists and neuroscientists at Washington University School of Medicine examined the brains of school-aged children and found the kids whose mothers nurtured them early in life have a larger hippocampus than kids who weren't as nurtured by their parents. In case you missed our series on the inner workings of your child’s brain, the hippocampus is integral to your child’s memory, learning, and stress response. According to the study, this portion of the brain is substantially larger – up to 10 percent larger, in fact – in nurtured kids.
Don’t let the warm and fuzzy results of this study detract from its groundbreaking findings: until now, there wasn’t any scientific proof that parental love could change brain anatomy. But it can. And in the area of the brain that assists in learning.
While the research specifically looked at moms’ nurturing (which includes hugs), the scientists noted that the positive benefits from hugs and other nurturing behavior are likely to be the same with any primary caregiver, including dads and grandparents.
So what are you waiting for? Go hug it out! Hugs only take a moment, they’re easy and fun. And the payoff is priceless, but not immeasurable. And it may be the biggest brain boost you’ll give your child all day.