Dr. Krystal Richardson, ND

A nurturing environment for your child

There are three things that neuroscience tells us we need to do in order to support good social and behavioral development in kids. Those are:

  1. Having supportive relationships
  2. Participating in stimulating experiences
  3. Being in a health- promoting environment

I wrote about the importance of saying no and having supportive relationships in a previous article. This article is going to concentrate on the importance of stimulating experiences in child brain development. In a video presented by Seattle Children’s Hospital titled The First 1000 Days: The Importance of Early Brain and Child Development, Dr. Colleen Kraft, MD breaks down early childhood education into the 5 R’s. These 5 R’s are what is essential to brain development in children.

The 5 R’s are perhaps one of the most compelling reasons against allowing kids to spend too much time playing on an iPad/iPhone or watching TV for several hours.

The 5 R’s:

  1. Reading everyday
  2. Rhyming
  3. Routines
  4. Rewards
  5. Relationships

It makes sense to most of us why reading and rhyming with kids would support brain development, but just as important as those two are the last three: routines, rewards, and relationships.

Routines help kids know not only what to expect from a situation, but also what is expected of them. This helps kids structure appropriate behaviors around events. For example, it is important to have set meal times and set bed times. It is not a good idea to feed a child when they are already upset and angry, because they are hungry or wait to put a child to bed until they are falling asleep. Routines are vital to helping set up a brain architecture for knowing what is appropriate behavior. Believe it or not, but setting up these routines when kids are young will hard wire them to have the same healthy habits when they are adults. For many, this contributes to success as an adult.

Rewards are another important piece to supporting brain development. Celebrating everyday successes and giving praise when necessary are very important to solidifying appropriate behaviors. These help to hardwire the brain for knowing what is good behavior and what is not.

The last R is relationships. It is vital that kids have a nurturing foundation for development. Kids participate in what is called “serve and return”. This is the idea that a parent demonstrates what is appropriate behavior is in a situation and the child mimics that. Kids are constantly mimicking their parents as they grow up and they are very impressionable. Participating in a nurturing relationship with a parent helps a child learn and understand what healthy behaviors are. This can help solidify healthy coping skills for adulthood.

The 5 R’s are perhaps one of the most compelling reasons against allowing kids to spend too much time playing on an iPad/iPhone or watching TV for several hours. The 5 R’s, especially the relationship piece can only be achieved through interaction with a parent/ nurturing adult. Therefore, it is vital to healthy brain development that parents spend time with their kids and have an active relationship with their child. Ultimately the 5 R’s help to prevent social, cognitive, and emotional impairment. This in-turn helps to prevent kids later in life from adopting health-risk behaviors that will lead to disease and disability.


Dr. Krystal Richardson is a naturopathic doctor who is an expert in integrative medicine. She is passionate about family medicine and enjoys working with all ages. She believes in creating a relationship with her patients that focuses on a partnership where patient and doctor can work together towards achievable goals.

While pursuing a medical degree at Bastyr University, Dr. Richardson pursued advanced training and education in women’s health, pediatrics, cardiovascular wellness and diabetes care. Dr. Richardson’s greatest joy comes from working with the pediatric population and encouraging healthy habits early, but also believes that achieving a better place of health is possible at any age.

Dr. Richardson has been used as an expert for care.com and has had articles published in the Naturopathic Doctor News & Review. In addition to writing she enjoys being an active member of her community and has participated in many fundraising and community events.


Dr. Colleen Kraft, MD F.A.A.P. The First 1000 Days: The Importance of Early Brain and Child Development[Video]. Seattle, WA. Seattle Children’s Hospital. March 18, 2014.

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