I recently discovered a fascinating educational method by Makoto Shichida, that focuses on the development of the child’s right brain. I’ve been overwhelmed with interesting information and started to apply it to our activities with my toddler right away. It’s not easy to find detailed information about his method online, and his books in English are only available from Japan. So I ordered his book – if anybody is interested it’s here or you can read my summary below. Besides reading the book, I gathered information from parents whose kids went to Shichida schools in Asia, so here is a recap of what I learned and how we implement it with our 19-month-old.
As you know, left brain controls things like logic, written and spoken languages, scientific ability and number skills. The Shichida method targets the development of the right brain which is responsible for the photographic memory ability, computer-like calculation ability, intuition and creative imagination. All these skills can be acquired by doing exercises that stimulate the right brain. The idea of my child having these skills sounds very exciting to me, considering that I have a very bad memory. If I can help my child develop even some of these skills, I would consider myself an accomplished parent.
Both parts of the brain have different information processing methods. The left brain processes information via language while the right brain processes information via sensory images stored in the memory. The right brain’s capabilities are all connected through these images. Children who develop right brain memory can instantaneously memorize what they see, as if they are taking a photograph. The left brain is the brain of words, we use it every day so it’s well developed. In order to make the right brain work well, it’s important to do image training every day (described in exercises below).
Two brains develop in a certain order. First, the right brain is dominant. From about age three, when logical and linguistic thinking are starting to develop, dominance will shift to the left brain. The younger the child learns image memory methods, the more natural photographic memory becomes. That’s why it’s so important to start practicing right-brain activities before kids turn 3 years old.
In case you are wondering if this method only develops right part of the brain, the answer is – the activities include both: exercises for right and left brain, in fact, a lot of Shichida teaching is based on Montessori method.
According to Dr. Shichida, the idea is not to cram kids with knowledge but to teach them the capability to learn very fast when they need to later.
The duration of each session should not exceed 30 minutes a day, and the child should be doing free play for the rest of the day. Ideally all activities should be done in one sitting, but they can also be spread out throughout the day. Scarlett is 19 months old now, she’s a very active child and so far she wasn’t able to sit still through the whole activity session so we do the activities throughout the day for now. But as a parent, it’s nice to know that doing activities for 30 minutes a day is enough.
Here is an approximate plan of the activities. I’ll write about how they are supposed to be done and how we adapt each activity for us.
One important note – each exercise below should last only 1-2 minutes.
This information was a relief for me, because my toddler loses interest in activities very fast. And in the past when I tried to make her do one activity for a while, she would walk away. Having activities change fast, and having them last under one minute made her more interested in the activities, and made me feel good that it’s ok.
First block of activities includes prep activities that are meant to relax the child and activate right brain.
It’s recommended to turn on the music with alpha-waves which stimulate the learning abilities. I usually search for music with alpha waves on youtube or spotify.
2. Breathing and blowing exercises
Meditation and breathing practice is necessary to prepare to switch from left dominance of the brain to right.
These activities are also part of the prep block and include breathing exercises for older kids, and blowing exercises for younger kids. Blowing activities are also essential for the development of facial muscles and have tremendous importance in the development of speech.
Here are some blowing activities that we do with our 19 month old:
- Blowing pompoms off the table. We use small pompoms because it’s easier for a toddler to blow them off the table.
- Blowing pompoms into a box on the table.
- Blowing a candle.
- Blowing bubbles.
- Blowing feathers to make them fly.
- Blowing mini pinwheels.
- Blowing on a paper butterfly attached to a thread to make it fly.
- Blowing bubbles in a cup of water with a straw.
3. HSP exercises (Heightened Sensory Perception).
This block of the activities targets the development of intuition and includes intuition or guessing games. According to Dr. Shichida, a child can develop intuition by doing exercises from early on. We have been doing guessing games before I came across this method and Scarlett always liked these types of games.
Here are some guessing games that we play:
The cups game
Place a small toy underneath one the cups, shuffle the cups and ask your child to guess where the toy is.
“Little mouse, are you in a red house” game
Hide a mouse under one of the houses and ask your child to guess which house a mouse lives in. A printable for this game is available in this post that I wrote earlier.
Hiding a toy in your hand.
Take a small toy and hide it in your fist. Show 2 fists to your child and ask her or him to guess which hand a toy is hiding in.
Look for the toy in boxes
Hide a toy in one of the 3 boxes and ask a child to guess where the toy is.
Shichida method supposes using a different game each time you do the activities, to keep the child interested.
I’m not sure if it’s realistic to do a totally different activity in a home environment since we can only prepare/buy a limited amount of supplies, so I try to have longer breaks between each repetition of the game. There are still ways to diversify the same activity with different materials. For example, we hide different toys in different places – we hide large toys behind different large objects (pillow, book, towel, chair), we hide small toys underneath cups of different material and size, inside boxes, plastic eggs, and bags. The houses from the little mouse game can be used to hide some other flat magnets or pictures. For older kids, you can also ask to guess what time daddy gets home, what will be the weather tomorrow, etc.
4. Instant memorization – Memory Grid and Linking Memory game.
This block of exercises develops photographic memory. Right brain can be used to memorize massive amounts of information at high speed. The left brain processes information in a linear way while the right brain memory works with a parallel processing method, thus allowing storing massive amounts of information instantly (photographic memory).
Linking memory game
Place 2-3 cards in front of the child, and start saying an absurd story linking these cards in the same order as they came out. The more absurd the story is, the better – the easier it is to remember it. For example, you have cards with a bear, an umbrella, and an ice cream – and you can say a story like that: “It was raining so a bear decided to go for a walk and he took his umbrella and went to get some ice cream.” Have your child take a look at the layout of the cards for 5-30 seconds, then hide the layout so your child can’t see it and ask your child to repeat the story. Increase the number of cards gradually until the child can remember 50. It’s harder for us – parents to remember the sequence of cards when there are a lot of them, so you can check with the layout that the child can’t see or you can take a picture of the layout, and compare the results with the picture. Once the child memorizes 50 cards, something amazing will happen – he or she will be able to memorize the order of the cards in one glance.
Try playing this game with family as well, we tried it, and it was so much fun!
This game is for kids that can speak well, we don’t do linking memory activity with my 19-month-old yet. We do memory activities below instead.
Take a sheet of paper and split it into sections that can fit a card in each section. You can start with a grid of 4 sections. Place one card in each cell. Have your child look at it for 5 secs and then hide it. Give your child a blank grid of the same size and the same set of 4 cards and ask to arrange them in the same order. Compare by revealing the original layout ( you will need 2 copies of each card for this) or as described above: take a picture of the layout and compare. Increase the grid size to 50 cards gradually. You’ll need a bigger sheet of paper to make a larger grid, or smaller pictures. Another option, is not to use a sheet of paper at all, and just lay out the cards in the shape of a grid on the table or carpet.
Here are some variations of memory games:
- Lay out 5 cards in front of the child. Then mix them up, add one new card, lay out 6 cards in front of the child. Ask which one is new.
- Lay out 5 cards in front of the child. Then mix them up, remove one card, lay out 4 cards in front of the child. Ask which one was removed.
- Arrange toys in front of the child, and place one item in front of each toy. Then mix items up, and ask which item belongs to which toy.
- Arrange small items in a plastic beads organizer like this one, and ask to remember the order how they were arranged.
What we do with our 19 month old:
- Adapted memory grid with cards. I lay out 4 cards in front of Scarlett. I name them. Then I flip cards over and ask her where one of the cards is. For example, I lay out cards with balloons, a car, a flower, and a cat, I flip them over, without mixing, and then I ask her: “Show me where the flower is”. She flips a card and we check if she got it right. If she got it, I keep that card picture side up, and ask her to find a cat, and so on. The quantity of the cards can be increased as the child gets better at the game.
- Memory grid in a house. I made a memory grid in the shape of a house, which I cut out from manila file folder. I drew windows on it, and arranged cards in each window. After placing the cards on the windows, I say: “A fish lives in a purple window, a frog lives in a blue window, a bunny lives in a yellow window, a fox lives in a red window.” Then I remove cards, and ask her to place cards according to where each animal lives.
The digital version of the cards from the pictures above is available on etsy. I printed those cards online at www.photoaffections.com/freeprints, this website allows a certain amount of free prints per month, I just paid for shipping. Printing them on photo paper makes them more durable, but they can also be printed at home.
- Memory felt game. I made this quiet book page when Scarlett was little and I had more free time. There are 2 copies of each animal, which are attached behind the flaps on velcro. First, I show Scarlett where all animals are. Then, I ask her to find a cat. Once she finds it, we look for a second cat and then take them both off the sheet. This game can also be done with cards, you just need 2 copies of each card.
- Hide and Seek Board can be used for memory activity as well. Besides using magnets that come with the set, any other flat objects can be used to keep the game different every time. I added a few of the other magnets that we have, and cut out images from some old flash cards and postcards.
- Memory game using plastic eggs. We play the memory game with plastic eggs, following the regular memory game rules – looking for a pair for each toy. You’ll need plastic eggs and 6 pairs of small toys.
5. Speed-Reading Training – Mandalas.
According to Dr Shichida, there is a finite number of shapes that make up everything in nature and the universe, once the child has seen every combination, he or she can spot and recall all the patterns in science and nature. This is a photographic memory exercise.
How it’s supposed to be done:
Images of mandalas are often used for this activity. You need 2 copies of the same mandala image: one colored, the other one black and white. Show a colored image to your child for 1 second, and then ask to color the black and white card according to the child’s memory (mandala doesn’t need to be fully colored, just leaving color dots on the mandala sections works as well). Compare the colors with the original card you showed. First, simple mandalas with 2 colors and simple shapes should be used, then, their colors and shapes can get more complex. This activity is, obviously, for kids that can color.
Younger kids can do a simplified version of this exercise:
You’ll need a set of cards where each card has a pair that is slightly different. Show one card to the child for 1 second to memorize it, then lay out 2 similar cards in front of the child and ask to point to the card that you just showed. You can start with showing 2 very different cards, and then switch to more similar ones.
This set includes owls that differ from each other by one detail. Some owls have 2 similar cards, some have 4, so it can be used for different ages. You can download it here for free.
Next block of exercises is based on Montessori and left brain activities.
Any age-appropriate puzzles could work for this block of activities. Here is a list of puzzles that we do with our 19-month-old. Please note that we only do 1 or 2 of these puzzles at each activity session.
It’s easy to make simple puzzles yourself. You can use flash cards, playing cards, or other cards by cutting them in half (or more pieces for older kids). We use the same cards that we use for memory games. I printed 2 copies of those cards on photo paper. We use one set for memory games, and the second set for puzzles – I cut each photo card into 2 pieces and give to Scarlett to put them together.
I also used Frozen Playing Cards to make puzzles. It’s good to use cards with characters that your child likes.
We do around 2 picture puzzles at a time for now.
Animal skin puzzle
Another puzzle that we like is an animal skin puzzle that can be downloaded here for free. We printed images on photo paper and cut out the body part of each animal, and Scarlett gets to match different skins to different animals until she finds the right one. This game is a lot of fun!
Big and small concept games
This printable can be downloaded here for free. The set includes 20 cards – 10 large, 10 small cards and a pdf file with a 4 section grid. There are 2 ways to play with this set:
- Place a printed grid sheet in front of the child, and have her or him place a matching card on each cell. This game is great for kids to see which image is big and which one is small, and also great for learning shapes, which are included in the set.
- Sorting cards into 2 piles – small images and large images.
We play the first version of the game with our 19 month old.
Some other activities we do in this block:
This puzzle is probably more appropriate for older kids, we had it at home because someone gave it to us as a gift. I was really surprised that Scarlett started to correctly place the pieces of this puzzle into the correct spots.
Probably every parent has a shape sorting puzzle or cube at home. We have this one. I put the letters away, and we concentrate on sorting the shapes for now.
Peg puzzles are great for toddlers because they have a self correcting mechanism – kids can see themselves when the piece doesn’t fit and try to correct it, and also because they have little handles for little hands. We like musical peg puzzles because of an added benefit – it produces music when a puzzle piece is placed.
For those parents that don’t have time to make puzzles themselves, there is a variety of jigsaw puzzles for toddlers. We like Head and Tails Puzzle. Jigsaw puzzles are great because they also have a self correcting mechanism, as no 2 puzzle cuts are the same.
Since Shichida method recommends to have longer breaks between reusing the same activity, I found the easiest way to diversify is to make puzzles myself – use lots of cards/flashcards for puzzles. I prepared a bunch of them in advance – cut them in 2 halves and give Scarlett 2 cards each time we have an activity day.
Shichida method often includes an activity involving playing with tangram. Tangram can be purchased on amazon, or you can make one yourself. We bought a wooden one since it’s more durable, and later I discovered a magnetic tangram which looks even better for a toddler. The tangram set includes small pictures of designs you can create. There are also books available with tangram designs. For now, we do one tangram design at each activity session. At this age, Scarlett mostly watches me do it, and then plays with blocks herself but hopefully she will get to building with me soon.
This block of activities can also include building with duplo, lego blocks or other building blocks.
8. Sensory play
Developing all child’s senses is also an important part of Shichida education. Age-appropriate sensory activities should be included in each session.
We usually do sensory activities at a different time of the day, since we like to spend more time with these activities. Here are some things that we do with our 19-month-old.
Rice play is a great sensory activity for kids of different ages. Older kids can play with themed sensory trays, while younger kids can do lots of sensory interactions with rice. I have an article that describes 12 ways to play with colored rice.
Smell sensory play
Smell sense is often omitted from sensory activities. We made this sensory tray with little containers filled with food items that have very distinct smells. I included tangerine, banana, onion, garlic, bergamot tea, vanilla, cloves and coffee. I put closed containers in front of Scarlett, we opened them one by one and smelled them. It did turn into a mess later 🙂 Older kids can play a great sensory game – have a child close his or her eyes and ask to guess the smell without looking.
Color matching game
This is a very simple color activity for a toddler that is just learning colors. You can download this file here. Print 2 copies. Cut one of them into cards, and ask your child to place each card into a corresponding cell of the sheet.
Any color sorting or drawing/painting activities can be done in this section as well.
There are more ideas for sensory activities in my article: 10 Montessori activities for one year olds.
9. Foreign languages stimulation.
This block of activities can include listening to songs, poetry or stories in foreign languages. These activities will not help the child to speak the language but will give the child the base should he or she decides to pick it up later in life.
Before I read the Shichida method, I was avoiding introducing a new language to my child since she is bi-lingual already and I wanted to avoid the confusion with other languages. But after reading the book by Dr Shichida, I decided to take her to a Spanish story time once a week, and once in a while I turn on a short cartoon for her in a foreign language.
10. Speed-Reading of flash cards.
This is one of the most important exercises from Shichida method and one of the hardest ones to implement at home. It develops the right brain’s imaging activity by inputting massive amounts of information as fast as possible. The left brain works at low speed rhythm while the right brain works at high speed rhythm. When massive information is input at a high speed, the right brain responds to it naturally and imaging capability is developed. As a result when you try to remember something, an image will appear in your brain, containing the information.
Speed-reading involves showing 100-150 flash cards to a child with an interval of 0.5 second. Since the flashing of the cards is happening very fast, the left brain doesn’t have enough time to process it and that’s when right brain gets involved getting the stimulation needed to activate it’s powers. Flashing of cards can be broken down into a few sessions throughout the day if the child doesn’t sit through all of it at once, but the same cards should not be repeated the same day. The problem is that flash cards ideally should be non-repetitive for each session. Non-ideally, it’s ok to repeat the same cards for one week, after which they should not be reused. Of course, it’s not realistic to have these many flash cards at home.
What we do:
We have about 10-15 sets of flash cards. I split them into 7 days of the week, so we have repeating flash cards every 7 days, which is not ideal. I do flash them very fast in front of my child, simultaneously reading the names of the objects. I wrote about the flash cards that we liked above, but here is that list again:
- Touch & Feel Picture Cards: First Words
- Touch & Feel Picture Cards: Animals
- Touch & Feel Picture Cards: Things That Go
- Touch & Feel Picture Cards: Farm
- Alphabet Pocket Flash Cards
- Picture Words Pocket Flash Cards
I also found some digital flashcards on youtube. This is one of the examples that has the correct speed:
Some other youtube videos have flashcards but are flashed slowly following Glenn Doman method (left brain education) so you can manually change the speed of the video on youtube by clicking Settings > Speed > 0.5.
You can search youtube for “Shichida flash cards” and select the ones you like.
I also downloaded a few apps on the iPad that do flashcards. We use these apps for now. You have to manually click or swipe yourself to change each card though – but at least you can control the speed that way.
I see a big difference in my child’s interest in flashcards – if the cards are flashed fast, she is watching them – if I flash them slowly, she gets easily bored and walks away. So I like this idea but we are definitely not doing as many cards as recommended by Shichida method.
There is a website that has 15,000 digital flashcards https://www.rightbraineducationlibrary.com. They do annual memberships and the smallest commitment amount is $131 for a year = $10.96/a month. I didn’t get their membership yet, we are still going through youtube flashcards but I’m considering joining them.
You might wonder why your child needs to know these many words – the answer is – flashing cards is done not for learning words but for training the right brain. The analogy would be exercising our body with weights – we use weights for exercising, but we are never actually planning to be carrying those weights around, we just want to develop those muscles.
I hope you found some information useful. I personally loved Shichida method as soon as I read about it. Please note, I wrote this article from information I assembled from different sources and shared my interpretation of the method.
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