A baby is born with approximately 100 billion neurons, or nerve cells, in his/her brain that communicates through tiny connections that form networks. These networks allow neurons to transmit information involved in sensing, feeling, thinking, learning and remembering.
At birth, most of these important connections are not yet formed; neural networks are established in the brain in response to experiences. Every experience a baby has forms a corresponding network in his/her brain. Movement is a central part in acquiring these experiences and stimulating the brain.
Various stages of brain development of a foetus
Scientists confirm what parents and caregivers already know - how the child is raised has an enormous impact on his/her emotional well-being, intellectual level and skills for success. In addition to nutrition, dealt with in another advocacy letter, research is showing that experiences, coupled with heredity, literary sculpt the brain.
Fortunately, the human brain has an amazing capacity to grow and change throughout life. However, for optimal development, timing is critical. There are periods of opportunity, "prime times" during which the brain is particularly effective and efficient at specific types of learning.
In the first 10 years of life are vital in terms of the brain's ability to grow, change and compensate are especially remarkable. (See chart below)
What Research Tells Us About Brain Development In The First 3 Years
Our brain is not fully developed at birth and weighs only 25% of its adult weight.
- Newborns have nearly all of the brain cells they will need in a lifetime, but these cells are not yet linked to form connections that are needed for complex thinking and functioning.
- By age 3, the brain has twice as many connections in the brain as they will need as adults. The numbers of connections remain constant in the middle childhood years and then begin to decline in late childhood.
- Brain connections are formed and refined in response to experiences.
What does this means for parents?
The optimal time for parents to have the most influence on helping to nurture their child's brain development is the years from birth to aged 6 years old.
- Positive experiences provide nourishment for the brain, building the neural connections and networks for a lifetime.
- Prolonged stress can actually destroy brain cells and promote networks that create negative patterns of thinking and feeling.
- Loving and responsive care provides babies and infants with the ideal environment for encouraging exploration, which leads to positive learning.
- Parents can promote advanced language skill by reading and talking to infants.
- Studies show that a young child who form secure emotional attachments with parents early in life make better social adjustments and perform better in school.