Brain development begins very soon after conception. Low stress and a healthy diet in pregnancy will give the baby's brain the best start.
The first three years of life are a period of incredible growth in all areas of a baby's development. A newborn's brain is about 25 percent of its approximate adult weight. But by age 3, it has grown dramatically by producing billions of cells and hundreds of trillions of connections, or synapses, between these cells. While we know that the development of a young child's brain takes years to complete, we also know there are many things parents and caregivers can do to help children get off to a good start and establish healthy patterns for lifelong learning.
Research has shown that experiences with new kinds of activity or stimulation can generate growth in the brain within only a few hours after the experiences begin.
Brain development flourishes in a safe, secure, predictable environment where adults respond warmly and quickly to a child's cues for support and attention. Children need an environment where close positive relationships are formed, including loving interactions like cuddles and hugs that help form a sense of trust and attachment. An ideal environment has low stress levels and of course the child has the basic needs of life, food, warmth and sleep.
A child's developing brain is nurtured by loving, quality interactions preferably one to one or within a small group of children. In this environment the adult is able to be more responsive to the child's needs and stage of development and the child has more confidence to interact, explore and engage in the trusting and familiar surroundings.
Providing experiences that challenge a child's abilities and require them to physically move their body,use their senses, including art and tactile experiences benefits the child's development.
Language and reading to your child right from birth including rhymes, music, open ended questions and conversations including talking to the child about their routines and surroundings all contribute to the child’s developing brain.
Encourage your child to explore, experience and ask questions. Provide them with play equipment that has many opportunities to experiment with and manipulate. Allow them to play freely in a safe environment where you can provide ideas and prompts for your child but they can discover and learn themselves also.
A baby's brain is vulnerable. The brains of children who do not get enough care, attention and stimulation may not grow properly. Poor experiences, abuse and neglect have been linked to depression, mental health problems, family violence, aggressive behaviour, criminal offending and suicide in adulthood.
Providing a rich learning environment including hands on experiences that can be explored at the child's own pace, revisited and repeated help build the developing brain, cement learning and encourage brain connections.
The first three years of life are the most important and they can last forever. You can make a difference.