Brain Development in the Early Years

During the first 5 years of life, a lot of changes happen in the developing brain. The early learning environment plays an important role for healthy changes in the brain. Supporting healthy brain development can even begin in the prenatal environment. So here is some information on brain development in the early years and how to provide a nurturing environment for childhood brain growth.

About Early Development of the Brain

  • The brain grows rapidly starting from before birth and into early childhood
  • The first eight years of life are essential for brain development
  • Neurons in the child brain are rapidly growing in number and connectivity
  • Over time, connections that are unnecessary are pruned away, and the stronger, more used connections remain.
  • In a way, the period of early childhood serves to ‘wire’ the brain
  • Brain development in the early years is always a combination of nature and nurture (that is genes, and environment), keep in mind that some developmental patterns are determined by genes, but the environment still plays a critical role in influencing developmental trajectories
  • The brain’s ability to change decreases with age. During the early years, the brain is quite plastic (flexible and malleable), but as we age, this plasticity decreases. For example, it is quite easy for children to acquire multiple languages, however, after approximately age 12, this becomes much more difficult.

Tips for Supporting Healthy Early Brain Development

  • Make sure you get the proper nutrition during pregnancy. Consult with your doctor as needed.
  • Reduce the exposure to toxins and infections
  • Encourage stimulating and positive experiences with other people and the world
  • Provide responsive and attentive care, interactions with caregivers play an important role for the ways in which the child brain develops
  • Children are born with a skillset for learning, in the early years, most of this learning is sensory, as they get older, much learning becomes language driven as well. Be sure to encourage multi-modal learning
  • Chronic stress in early childhood has a large negative impact on the developing brain. Adult support and healthy parenting plays an important role in reducing this stress so that the brain can develop.
  • Cognitive, emotional, and social learning are important for brain development. Environments that incorporate this support the developing brain.

Sources: https://www.parentingforbrain.com/brain-development/ AND https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/childdevelopment/early-brain-development.html AND Center on the Developing Child (2007). The Science of Early Childhood Development (InBrief). Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu.