90% of brain development occurs by age 5.
80% of the brain is developed by age 3.
Click-bait, much? Yes, but there is truth to these statements too. Learning certainly continues after age five, and the window for development doesn’t close at Kindergarten. But interactions in the first few years of life are important to a child’s future. A parent’s relationship with their young child shapes the healthy development of their brain and body. But what is the role of brain development? And how can caregivers support children 0-3 to have a great start?
Why does so much brain development occur before age 3?
Babies are born with much to learn. They have to figure out simple tasks like how move their bodies and focus their eyes on objects and people. They need to learn how to communicate needs and express emotions. As they enter a world full of new stimuli, their brains develop to help them navigate their surroundings. There is much to learn in the first few years, which is why it is a period of rapid growth.
Where does the development occur?
The cerebral cortex is the part of the brain responsible for feelings, memories, thoughts, and voluntary actions. While a baby is born with all necessary neurons in the cerebral cortex, it is the connections between the neurons that lead to the production of synapses. Throughout life we continue to produce and prune synapses, but from age 0-3 is a time of enormous brain activity when the amount of synapses created is incredible, up to 700 new neural connections every second.
How can parents and caregivers support brain development in the earliest years?
Responsive caregiving lays the foundation for all other types of learning a young child will do. Meeting the baby’s needs and comforting her when she’s upset will create an ideal environment for positive development.
The first three years are also an important time to incorporate language interactions. Singing, talking, and reading with a child are effective ways to encourage brain connections.
Parents and child care providers can play important roles in supporting a young child’s development. And when they work together as partners, the impact can be even greater.