Isn’t it wonderful when you get simple information that can make a big difference? Sometimes the concept of brain development can seem too technical or overwhelming. The good news is, optimal brain development can occur very easily through every day experiences.
I find it to be really exciting to have technology providing the study of the brain, like we've never seen before. On going scientific research demonstrates that a child's early development is determined by the environment and experiences, rather than genetics alone. This provides a wonderful opportunity. But, to provide the best for children, it is critical that EVERYONE understands how a child's brain develops... and realize it isn't all that complicated.
The experiences children receive in the early years of life are crucial to overall brain development. When a child has an experience, connections are formed between brain cells. The cells are dependent on experience to create these connections. After eight months a child exposed to a nurturing and stimulating environment may already have 1,000 trillion connections created. These connections physically grow and develop the brain. It is primarily the early experiences that largely determine the basic strength and function of the brain's wiring system. It is that simple!
Warm and consistent adults, who cuddle and talk to children and provide fun learning experiences, promote healthy brain development. It is so refreshing to learn that beyond meeting a child’s basic needs for safety, sleep, and providing good nutrition, all that a developing brain needs most is loving interaction and play.
The Brain Adapts to Any Environment
Because the brain develops based on experience, a young child’s brain will adapt to a negative environment just as easily as it will adapt to a positive environment.
Prolonged, severe, or unpredictable stress-including abuse and neglect-during a child's early years can result in negative impacts on the child's physical, cognitive, emotional, and social growth. Babies who do not receive consistent and caring responses to their cries, and those whose cries are met with abuse, develop brain connections to prepare them to cope in that environment. As a result their ability to learn and respond to nurturing and kindness may be impaired.
It is Repetition That Makes Strong Connections
The brain organizes through a "use it or lose it" process. The brain eliminates and strengthens connections in an effort to become more efficient. So, experiences that are repeated frequently lead to brain connections that are retained. Connections that are not used often due to lack of repeated experience are eliminated. This is how a child’s brain adapts to the experiences in daily life.
Consistency is key. The brain feels comfortable when it knows what to expect. When children learn through repetition, that a parent (or care provider) will be there for them when needed, they can relax and feel safe. Providing loving interaction, adequate amounts of sleep, healthy nutrition, time playing outdoors, physical activity, lots of creative play, and exploration contributes to a child with a healthy brain.
Through understanding how quality experiences impact brain development we can make a REAL difference. This is what children want all of the adults in their lives to know!
It is critical that this becomes common knowledge. We can ALL play an important role in making this happen for ALL children. Start now! Tell everyone you know that we can make a dramatic, long lasting and positive impact through providing quality experiences in the early years!
By Deborah McNelis, MS -Education
It is thrilling as an Early Brain Development Specialist to be the owner of Braininsights, and to have received awards for my unique, Brain Development Series of brain activity packets. It is also wonderful to share this important information through fun and informative presentations throughout the country. I am so overjoyed with the response to all, braininsights® provides. In addition to the brain series, I worked in partnership to create a brain packet called, NaturallyDeveloping Young Brains. Additionally available for the benefit of caring adults is the, Love Your Baby App, the Braininsights Newsletter, the Early ChildhoodBrain Insights blog. I am also excited about my newest initiative, “Creating Great Connections” to help entire communities develop healthy brains. All of this work is dedicated to having everyone gain an understanding of early brain development, it’s impact, and the ways we can all easily make a REAL difference.