April 10 , 2013
Did you know?
“At birth, the brain already has 100 billion neurons,
but they are not well connected yet.”
– Scarlett Mattoll, MSc, MBPsS, MAC
Brain Power – Maximising the early years
How do you know if you’re doing everything you can to nurture your child’s mind?
Brain development starts even before birth and it’s important for parents to support their child’s learning during the first five years of life.
Knowing how you can support your child’s development is one of the best first steps in helping him or her develop brain power.
At birth, the brain already has 100 billion neurons, but they are not well connected yet. The connections need to be formed through “neural pathways” that act like very long wires. These wires allow for communication between our brains and bodies so we can interpret everything our senses pick up from the outside world.
As our child’s brain develops, there are critical periods for our children to optimally develop vision, auditory, cognitive, sensory, motor and linguistic functions.
As children grow up, they get lots of stimulation from the environment which connects neural pathways; practicing the same things over and over again strengthens the existing neural pathways even more. When you don’t use it, you lose it! Stimulation and care help our brains develop better and keep it running.
At around the age of two, children experience a period of “synaptic exuberance”, where neurons become linked up at a faster rate than any other time of normal human development. This explains why two year-olds often run around repeating actions and insist on doing it themselves. They are happy after completing a new capability with success, and parents should applaud them. Parents who provide emotional support and greater learning opportunities see healthier communication patterns. This leads to well-adjusted primary students and less-stressful teenage years. Who can say no to that?
So – what can you do to maximise the early years?
This seems obvious but touch your child! This first sensory experience develops closeness between you and your child and better links up senses with the brain, and thus allows the development of other senses more quickly.
Talk to your child and be a model for their language development. Emotional development starts at home, so smile at your child every chance you get. Children who don’t get their emotional development from home are less likely to develop functional social skills, which can be much more difficult to acquire later on. Play with your child to help the transition from parallel play to cooperative play in their toddler years.
There is much responsibility that comes with being a parent. Being aware of the areas in which your child will most benefit and supporting them every chance you get is the first best start in the lifelong task of giving your little one real brain power.
Scarlett Mattoli, founder of psychology consultancy Psynamo Limited, offers advisory services on issues surrounding normal development and learning differences of children.