From the moment humans are born, we are absorbing information about the world around us and storing it away for later use.The human brain develops quickly from birth, forming nearly 700 neural connections per second. For example, in the amount of time it took you to read the previous sentence, a newborn would have formed about 4,400 new connections! At this rapid rate of growth, the average child develops approximately 80 percent of his brain by his fourth birthday.Brain development is fast, and sensitive to its environment. Everything a child hears, sees, touches and tastes is cross-referenced and stored away—the early building blocks for learning. But for this reason, negative experiences can also be especially harmful to very young children. The “toxic stress” of poverty, a parent’s job loss or abuse can actually prevent neural connections in their brains, and impact later learning and even health.Under normal circumstances, parents and caregivers who spend time talking, reading, singing and playing games with their babies help increase their vocabularies and improve brain growth. During times of severe stress, you can:
- Reassure your child. Make sure they feel loved, even if you can’t control the circumstances around them.
- Take a breath. If you reduce your stress levels, you can better help them manage theirs.
- Bond with your child. Take time to cuddle, ask questions and laugh—especially when times are tough.
- Establish routines. Young children need predictable structure in their lives so that they feel secure enough to manage high stress levels.
- A factsheet from Too Small to Fail with important information and tips on early brain development.
- How parents can help their babies’ brain development, by PBS Parents.
In The News:
- “Effects of Child Abuse Can Last a Lifetime: Watch the Still Face Experiment to See Why,” The Washington Post, September 16, 2013.
- “Early Childhood Poverty Damages Brain Development, Study Finds,” US News & World Report, October 28, 2013.
InteractiveCheck out this baby brain map from ZERO TO THREE, which you can use to track how babies’ and toddlers’ brains develop during different periods of growth. >>