Early childhood is "prime time" for all areas of development, but it is especially critical for brain development. In the first three years, a child's brain is developing at an astonishing rate.
The brain forms as many as 700 neural connections per second before the age of 5.
By age 3, the brain has reached 80% of its adult size, and key areas of brain wiring peak during this period.
“The earliest years represent a period of development unparalleled in other times of a person’s life,” says Dr. Janice Gruendel, Deputy Commissioner of the State Department of Children and Families, who has been researching the significance of the first 1,000 days of a child’s life for decades. Over the past year, she has convened a series of forums on the topic of the first 1,000 days.
But what does this brain development information mean for parents and caregivers of young children? It means we can’t waste any time! We know early experiences have the power to determine the organization and function of the mature brain.
Parents and caregivers can encourage healthy and robust brain development in young children by creating an environment rich with language and positive interactions. With babies, we can rely on our human instinct. According to the latest research, cuddling, cooing, rocking, and singing are the best kinds of stimulation for a baby’s growing brain because they represent nurturing and essential interactions between an adult and a baby.
For toddlers and preschoolers, language is so very important. All children should be immersed in a loving, stimulating and responsive environment with plenty of verbal engagement. How can you do this? Engage them in conversation about what you are doing, whether it is cooking, shopping or walking to the park. Read books together, sing songs, and play simple games.
For more information on the First 1,000 Days forums, visit www.ct.gov/dcf/cwp/view.asp?a=3&Q=503690
The Connecticut Early Childhood Alliance is a statewide advocacy organization working to ensure that all children are healthy, safe and ready for lifelong success. Visit us at earlychildhoodalliance.com.