Did you know that in the first few years of their lives, children learn more and at a faster pace than at any other time? That’s why it’s so important for parents to learn how to make the most of those early years, from birth to age 3. Children don’t come with directions, but there are programs that can help instruct parents during this key formative stage.
Home visiting and other early childhood programs are supported by the science of early brain development. Decades of neuroscience and behavioral research illustrate the importance of working with families with young children.
Brains are built over time, from the bottom up. The basic architecture of the brain is constructed through an ongoing process that begins before birth and continues through adulthood. Early experiences and genes affect this architecture and create either a sturdy or fragile foundation for all of the learning, health and behaviors that follow.
Scientists say that a child’s brain is most impressionable or “plastic” early in life. Early plasticity means it’s easier and more effective to influence a baby’s developing brain architecture than to rewire parts of its circuitry in the adult years, especially since the brain’s capacity for change decreases with age.
During the early brain development process hundreds of important connections are built that are vital to the growth of intellectual, emotional and social capacities so important for success in school and later in the workplace and community.
Children learn from the environment where they live and events that take place – for better or worse. (A negative environment can damage developing brain architecture and lead to life-long problems.) It is easier and less costly to form strong brain circuits during the early years than it is to intervene or “fix” them later. Brains never stop developing, but in order to establish a strong foundation for brain architecture, earlier is better.
Sourced from: Key Concepts: Brain Architecture, Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University (www.developingchild.harvard.edu).