Building Children’s Brains / Brain Development

Young children’s brains are developing at an astounding rate. Interactions with caregivers and the world around them help children build critical brain connections that promote future learning.

Read a “Building Children’s Brains” Fact Sheet in English
Read a “El fortalecimiento de los cerebros de los niños” Fact Sheet in Spanish

The developing brain needs:

Healthy relationships: Early relationships help wire the brain to form trusting relationships, to love and to feel safe and secure.

Positive experiences: Verbal and physical experiences help the brain develop new connections.

Consistent and secure environment: The brain develops gradually in response to experiences and the environment.

The prenatal period through age 5 is a critical window:

During this time period, children’s brains are growing fastest and they are constantly downloading information from the environment around them. It is possible to build basic brain connections later in a child’s life, but it requires far more work and is much more difficult.

When children are in a neglectful, chaotic environment without warm caregivers and adequate stimulation, the impacts can be powerful:

  • Chronic stress can actually slow brain development, especially the development of the frontal lobes, the part of the brain responsible for judgment, impulse control and reading social cues from others.
  • Children in poverty have significantly different brains than other children, with smaller and less developed brain areas.
  • By age 4, children in poverty hear 30 million fewer words than their higher income peers, impacting their readiness for school.
  • When children worry about survival, they can’t focus on academics, friendships and other key parts of a successful childhood.