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.
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.