Research on Infant Brain Development
Brain research has shed some light on how and when children learn best. What follows is a list of the top research findings we find most useful to showing what you can do to help your child reach her highest learning potential.
- Nature + Nurture = Your Child's Learning Potential. A person's learning ability depends on both nature (her innate characteristics) and environment (her surroundings). Support your child's natural abilities by giving her a safe, positive environment and making your care loving and consistent, both of which will build her trust and confidence, enabling her to optimize her learning and development.
- Permanent Brain Connections = Learning. Learning occurs when brain connections are strengthened and made permanent. One way to help your child's brain make these permanent connections is by repeating experiences and creating a routine. With repetition, you can support your child's understanding of people, activities, and objects.
- Use It or Lose It. Your child was born with approximately 100 billion brain cells, ingredients for learning, thinking, and working her body's systems. With plenty of sensory input and rich, varied experiences, your child will form up to 1 quadrillion (1,000,000,000,000,000) brain connections by age three, twice the number found in adult brains! After toddlerhood, your child's brain begins to slow the building of synaptic connections and instead remove connections that are not strengthened by repeated use. It is very important to expose your child to many interesting sensory experiences and activities early on so that she can build her brain connections and knowledge from the get go!
- Rich and New Learning Experiences Optimize Learning. Your child learns best from exposure to new and interesting experiences and stimuli. The more exciting and unique the experience is to your child, the greater the number of brain connections are made between neurons! Because the brain focuses on what's new and/or different (e.g. big vs. small, fuzzy vs. smooth), offering your child rich learning experiences during his early years can boost her brain size and function by increasing her total number of brain connections by 20-30%!! So keep it fresh and interesting!
- Adequate Sleep Is Critical to Your Child's Learning. When your child is awake, she is actively taking in all of the stimuli and experiences the world has to offer her. Even though this new information is entering her brain, it is not "learned" until after her brain is able to process it during deep sleep. Sleep allows your child's mind to strengthen brain connections, increasing the potential of her reasoning, understanding, learning, and memory.
- Your Child Can Hear and Differentiate the Tonal Sounds of all Languages at Birth. Young children are capable of learning and making a wide variety of sounds and tones during their early years, including sounds from other languages you may find impossible to imitate! Take this opportunity to boost language development, by making sounds, talking, singing, and reading. If you like, you can also support multiple language learning at this time.
- Exercise and Good Food Supports Your Child's Body, Soul, and Mind! Physical activity, nutrition, and good health encourage connections in children's brains and help support emotional and mental growth. Daily exercise, lots of outdoor playtime, a balanced diet, and health screenings can all help encourage learning.
- Early Detection and Treatment Can Optimize Your Child's Learning and Development Potential. Studies have shown that for certain learning disabilities and developmental delays, brain connections can be “rewired" to help improve learning, if they are detected and treated early on. Be an active part of your child's learning and development! Track her learning progress (we suggest with Playful Bee's help!), and seek advice from professionals.
More than anything, when you take an active role in your child's learning, you help her and her brain be the best they can be. Whether you listen to music together, feed her healthy food, make sure she's getting enough rest, or sharing new experiences like a trip to the beach or the zoo, you can be sure that your efforts are giving her the best start possible!
For more information:
- Zero to Three (2011). FAQ's on the Brain. Zero to Three: National Center for Infants, Toddlers and Families. Retrieved on January 14, 2014, from http://www.zerotothree.org/child-development/brain-development/faqs-on-the-brain.html.
- Sousa, David (2006). How the Brain Learns. Thousand Oaks, CA: Corwin Press.
- Gellens, Suzanne R. (2013). Building Brains. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.
- Stamm, Jill, and Spencer, Paula (2007). Bright from the Start. New York, NY: Gotham Books.