Brain development of a child


The early years (0 to 8 years) are the most significant period of growth and development in a child’s life because this is when the foundations are laid for holistic development and all learning. Strong foundations in literacy and numeracy in the early years have a lasting impact on children’s development and determine their success in formal schooling.

Let’s hear more from Dr Patricia Kuhl, a co-director of the University of Washington Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, on her insights from the various research studies on a child’s brain development.

Here’s a quick summary of what she has to share:

During the first 2000 days of a child’s life, the child’s brain architecture is shaped as they are involved in activities like –

  • Playing with objects of different colours, shapes and arrangements
  • Interacting with their parents, right from their birth itself
  • Understanding the social environment and finding their ways through it
  • Creating the imaginary world that lives in their minds in various ways. For eg: Making up stories, playing with toys that represent the things in the real world (Ex. a mini train set, animal soft toys etc.), creating and building things out of the objects present around them (Ex. a mini tent from a cloth, building things from Legos etc.)

During the first 2000 days, the child’s brain is waiting for this activity and if this doesn’t happen the brain doesn’t work its magic in the way that it does under normal circumstances.

Impact of the environment the child lives in on brain growth

The degree of growth of the brain depends upon the number of words the child hears, the diversity of words, and the complexity of sentences. We are literally growing the white matter in the brain as we interact with children. When we talk to a baby, his/her “Broca” and “Wernicke” which are parts of the brain for “talking, grammar, reading, social interaction” and “listening” respectively get activated even though the baby has never produced a single word. She is ready to talk back and knows that she is in a social situation & wants to respond. Thus, millions of brain cells get activated when we talk to a baby.

Ready for School

There are stunning changes in the wiring of the brain from infanthood to the age of 5 because of a complex interaction between different parts of the brain stimulated by various activities. The child is ready to go to school by the age of 5-8 years. Research has shown that children who do lots of activities, and hear words & sentences early on in life can be shown to develop words faster at the age of 3.

So early educators are really building a brain when they talk to children, using educational games and toys which stimulate a child’s brain, using colourful and creative instructional material.

Kindergarten and pre-schools are not just precursors to real learning but a site called “Teacher at work building brains”!

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