Enhancing brain development
Parents are usually the child's first and most important teachers.
Parents and caregivers have long known that babies thrive in loving, warm, responsive care. New scientific research has been able to explain how this works.
Early care has a long lasting impact.Babies are born with immature brains. A significant part of the infant's brain is designed to adapt to the experiences the child is likely to encounter after the birth.
The ability of the immature brain to be shaped and developed by the child's experiences allows the child to adapt to his or her family, surroundings, environment and culture.
A caring, nurturing and stimulating environment provides the optimal conditions to allow the brain to thrive. Responsive care not only meets the day to day needs of the child, it nourishes the brain and helps it to develop healthy connections. This attention changes the chemistry and structure of an infant's brain.
Children who receive consistent care are more likely to develop good social skills. Strong attachments to caregivers also appear to help children build resilience to some of the future difficulties they may face, such as stress or trauma.
There are a variety of ways of raising bright, happy, well-rounded, secure, sociable children. Many parents and caregivers already provide the conditions that will promote this healthy development. For example, children who are talked to frequently have better language skills than those who are seldom talked to. Children need care, time, attention and secure relationships. Their brain development is significantly improved by exposure to play, questions, answers and a wide range of stimuli from the environment.Parents and caregivers, you can foster a stimulating, secure environment by:
The interaction between caregivers and children is a two way process. Small children are biologically primed to develop their brains. They play an active role in this process by interacting with their caregivers and signalling their needs. They appear to benefit most when the caregiver attempts to read and respond to these signals.
These interactions and experiences are the central ingredients required to build healthy brains. They etch pathways into the brain, which, with repetition and use, become permanent. Children raised in this type of environment are being given an opportunity to develop the skills, knowledge and capacities to live rich, fulfilling lives.
The physiological advantages afforded children in these early years can last a lifetime.
There is no need to 'hothouse' or pressure an infant to learn. The best way of maximising healthy brain development appears to be by giving children warm, consistent care so that they can form strong attachments. Responsive, loving care appears to do more to boost learning than encouraging children to memorise facts, figures, flashcards and tapes.
- Reprinted with the permission of the Brainwave Trust, a national organisation set up as an independent charity. Brainwave's objective is to have every child in New Zealand raised with care and security. Brainwave aims to reach people with vital information on what is happening inside our baby's brains in the first critical years, and how this impacts on adulthood. Visit their website for more inforamtion and resources.