Brain Development: Are the Early Years Really the Most Important

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Brain Development: Are the Early Years Really the Most Important? Many people do not think the early years are the most important to a child’s brain development. They seem to have the attitude that children can be taught when they are old enough to learn the skills. But then the question remains as to when you should start teaching those skills. When is a child old enough to learn? Are the early years really the most important regarding brain development?

I believe that a child can be taught as early as infancy if their parents and caretakers understand the way the brain develops. Their brain is the most fragile between the ages of birth to five years of age and they depend on the caretakers in their life to teach them. Through my research, I learned what good and bad experiences did to the brain development of children. Before we can teach a child, we need to know how the brain develops. The brain is made up of different areas that have specific functions.

These areas can help us identify the things we see, process language, or tell us whether we are in danger. Within each of these areas are millions of neurons which send messages to each other across synapses. In most areas of the brain, no new neurons are formed after birth (Smith, 2010). New synapses between cells are constantly being formed, while others are “pruned” away. This happens throughout the child’s life as the different areas of the brain develop. “Pruning” allows the brain to keep the connections that have a purpose, while doing away with those that don’t.

However, because the brain works on the “use it or lose it” rule, an “over-pruning” can occur when a child is deprived of normally expected experiences in the early years. As a result, the child is left to struggle to do what would have been more natural otherwise (Smith, 2010). Children are constantly assessing whether their cries for food and comfort are ignored or answered. If the adults in the child’s life respond predictably to his cries and proved for their needs, the infant will be more likely to use these adults as sources of safety and security.

When an infant does not have to worry about their own safety, they can focus their attention on exploring, allowing their brain to take in everything around them. However, if their needs are met only now and then, the infant will focus their attention on ensuring that their needs are met. They will also have more difficulty interacting with people and objects in the environment and their brain will shut out the stimulation it needs to develop healthy cognitive and social skills.

The secure relationships a child develops with important adults in their lives lay the foundation for emotional development while also helping protect them from the many stresses they may face as they grow. Researchers who have examined the life histories of children, who have succeeded, despite many challenges in their lives, consistently found that these people had at least one stable, supportive relationship with an adult that began in their early years (Ph. D. , Hawley, T. , & Ph. D. , Gunner, M. 2000). Negative early experiences can also affect the development of the brain.

Maltreatment increases a child’s risk of developing depression, self-destructive behavior, eating disorders, drug and alcohol problems, sexual promiscuity, and delinquency. Many researchers believe that these effects can be partly explained by understanding how chaotic, stressful, and traumatic experiences affect brain development (Ph. D. , Hawley, T. , & Ph. D. , Gunner, M. 2000). It is important that we do not assume that a poorly parented or traumatized child is incapable of healthy functioning later in childhood or adolescence.

The answer to the question, Are the early years really the most important to brain development is that it is now clear that what a child experiences in the first years of life influences how their brain will develop and how they will interact with the world throughout their life. Good experiences will mean good development and bad experiences will mean bad development. Parents play the most important role in providing the nurturing and stimulation that children require, but they need information and support to develop good parenting skills.

As an individual in the ECE career field, I will be sure to provide parents with the correct information on how their baby’s brain develops and what they can do to ensure that their child has the best education possible. I will provide such information by setting up a conference to talk to the parents about my concerns. I will then give them the information that I have found through this research as well as life experiences as well. They will then be educated on the way their baby’s brain develops and can go deeper into teaching their baby to the best of their abilities.

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