Baby Brilliance - Part 1
By Charles Horowitz, Education Lead, Woodland Pre-Schools
Brain Architecture and Neuroplasticity
Raising and teaching young children is an amazing journey; one that I’m passionate about supporting! Leaning on my studies and practical experiences as an early years educator both inside and outside the classroom, I’ve gained valuable evidence-based insights about your child’s developing brain that I'd love to share with you through a series of postings in this Baby Brilliance blog.
Major advances in the fields of Neuroscience and Developmental Psychology over the past few decades have profoundly underscored the importance of discovery within a child’s first few years of life. This period is widely understood to be the most sensitive for brain development and builds a foundation for life-long learning and behavior. The current science sitting behind early childhood development emphasizes a key principle I’d like to focus on; brains are built over time, from the bottom up.
The brain architecture of a developing child is constructed through a process that begins before birth and continues well into adulthood, with genes and experiences (nature and nurture) both playing important roles. While genes help determine the wiring plan of the brain, experiences help determine the strength of those wires. A helpful analogy is that of a house; genes represent the blueprints of what a house will look like, and experiences represent the quality of the parts and efforts used to build that house. A strong house requires a strong foundation!
Neuroplasticity refers to the brain’s ability to change in response to new experiences. When children are young, their brains are amazingly flexible and plastic. This enables them to learn new things fast and make sense of the world around them, including, for example, any of the world’s languages or who their most precious caregivers are. This presents an excellent opportunity for adults to give children the best start in life through loving care and guidance. While it’s certainly not impossible to learn new things when we’re older, it’s more difficult and in some cases, more costly. Earlier is indeed better, but it’s never too late! The visual below helpfully illustrates this phenomenon.
In the next posting, I will share further insights about how parents and caregivers can take advantage of this opportune learning window through play. I will also provide tips about how they can help their babies think, in turn, building strong brain architecture and setting the stage for future optimal learning.