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Brain development and lifelong learning

A child’s brain develops so rapidly in their first years, it’s almost impossible for us to imagine. By age five, about 90% of our brains are developed.

The circuits for key functions such as vision/hearing, language, and higher cognitive function develop most in the first five years of life. The creation of these circuits is affected by a child’s early learning environment. Bad experiences actually chew away at brain connections, while good quality experiences spur healthy development. After age five, the number of new connections slows, making it more difficult to build the necessary cognitive and social skills.

Essentially our children’s early experiences will affect their brain development and learning for life.

A child’s early experiences (both positive and negative) can actually affect the structure of the brain! In addition to a child’s health and nutrition, every experience–whether it is seeing one’s first rainbow, riding a bicycle, reading a book, sharing a joke “turns on” certain neural circuits and leaves others inactive. Those that are consistently turned on over time will be strengthened, while those that are rarely excited be drop away.
Poor nutrition, abuse and neglect can have devastating effects on a child’s brain development. According to Dr. Bruce Perry, a neurobiologist and authority on braindevelopment and children in crisis, “The systems in the human brain that allow us to form and maintain emotional relationships develop during infancy and the first years of life…With severe emotional neglect in early childhood the impact can be devastating.” (Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect in Pennsylvania: A Report on In-Home Parent Coaching Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Pennsylvania, 2006)

Poor nutrition, abuse and neglect can have devastating effects on a child’s brain development. According to Dr. Bruce Perry, a neurobiologist and authority on braindevelopment and children in crisis, “The systems in the human brain that allow us to form and maintain emotional relationships develop during infancy and the first years of life…With severe emotional neglect in early childhood the impact can be devastating.” (Prevent Child Abuse and Neglect in Pennsylvania: A Report on In-Home Parent Coaching Fight Crime: Invest in Kids Pennsylvania, 2006)

Want to learn more?
Visit Zero to Three’s Brain Development page for a wealth of information on how a child’s brain develops (including an interactive “brain quiz“) and why quality early learning opportunities are so important.

Build the case
Use this information to help build the case for early education among our school, business, and legislative leaders!

  • Elaine Johnson says:

    I would love to learn more about brain development

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