Brain Development - why it matters

Alberta Family Wellness Initiative

Categories: Development

Babies are born ready to learn, and their brains develop through use. Your baby needs a stimulating environment with lots of different activities - plenty of ways to play and learn. Every experience is building your baby’s brain. Watch this 4 minute video to find out more about how brains are built.

According to scientific research, it has been proven that the experiences we have in the first years of our lives affect the physical architecture of the developing brain. This means that brains are not just born, they are also built. AWFI published a core story on brain development in an accessible and engaging way.

This video documentary presents important insights into how the human brain works and how it develops from birth into childhood, and the effects this period has on adulthood and late age. The documentary was developed with input from the Harvard Centre on the Developing Child and the FrameWorks Institute.

The main takeaways from this short documentary are that the brain needs a solid base to support its future development and the way we understand the world. Positive interactions between young children and their caregivers build the architecture of a developing brain, therefore the support, encouragement and feedback children receive are vital for their future behaviour as adults.

All the things that we know about how to improve outcomes for children relate to how we engage with children, how we relate them with the opportunities. The solutions are social. We don't have any brain solutions yet because the brain is built to be social. The brain in early childhood, especially in the first two to three years, is growing at an absolutely staggering rate. As the child grows, the brain consolidates and prunes. In other words, the infant's’ brain is like a super organ ready for experience and input. As it starts receiving that input, it starts to narrow down what it focuses on.

A great example of this is with language recognition. Babies can hear the cadence, the melody and the different patterns of many languages. They can identify different clusters of sound. By the time they are one, in fact even younger, they’ve narrowed in their native language, and they are not hearing a lot of the sounds from other languages. And that corresponds to neuronal pruning and consolidation.

Our sensing pathways (hearing, vision and touch) all those things which give us information about the world in its most basic form are very highly structured around the time of birth and at about three/ four months they are at their absolute peak. This means the baby comes into this world ready for sensory experience, it’s rapidly prepared for core functions and then the learning has to occur in the context of that brain’s interaction with the environment.

In the documentary you can learn more about these interactions, as they are organised on different types, such as the "Serve and Return" interactions, good/positive types of stress (like meeting new people), or the development of basic emotional and social skills.

Watch now: How brains are built core story of brain development



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