How environment impacts early brain development



Posted on November 6, 2013 at 10:35 AM

We know investing in our children and their education is the foundation for the future. Through new research, experts say environment can also play a key role in early childhood brain development.

What does this new study say about just how important a child's environment is for brain development?

Toxic stress damages brain architecture. Yet resilience is not an internal character strength, but rather is built.

Don't forget that as your children have unfortunate or undesirable experiences, how you teach them to cope will last their lifetime, at least at the cellular level. Learn more about early brain development by watching videos about what goes on in the first few years at the Center on the Developing Child  at Harvard University.

"Learning how to cope with stress is an important part of development," said the experts from Harvard. "Supporting children while they recover from an uncomfortable experience will always be worth your time.

Tell us more about children and brain connections

Children make 700 synapses (connections between brain cells) per second during between the time they are born and the time they are 2 years old.  The connections that form are potentially redundant and thereafter are pruned back and remodeled by experience for years and years.

Children make tons of connections and then thoughtfully trim them back via their experiences. Every trip to the park shapes their brain. The pruning process continues throughout our lives and into adulthood. the white matter between our ears shifts and changes into our 5th decade. 

Sing, talk, involve, and eat up the world with your children every day when you can. Know every  second you spend with them shapes their brain for a lifetime. That's opportunity.

Talking to your children at an early age is important. Should we be afraid to use big words?

Kids who hear more words will learn more words. Use big words every single day. Don't ever shy away from complex phrases, complex words and new descriptions. Turn off the TV whenever you're not actively watching it. Children learn from hearing you talk more than they will ever learn from characters on TV.

Explain how important imitation is

Babies imitate people to learn to do things. Recent work done at UW Learning and Brain Sciences found babies' brains were activated in specific areas while watching an adult, and  then babies imitate.

More about Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson: Facebook | Twitter:@SeattleMamaDoc | Read Her Blog