|What Research Tells Us About Brain Development in the First Three Years|
|What Does This Mean for Parents?|
|What Does Research Say About Child Care?|
|What Are the Risks for Low-Income Families?|
What Research Tells Us About Brain Development in the First Three Years
The brain is not fully developed at birth and weighs only 25 percent of its adult weight.
- Newborns have nearly all of the brain cells they will need in a lifetime, but these cells are not yet linked to form connections that are needed for complex thinking and functioning.
- By age three, the brain has twice as many synapses, or connections, in the brain as they will need as adults. The number of synapses remains constant in the middle childhood years and then begins to decline in late childhood and through adolescence.
- Brain connections are formed and refined in response to experiences.
- The optimal time for parents to have the most influence on helping to nurture their child’s brain development is the years from birth to age three.
- Positive experiences provide nourishment for the brain, building the neural connections and networks for a lifetime.
- Prolonged stress can actually destroy brain cells and promote networks that create negative patterns of thinking and feeling.
- Researchers say that loving, responsive care provides babies with the ideal environment for encouraging exploration, which leads to learning.
- There are no special tricks for making babies smarter. However, parents can promote advanced language skills by reading to and talking to babies.
- Studies show that young children who form secure emotional attachments with parents and/or caregivers early in life make better social adjustments and perform better in school.
- Attachment to fathers is critical in the development of language skills and academic performance.
- Placing a baby in child care does not interfere with the development of parent-infant attachment.
- Babies can thrive in child care—if it is of high quality.
- Young children need sensitive, loving care and stimulating experiences.
- Higher quality care is related to better mother-child relationships, higher language ability, a higher level of school readiness, and fewer behavior problems.
- The elements of child care that are most essential include the child’s safety, communication between the provider and parents, and a warm and attentive relationship between the provider and child. Parents should also engage in activities to stimulate their child’s development.
- By the time they reach kindergarten, children from low-income families are already at a disadvantage in learning and school readiness.
- Poverty negatively affects the cognitive and behavioral development of young children.
- Early intervention programs, such as Head Start, have shown to promote development in the areas that these children lack.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
- National Child Care Information Center
- University of Georgia College of Family and Consumer Sciences
- U.S. Department of Education, Office of Educational Research and Improvement
- Zero to Three