HOW DOES THE YOUNG BRAIN WORK?
Our brains change throughout our lives. Most of these changes occur when we are children.
When we learn new things, different parts of the brain form new connections to each other.
After a baby is born, its brain receives a lot of new information from its surroundings during childhood. Many new connections in the brain are made as learning occurs.
USE IT OR LOSE IT
As young brains develop, new connections are rapidly formed. Most of these connections are formed by the age of 2 or 3 years old. We begin to lose some of these connections between the ages of 2 to 6.
When we carry out an action, a specific pathway along connections in the brain is used to do this. When certain actions such as catching a ball are done a lot, the connections are strengthened, so the skill is improved. If pathways are rarely used, then the connection is weakened, until it is lost.
This is called ‘use it or lose it’. From the ages of 2 to 6, the brain strengthens and weakens connections based on use. This is why is it much easier to learn a new skill from the ages of 2 to 6 than to start something later in life.
WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR PARENTS AND CARERS?
The best way for a child to learn is to be exposed to new things.
If you are responsible for a child, there are many ways that you can engage their brain to encourage healthy growth and development:
- Talk to or read with your child to help their development of language and communication.
- Play with your child to help them learn about new things. Introduce new objects, with a focus on shapes and colours, to stimulate lots of different brain pathways.
- Take your child on walks and show them new surroundings.
- Encourage children to ask questions.
The ages of 2 – 6 are when children find it easiest to learn new skills. This is the best time to introduce your child to a hobby like sports, singing, or drawing. If you would like your child to learn another language, it is also helpful to start teaching this early.
PUTTING THIS INTO PRACTICE
Understanding your child’s brain makes it easier to have a positive impact. However, this does not mean that you should overload your child by trying to stimulate as many brain pathways as possible. Relaxation is important too, for both you and your child!
Brain development in childhood will help prepare your child for later life. To give your child a healthy start, help them to experience new things from an early age.