Learning

Why Early Childhood Development is so important

Let's take a deep dive into the human brain and learn why nurturing your child's developmental skills sets them up for success.

From the very moment we exit the womb, the clock ticks like a time bomb. Depending on your definition of early childhood — Newborn to infant? Newborn to pre-school? — we don’t have long to build better brains. Evolution, divine creation, call it what you want, but those first few years — or months, if your definition is strict — are the most critical for learning and development. Everything that comes after pales into insignificance. 

Let’s take a deep dive into the human brain and learn why nurturing your child’s developmental skills sets them up for success. 

What Happens to Our Brains as Kids? 

Early childhood development happens so quickly, so here’s a timeline:

  • The first month of life: Childhood development starts. Our brains bulge with new neural connections. We display automatic responses to external stimuli.
  • The first year of life: Our brains lay down neural pathways like a plumber lays down pipes. We become smarter. We learn new skills. We understand complex concepts, even if we can’t articulate them.
  • The first three years of life: Our brains swell to 80 percent of adult-sized brains. Like the command center on the Starship Enterprise, our brains now control every component in our bodies.
  • The first five years of life: The architecture of our brains is as strong as a downtown skyscraper. We’ve entered the most critical period of learning and growth we’ll ever experience. Our brains aren’t just sponges; they’re vacuum cleaners that absorb language, math, and science.

It’s all downhill from here. 

As older kids and then adults, we still learn new skills and experience new experiences. But nothing compares to those first five or six years where truly anything is possible, such as learning five new languages at once. That’s easier for children than adults because of the prefrontal cortex, which retains information more efficiently at this stage of life. 

Supporting Early Childhood Development

We know early childhood development doesn’t last long, so how do we take advantage of it? As parents, it’s our responsibility to nourish our kids’ brains so they have a better life. Research shows a correlation between early education and career success, where childhood experiences influence future earning power. So, enroll your child in a pre-school that embraces science, math, languages, or the arts.

  • Kids that learn science at an early age have better communication, patience, and perseverance skills.
  • Children perform better at math at school when they learn it at pre-school. 
  • Bilingual children do better in education than kids who only speak one language. 
  • Children who learn a musical instrument are more likely to be successful in life.

There are other influences on early childhood development. Some we can’t change, like genes. Others, like nutrition, are in our control. Encouraging our children to eat healthy improves their energy, cognitive development, academic performance, and interest in learning. 

Think of Early Childhood Development as an Investment

Enrolling your child in violin class or buying organic food can be expensive, but think of early childhood development as a lifelong investment. You’ll foster the skills that humans need to succeed in life, and that’s positive parenting. 

“The brain’s ability to adapt and grow diminishes greatly as it matures and performs more complex functions,” says Wheelock College of Education and Human Development. “Because of this, early childhood development is crucial to supporting cognitive, emotional, and social capabilities throughout a lifetime.”

Before You Go

Early childhood development has various definitions, but all scientists agree that it’s the most critical time for learning and skill acquisition. That’s because we build the architecture of our brains during those few years after exiting the womb. As parents, we can capitalize on this short timeframe and increase our children’s chances of success.

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