First Three Years
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First 3 Years of Life Are the Most Valuable Years for BRAIN DEVELOPMENT
We experience and connect to our world (both inside our bodies and outside) through our senses. During this time, sensory information comes to the brain to begin the long process of understanding our bodies and the environment into which we are born.
As our brain is sorting through all the various information coming its way, the emotional centers of the brain are also developing and ‘wiring’. This joint timing means the incoming information will also be 'tagged' with emotional content which places great importance on the emotional environment for the baby.
How the brain is wired to process emotions (positive, supportive or negative, stressful) in the earliest years sets the stage for how the child will respond much later in life. We now know the emotional content experienced in our early years affects the quality of connections to the cortex. The cortex is our higher brain - where our thinking and judgements occur; where planning, memory storage, and understanding consequences occur.
BOTTOM LINE: PROVIDE A CONSISTENT/ROUTINE ENVIRONMENT WITH POSITIVE, LOVING INTERACTIONS AND PROVIDE PLENTY OF MOVEMENT!
BRAIN’S primary focus:
SURVIVAL ORGAN – first and foremost! Safety and security are key to development.
PATTERN SEEKING: helps to categorize and understand
PLEASURE SEEKING: brain has centers just for pleasure
NOVELTY SEEKING: brain constantly wants to learn and know more
ENERGY CONSERVING: brain uses 20-30% of entire body’s energy usage
MEANING SEEKING: brain strives to understand
First and foremost, the brain must feel secure – only then will it venture out to ‘learn more’. We are born with underdeveloped brains with only our survival systems fully wired. Our higher, thinking brain is not wired yet, but waiting for input. That inputs comes to the brain through our senses (eyes, ears, touch, balance, nose, muscles, etc.). The more senses we involve (multi-sensory), the better for the brain. Since our emotional centers are wiring during this early time period also, the security and consistency of our environment can have a large impact on brain development.
Interesting Fun Facts!
1. Human brain is Immature at Birth – only survival mechanisms are fully connected while higher cognitive areas of the brain are not connected but waiting for sensory motor input to connect.
2. Human brain increased its thinking capacity by folding (adding grooves) eons ago. This increased our thinking capacity by 67% (for comparison, rats have no grooves at all).
3. During the FIRST MONTH of life, our brain will increase its connections by 20 fold – about 700 new connections form each SECOND up to 4 years of age – dependent on our experiences/environment.