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The Science of Early Childhood Development: How Early Learning Experiences Shape The Brain

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Things might look like all fun and games, but the science is clear: The first three years of children’s lives are critical for their intellectual and emotional development, especially when nurtured through preschool, early learning, and childcare.

Kids develop 80 percent of their adult brains within the first 1,000 days of their lives. In the following two years, the brain grows to 90 percent of its adult size; it’s almost fully formed by a child’s 5th birthday. At that point, the most important cognitive abilities have already been cemented, including memory, reasoning, speed of thought, and problem-solving.

Of all the factors that influence early childhood development, the biggest — and most important — is the environment. A nurturing environment promotes the cognitive development and socioemotional skills that will pave the way for children to become functioning adults. That’s why early childhood education is so important: A little kid’s surroundings impact their development in almost immeasurable ways. 

Here, we’ll look at why early learning is so vital for brain development among infants and toddlers, and we’ll run through tips for fostering healthy intellectual and emotional growth. 

Early Childhood Development

Encouraging Growth of the Brain in Childhood And Beyond 

“What happens early in life lasts a lifetime”Stephen Zwolak

From birth to five years old, kids develop the key cognitive functions and emotional intelligence that will continue to nourish them throughout their lives. These years lay the foundation for cognitive abilities in adolescence and adulthood. 

Studies show that a handful of simple activities can help improve kids’ development in the first five years of their lives:

  • Reading storybooks from an early age
  • Singing to — and eventually with — your child
  • Encouraging scientific inquiry and conversation
  • Practicing self-talk with your child
  • Building positive bonds through play and connection
  • Social interaction with peers
  • Teamwork building exercises; say, working together to accomplish a goal
  • Encouraging self-regulation and emotional literacy

Through these exercises, children begin to learn essential life skills that will guide how they interact with the world and the people around them. 

Learn more about early brain development and health in children.

The Effects of Adversity on Childhood Brain Development

Without structured early childhood development, kids may face adversity later on in life.

Studies show that socioeconomics affects cognitive development and longevity. 

Through these studies, experts have determined that adversity in early development can have lasting effects on children’s — and eventually adults’ — emotional, intellectual, and physical wellbeing. 

According to Stephen Zwolak, the founder and chief executive of the LUME Institute, an early-education and research initiative, “Early trauma have a direct impact on long-term health outcomes.” That’s why early childhood development is an investment, of sorts, in healthy, prosperous adulthood.

Early Childhood Education

The Importance of Preschool Programs

“Preschool is a significant social experience.”Haneefah Shuaibe-Peters

Parents and educators can help children cultivate skills like critical thinking and problem solving simply by talking to and playing with them. But socialization is also vitally important — no amount of conversation will make up for what’s to be gained from interacting regularly with other kids and adults. 

Early childhood education experts like to think of preschool as “pre-society” that helps kids’ personalities develop. Preschool programs teach children social skills and how to regulate their emotions. Kids learn to work with one another, overcome barriers, and set the stage for life-long communication skills. 

Inquiry-based learning models — where kids are observed and where the curriculum is inspired by their interests — encourage young children to engage with their surroundings consciously. By fostering kids’ natural curiosity, these programs engage them in a framework that tees up with the current thinking about early learning. 

When enrolling your child in preschool, remember that it’s the balance — emotional education paired with intellectual education — that’s most important in the early years of their kids’ lives. 

Key Developmental Milestones for Early Childhood Education:

The basics of early childhood development fall into a few categories, each with its developmental milestones. From birth to five years old, that means: 

  • Social and Emotional: Working with others; expressing feelings appropriately
  • Self-Care: Self-soothing; showing interest in independence
  • Literacy: Recognizing their name; following story plotlines
  • Expressive Language: Learning how to converse; asking questions about the topic 
  • Receptive Language: Understanding concepts; repeating information or stories
  • Mathematical Learning: Identifying shapes and numbers
  • Scientific Inquiry: Observing and asking questions about the surroundings
  • Fine Motor Skills: Grasping objects with accuracy; improving hand-eye coordination
  • Gross Motor Skills: Playing with toys; moving along to the music

Choosing the Right Early Childhood Education Center

“Early years of education should be used to set the foundation for developing culturally conscious, socially conscious, morally conscious, literate individuals capable of functioning as leaders responsibly within modern society.”Haneefah Shuaibe-Peters

Understanding the importance of early childhood education is the first step to shaping your kids’ eventual adulthood. But how do you choose the right childcare provider? Here are some basic questions to ask:

  • Does it align with your morals and goals for your child’s development?
  • Does it employ accredited and licensed educators?
  • Does it outwardly exhibit inclusivity and diversity?
  • Does it utilize learning models that support both emotional and intellectual growth, including scientific inquiry?
  • Does it promote socially and culturally aware lessons and topics?
  • Does it teach without implicit or explicit socioeconomic, racial, gender-based, or religious bias?
  • Does it celebrate each child’s developmental milestones?

If a preschool program checks all these boxes, you’ve found a winner. If not, it’s worth doing a bit more research. 

Contact us to learn more about Vivvi’s preschool programs and inquiry-based learning model, and meet us online for a safe, smile-filled open house.

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