Early Brain Development and Health
The early years of a child’s life are very important. One of the main reasons is how fast the brain grows. Although the brain continues to develop and change into adulthood, the first 8 years can build a foundation for future learning, health and life.
How well a brain develops depends on many factors in addition to genes, such as:
Children depend on parents, family members, and other caregivers to develop the skills to become independent and lead healthy and successful lives. How the brain grows is strongly affected by the child’s experiences. Children grow and learn best in a safe environment where they are protected from neglect and from extreme or chronic stress with plenty of opportunities to play and explore.
Children learn best when parents and other caregivers take turns when talking and playing, and build on their child’s skills and interests. Nurturing a child by understanding their needs and responding sensitively helps to protect children’s brains from stress. Speaking with children and exposing them to books, stories, and songs helps strengthen children’s language and communication.
Exposure to stress and trauma can have long-term negative consequences for the child’s brain, whereas talking, reading, and playing can stimulate brain growth. Ensuring that parents and other caregivers have the resources and skills to a provide safe, stable, nurturing, and stimulating care is critical.
Tracking children’s development and making sure they reach developmental milestones and ensuring children receive any intervention when needed. To learn and grow appropriately, a baby’s brain has to be healthy and protected.
Vaccinations can help protect against infections. During pregnancy, the brain can be affected by infectious diseases, exposure to toxins or when pregnant mothers experience stress, trauma, or mental health conditions. Regular health care during pregnancy can help prevent complications. Newborn screenings can detect conditions that are potentially dangerous.
Healthy brain growth depends on the right care and nutrition. Because children’s brains are still growing, they are especially vulnerable to traumatic injuries, infections, or toxins. Childhood vaccines can also help protect children.