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Early years: Brain development

From birth to age 5, a child’s brain develops more than at any other time in life. And early brain development has a lasting impact on a child’s ability to learn and succeed in school and life. The quality of a child’s experiences in the first few years of life – positive or negative – helps shape how their brain develops.


90% of Brain Growth Happens Before Kindergarten


Starting from birth, children develop brain connections through their everyday experiences. They’re built through positive interactions with their parents and caregivers and by using their senses to interact with the world. A young child’s daily experiences determine which brain connections develop and which will last for a lifetime. The amount and quality of care, stimulation and interaction they receive in their early years makes all the difference.


A child’s relationships with the adults in their life are the most important influences on their brain development. Loving relationships with responsive, dependable adults are essential to a child’s healthy development. These relationships begin at home, with parents and family, but also include child care providers, teachers and other members of the community.

From birth, young children serve up invitations to engage with their parents and other adult caregivers. Babies do it by cooing and smiling and crying. Toddlers communicate their needs and interests more directly. Each of these little invitations is an opportunity for the caregiver to be responsive to the child’s needs. This “serve and return” process is fundamental to the wiring of the brain.

Parents and caregivers who give attention, respond and interact with their child are literally building the child’s brain. That’s why it’s so important to talk, sing, read and play with young children from the day they’re born, to give them opportunities to explore their physical world, and to provide safe, stable and nurturing environments.



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