|Literacy Matters||March 2008|
Family Literacy Training Institute
Brain Basics Workshop
Brain research confirms that children begin learning even before they are born. We know that early interactions and experiences play a vital role in the brain development of a child.
It’s important for parents and those who care for children to know some of the basic facts about brain development, and what they can do to help a baby’s brain develop.
The brain develops over a long period of time. It begins within a few days after conception and continues through our pregnancy, childhood and adolescence and beyond. But there is more brain development in the first three years of life than at any other time!
The human brain contains about 200 billion neurons (brain cells). At birth, infants have all the brain cells they will ever have, but they do not have all the “wiring” that connects the cells. After birth the brain continues to grow by developing the “wiring” or the connections between neurons.
A baby’s brain is a work in progress. In the first months and years, babies’ brains are VERY busy making A LOT of connections. How do neurons know which connections to make? Experience is the key to connection!
The more an infant is held, talked to and rocked, the faster the baby’s brain grows, develops and makes connections. What a child sees, hears, tastes, smells and touches are all experiences that make connections in their brains. Connections that get repeated become stronger connections.
A child who grows up on the land will have different experiences and different brain connections from a child who grows up in a city.
A child who sees and handles a lot of books will have different experiences and different brain connections from a child who spends a lot of time watching TV.
Beginning about age 10, the brain starts “pruning”- getting rid of connections. How does it decide which connections to keep? By this rule: “Use it or lose it.”
The brain gets rid of connections that are seldom used and keeps connections that are often used.
On a rich diet of love and new, positive experiences the brain grows and flourishes. The child’s unique gides can blossom.
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