Most of us imagine that a newborn baby is mainly concerned with sleeping and feeding – and this is true. But, their brains are ready for learning and are primed for extraordinary growth over the next three years. Here are a few things you may not have considered about your new baby…
1. Your baby has already been learning from within the womb
Research has shown that babies in the womb are able to hear, and possibly remember sounds. They learn to recognise the sound of their mother’s voice. Tests have shown that they recognise familiar music or sounds that they have heard repeatedly in the womb. They even learn to recognise certain tastes and learn syllables! [i]
2. Your baby’s brain is only 25% developed at birth
Your baby’s brain is not fully developed at birth. The most rapid stage of development is from now until about the age of 3, by which stage it will be 80% -90% developed. That means that the next three years are going to be crucially important for your baby. Your baby’s learning potential is huge and their brain is going to develop in response to the experiences they have and environment in which they live.[ii]
3. Your baby’s brain development will be affected by experience and interaction
At birth your baby’s brain will have the majority of the neurons that it will need for life. These neurons need to make connections with other neurons in order for thought processes and actions to develop. The quality of interactions and experiences of a young baby will affect the strength of these connections. It is this process of making connections and getting rid of unnecessary connections (pruning) which lays the foundation for the rest of lifelong learning and development. This means that what your baby experiences, see, hears and feels will be laying the foundation for the structure of their brain!
4. What your baby experiences over the next two years will help them prepare for learning and for school
Your baby seems so small and helpless right now, but their experiences are actually preparing them, or not, for learning and for school life. Unfortunately, many children are now entering school who are not ready for this experience. This has a detrimental effect on their learning and their future development. Research has shown that children who have more of the skills to be school ready, actually start to learn more quickly once they are at school and will perform better academically. This stands to reason really. They will not have to spend their time and energy learning the basics – they will be ready straight away to understand the more complicated stuff! [iii]
School readiness refers to all the different things that will help a child to be ready for entering a more formal school setting - practically, emotionally and educationally. It refers to things like:
- being able to hold a pencil correctly
- being able to put on their shoes and coat
- being able to go to the toilet on their own and wash their own hands
- being able to play with others
- being able to share (well, most of the time!!)
- being able to sit still for a short time
- being able to hold a book correctly
- being able to listen to instructions – and even follow them, on a good day!
All children come into school at different points on this range of skills and no child is going to tick all the boxes, so don’t panic. But there are good reasons to work towards these skills….
5. Work towards these skills
Clearly, it is fruitless for you to try to encourage your newborn baby to hold a pencil, or use the toilet independently! These skills take time to acquire. But, the time to start is now. To begin with, just talk to your baby, look at them, read them stories, give them time to explore their environment through kicking and touching. If you talk to, and have conversations with your child, you will be helping them to focus, to learn about communication and to develop their own language skills. If you allow them to explore you will be helping them to find out about the world around them. If you ask them questions you will be developing their own questioning skills. If you let them play with rattles, bricks, puzzles and shakers you will be developing the muscles in their hands which will lead to good motor control for skills like holding a pencil, using scissors, doing up their coat buttons. All of these simple things will be preparing their brain for learning. You will be helping them to learn and to develop skills which will last them for a lifetime.
If you found the information in this article interesting and informative, then please share it with others.
[ii] Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. (2018). Three Core Concepts in Early Development. [online] Available at: https://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/three-core-concepts-in-early-development/ [Accessed 16 Oct. 2018].
[iii] https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/418819/Are_you_ready_Good_practice_in_school_readiness.pdf. (2018).