Did you know that from pregnancy to two is actually only 1000 days! AMAZING, right? Especially when you think about how massively your baby changes and grows in that time! When I heard about the first 1000 days of life, it totally changed the course of my career - that’s how powerful I found the information I learned! I changed from being a teacher and education researcher to working with parents and parents-to-be to build their baby’s learning. So, I wanted to share it with you here, because it’s just not talked about enough, I don’t think.
‘The First 1000 Days’ - well when’s this measured from? Does it mean from the birth of your baby onwards, or from conception? Or does it just mean the length of time since you actually got a full night’s sleep?!! Actually, the first 1000 days refers to the time from conception until your baby's second birthday.
It turns out that this time is SUPER important for your baby and their life outcomes.
When your baby is born, only 25% of their brain will have developed. There is a huge amount of development and growth still to happen. This seems logical since the same applies to your child’s tiny body! However, unlike our physical bodies which continue to grow until the late teens (and beyond for some of us!!), your baby’s brain will be 90% developed by the age of 3. Just think about that for a moment …. by the time your baby has been on this planet for just 3 years their brain is almost fully developed. That’s a lot of brain activity in a very short space of time! No wonder your baby needs to keep going for a lie-down!
YOU affect your baby's brain development.
Studying brain science research isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, and to be honest, it wasn’t my area of specialty until I found out about the impact that these first critical days could have on the outcomes of our children and baby’s lives. Once I found out about it, I couldn’t stop reading!
Research is revealing more and more about the effect of early experiences on brain development. What’s clear from the scientific findings is that what you do (and don’t do) with your baby in these first 1000 days has a direct impact on your baby’s developing brain.
When we provide our baby with positive experiences, then we help build our baby a strong foundation for the rest of their lives. If the experiences are less positive, this foundation may be less robust. The type of foundation that is built will affect not only emotional development but also health and future learning. If a child has experiences to promote positive brain development, they’ll arrive at school ready to learn and ready to fulfill their potential.
This sounds HUGE! BUT…
…we’re not talking about complicated, deep and meaningful experiences here – what we are talking about is the simple daily interactions that you have with your baby as you go about the day - things like being spoken to, being played with, having eye contact with you and the other people who love them. Giving them activities that develop their senses, having fun and enjoying cuddles and giggles… It’s the games that you play, and the simple things that you do that make the impact that you want.
So, what actually happens during the first 1000 days?
Well, from the moment your baby is born, they have most of the nerve cells, or neurons, that they’ll need for the rest of their lives! That’s not to say that your baby’s brain doesn’t continue to learn and develop – hopefully this continues throughout the whole of life (!) – but the nuts of bolts of the structure of the brain are all there at birth, which is pretty amazing, isn’t it?! But what needs to happen is that these nerve cells need to be connected together into a complicated network that will, in turn, develop into thought processes and actions. These connections are called ‘synapses’ and they are formed rapidly during the first 1000 days - at times, about 1 million synapse connections are being made every SECOND!
So, how does this happen?
Well, every time you chat or play with your baby, or your baby experiences something new and interesting, synapses are formed. The more that are formed, the stronger the network of connections grows. If the interaction happens again, these synapse connections are strengthened. This process continues all the time.
However, if a connection isn’t used or reinforced by additional activities or experiences, then the connection withers up and dies, through a process called pruning. This is a natural and healthy part of brain development - it is just like the process of pruning a plant in the garden. And, just like pruning in a garden helps a plant to grow stronger, the process also helps the brain to grow.
Why is this important for my baby?
‘So what?’ I hear you say! ‘How does all this science actually affect me and my baby?’
Well, science has found that children whose brain synapses have been strengthened by lots of early positive experiences with their parents are better prepared for future brain development and have better life outcomes. These babies are also more prepared for when they enter school or nursery.
If a child is school-ready when they arrive at school, then they are ready to learn and fly, and this has a huge impact on their potential success. In fact, they are more likely to go on and thrive in the learning environment!
Understanding brain science when you’re coping with morning sickness and starting your parenting journey is a big ask!
Coming up with 1000 things to do with your bump, baby or toddler that support their development, helps them build the skills they need to thrive and that are grounded in research and science is almost impossible, especially when you are in that sleep-deprived state of being a new mum or dad, which is why we at Oliiki have done it for you!
We wanted you to just be able to play with your baby, safe in the knowledge that you’re doing the very best you can for them. We wanted to make it easy for you, and we wanted to support you on YOUR parenting journey which is why we built the Oliiki app – so as you play, you know you’re building your baby a strong brain and at the same time building your parenting knowledge which in turn will help support you as you go through your parenting journey.
How you interact with your baby and the experiences that you provide for your baby have an impact on the rest of their lives. It’s that important! Download the Oliiki programme today and start playing and learning through our handy to use app. It’s never too soon to start. and you can take advantage of our free 7-day trial.