The first years of life are the most important for baby’s brain development. Once they are exposed to early developmental activities, like touching, hugging, being sung to, being read to, or listening to music, are just some of the important activities which impact on the baby’s brain development in the early years. In addition, a mother’s healthy diet also helps to keep the baby’s brain nourished and on track.

Quality family life also contributes to the total development of the child throughout life. Where there is an absence of blood relations, substitute friends or neighbours may be adopted.

Fortunately, there are prime times for the development of important skills, referred to as “windows of opportunity.” Some of these “windows” start opening before the baby is born, and may close at different stages of the child’s early years and still others continue to open into their adult years. Even after the windows are closed beyond their prime time for closing, all is not lost. However, more effort, time and energy are needed to teach the missing skills.

When the baby is born, it’s the brain that is a jumble of neurons all waiting to be woven into the intricate tapestry of the mind. By birth, the neurons that control the genes of the fertilised egg and also control the heart beat, breathing, temperature and reflexes are already wired. The amount of connections in the brain can increase or decrease by 25 percent, dependent on the child’s environment, early childhood stimulation and social interactions the child may have in his first two years. These early experiences determine whether a child grows up to be intelligent or dull; fearful or self assured; articulate or tongue tied or loving and trusting of the adults in his environment. Windows of opportunity usually close at different times during the childhood and adult years, and in some instances they never close.

The neurons of the brain that represent the sounds that make words are usually wired by one year of age. The more words the toddler is exposed to by age two, the larger his vocabulary will grow as he gets older and he will also use words in their proper context. The window of opportunity for learning language closes by age ten. For ease of learning, a second language should be introduced before age ten, and will be learnt with ease. There are instances where toddlers are bilingual because their parents speak two different languages and they have learnt both languages simultaneously.

The windows for Motor Control, Maths and Language all open at birth and continue to develop through the Early Childhood years to beyond the adult years, as long as children are exposed to activities which will nurture their language, problem solving and intellectual development through early stimulation activities.

Simple activities like identifying many and few, same and different, help toddlers develop simple concepts in Maths. Helping set the table for the family is also a good activity to teach one to one relationships. This is also a good time to learn simple number concepts, colours and shapes.

The window of opportunity for emotional control and demonstration of emotional attachments start before birth until the child is two years of age. This window is only open during the first two years of life. Much of this development depends on how the caring adults in the child’s life demonstrate their love and raises the child to demonstrate his language of love, security and caring. In this area the window of opportunity is only open for the first two years of the child’s life.

Eric Erikson, a psychologist, defined the areas and stages of human emotional development, the first of which is trust verus mistrust. This stage falls between birth and two years of age. After this period it is not impossible to develop these qualities but it is more difficult and requires much more effort and hard work. He claims that if trust is not developed by age two, mistrust takes its place. Consequently, these children have difficulty building meaningful relationships well into adult life. Abuse of children’s emotions in their first two years, leaves them with a grave disability of not knowing how to trust others in their environment and they fail to develop emotional life skills for the rest of their life, instead they learn to mistrust their environments and the people therein.

To develop trust adults need to be responsive to children’s cries from birth. It is also important that their environments are consistent and responsive to their needs, which might be to meet not only their primary needs, for food or being clean, but also for having higher order needs met, such as being hugged or spoken to, sung to, or played with. When there are deficiencies, they carry over into their adult lives as trust is the basis of all adult relationships throughout life. When a child cries in his early years, he is not being spiteful or wicked or any other negative thing, but because some primary needs are not being met, like the need for food but also some higher order needs for love and interaction with others for example, is missing in their day.

It is important for us to learn the unspoken language of the young infant and go through a process of elimination while talking to your child. “Well you’re crying but you are not hungry, nothing is hurting you. Perhaps you need some music, or company or human interaction.”

Some parents learn to recognise their child’s needs from the sound of their cries. This process is called “tuning into baby’s needs”. Still others learn to recognise the different meanings of the sounds they make when they cry. Can you imagine how rewarding it is for a non-verbal child and a receptive parent, when they can communicate with each other?

Source: Trinidad News -,98108.html