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Core Concepts in Early Brain Development

The Core Concepts in Early Development for Brain Growth

While we are all born with a predetermined set of genes which play a role in how our brains function and develop, there is a discussion about the “Nature vs. Nurture” aspects of brain growth in infancy through into adolescence. It is discussed that there are three main areas in which the brain develops from birth into adulthood. They are: Biological, Psychological and Emotional development. Each one contributes to the physical development of the architecture of the brain.

Biological Development: Includes the complex development of the brain’s plasticity. This is greatest in the first 2 years of a child’s life, and markedly decreases as we age. Birth to 2 years old is when the most rapid brain development occurs.

Psychological Development: Involves the “serve and return” or cause and effect types of interactions and are fundamental in wiring the brain effectively to increase the chances of high level learning as children go through childhood (ages 2 – 12 years).

Emotional Development: The ability to cope with and handle stress. Even at a young age, it is important for us to experience short lived stress scenarios to promote brain development and coping skills, but it is imperative to remember that too much is considered “toxic stress” and becomes a negative instead of a positive. Adults need to buffer the stressors that become present in a child’s life so they don’t start to negatively impact and physically, literally, weaken brain architecture.

To break it down even farther, there are 4 main sub-category stages of Intellectual Growth (affecting neuroplasticity).

Baby surprised looking at the plastic fish. Isolated on white background

Our brain plasticity is in its key developmental stage when we are between the ages of birth to 2 years old.

SensorimotorKnowledge of the outside world is completely limited to the feedback received by the 5 senses and behaviors are dependent on how an outside stimulus will cause a motor response.
Beneficial Activities:

  • Swatting/Grabbing activities – involving anything the infant can repeatedly swat at and grab for sensory feedback of the 5 senses.
  • Scarf Game – where the scarf is utilized in a peek-a-boo method requiring the adult to present differences in the environment each time the child is re-exposed to a scenario, and the infant begins to recognize the differences which are presented.
  • Tactile Play – offering a variety of tactile feedback toys or environments, such as warm/cold, sticky, wet/dry, coarse/fine.
  • Auditory Games – which include exposure to different purposeful sounds and explanations behind them, including concepts like loud/quiet, high and low pitches, different frequencies.
  • Taste Testing – exposure to all things edible is important during this time frame, especially after the first year of life.
  • What’s that Smell Game – employ the smell sense as often as you can, using highly colorful and expressive language to describe what the scent is.

PreoperationalA period of semi-rapid growth between the ages of 2 – 6 years where a child learns language development but does not have the capability to think logically yet, and cannot mentally manipulate information. It is very factual and cut and dry to them. They cannot adopt the view points of those around them.
Beneficial Activities:

  • Letter and number recognition – any game or lesson that involves learning the basic foundations for number and letter concepts (think beyond the workbook, make learning fun!).
  • Color Play – use any and every activity to discuss colors, from sports to playing with toys in the tub.
  • Language Development – exposure to different languages at this age is the perfect time for learning them.
  • Patterning – this doesn’t just have to be numbers, you can teach pattern concepts with things like toys, schedules and routines, colors, designs, music, etc.

Concrete OperationalThe period of developmental growth between 6 – 11 years where the child begins to develop a higher understanding of concrete events and the impacts they have on them. They still do not grasp abstract or hypothetical concepts well.
Beneficial Activities:

  • Formal Education of all Subjects – whether you are choosing to home school or send your child into the educational system, this is where all of those more abstract ideas you taught your child as an infant start to become more concrete and make more sense in the world around them.
  • Formal Language Development – this is really the best time for the function of a brain to learn new languages. Think about putting your child in a language immersion program, or take up studying one together at home.

Formal Operational By this point, ages 12 to adulthood, the brain is almost fully written, which doesn’t mean we no longer have the ability to learn, it just determines how well and how successfully we can retain information from then on. At this stage of growth, we have developed the ability to think abstractly and routinely employ such concepts as deductive reasoning, logistics, and systematic planning.
Beneficial Activities:

  • Continued Formal Learning – Learning never ends, regardless of your age. Even if you are in your later years, life throws situations at you which you are learning from on a regular basis. You should always seek to keep your brain healthy and functioning well by learning something new. Take up an interest in something you didn’t think you had time for prior to now. Read, research, and recite to keep your brain’s plasticity firing well. The quest for knowledge is the one thing that should withstand the tests of time and should never end. Stagnancy in learning is what harms our brains as we age. We have to always be challenging ourselves with activities that make us memorize and remember the things we’ve learned.

At Kids In Harmony, we literally have a multitude of items to assist you in your quest for teaching and learning, both. It’s something as simple as offering your child a musical, colorful bath toy, or offering your 1 year old a variety of chunky puzzles to sit down and play with as you describe the shapes, colors and concepts. Puppet play can teach relationship interactions. Playmobil can illustrate how communities and cities are built and how people interact. Arts and crafts teach how imagination and colors go together, and how art can impact people. That’s just the tip of the iceberg.  So if there’s a skill that you want to start working on with your child, so you foster the development of the architecture of the brain in its prime developmental stages, you should come check out Kids In Harmony and see what we’ve got that can make learning those concepts more fun! Also remember that when you shop at Kids In Harmony, you are supporting your local economy, so your hard earned dollars go back into your valued local community! Totally win-win.

We look forward to seeing you soon!
The Kids In Harmony Team 🙂

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