Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Did you know that most brain growth happens by the time a child is three years old?

How many brain cells do we have at birth?

A baby is born with a lifetime supply of brain cells (billions of neurons).
From the time we are born, these brain cells begin to die. By the time we are adults, we have half the brain cells we did when we were born!

What happens then?

At birth, pathways (“synapses”) are formed to join one neuron to another so that information can travel around in the brain. It is as if we have “construction workers” building “roads” in our brains. This is called “brain wiring”.

How do the “construction workers” know when to build a “road”?

When a baby senses things (sees, hears, smells, touches, tastes), the construction workers say, “Hey guys, come on! We have to build a road over here!”

What makes the “roads” (synapses) strong and healthy?

REPETITION—when babies experience the same things over and over again, the “construction crews” pave the “roads” adding more layers with each repeated experience.
“Paved roads” make it much easier for information to find its way around in the brain.

Why start early?

90% of “road construction” is done by the time a child is three years old.
If they have a lot of “paved roads” by the time they are three, it will make learning easier later on (just like driving on a paved road is easier than driving on a bumpy, dusty dirt road.

Connection between a brain and a sponge?
A baby’s brain is like a sponge. It will soak up new skills as long as there are lots of opportunities.

Critical Periods of Brain Development

Binocular vision: Birth-3 years
Emotional control: 9 months-3 years
Habitual ways of responding: 6 months-3 years
Peer social skills: 3-6 years
Language: 7 months-4 years
Cognitive (Symbols): 1 year, 6 months-3 years
Cognitive (quantity): 4-6 years

SOURCE: Martha Kovack, Early Literacy Specialist, Simcoe County Ontario Early Years Centre

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