The foundations of all the capacities that people need to be successful in life are established in early childhood. Scientific discoveries reveal that opportunities to promote brain development occur much earlier than previously believed:
At birth, a baby's brain contains over 100 billion immature neurons. With stimulation, these cells send signals to other cells and begin to form connections, called synapses.
The stimulation needed for these connections to form comes from everyday experiences from the moment the baby is born.
The more frequent the experience, the stronger the synaptic connection.
A baby's brain produces trillions of synapses, more than can possibly be used. Synapses not stimulated through repeated experiences are pruned and die.
In other words, early experiences literally shape how the brain gets built. As connections form stronger, more entrenched pathways, the structure for all future learning and health is incrementally built. A strong foundation increases the likelihood that children will develop the positive social, emotional, cognitive and physical skills they will need to be healthy children and healthy future citizens.
Child development occurs in all areas at the same time - you can't do one without the other. Physical, cognitive, emotional and social development are inextricably linked and influenced by the developing brain.
Brain connections are formed through stimulation - and relationships are the key. The reciprocal, two- way, "serve and return" nature of them are what create the type of experiences that build healthy brains, bodies and minds. It is the everyday experiences, such as engaging an infant in smiles, reading to a baby, teaching a toddler about emotions, helping a preschooler learn to deal with fears - in other words, guidance, communication and warmth - that best support healthy development.