Did you know that your child’s brain develops faster in the first 1,000 days of their life than at any other time? Neurologists reveal that 90 percent of your child’s brain develops by the time they turn five.
In fact, this process begins from the uterus and continues well into adulthood, but it develops at a much faster rate in the early years of life.
Till the age of five, your child’s brain is the most “plastic,” which means it has the maximum capacity to observe, adapt, and also learn new skills. However, not every child’s brain develops at the same pace and in a similar manner.
So, when people say “start them young,” this is exactly what they mean!
A child’s brain development depends on a mix of genetics, nutrition right from the uterus, and also their early environment and interactions with people. How it develops in the early years also lays the foundation for their future learning and relationships with other people.
What are the different child brain development stages? Here’s everything you need to know.
How your Baby’s brain develops inside the womb
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Brain cell creation and neuronal migration are the two major processes that take place inside the uterus. After the brain cells are created, one of their main functions is to form the actual brain.
When you are in the first trimester, nerve connections are built and it enables your baby to move around in the womb. When you move to the second trimester, more nerve connections and brain tissue are formed.
In the third trimester, the cerebral cortex starts to take over from the brain stem, preparing your baby for future learning.
However, exposure to any kind of stress, infections, and toxins-either in the womb or post-birth, can influence your child’s brain development and not in a good way.
Hence, health experts lay stress on the expectant mum eating healthy foods and getting plenty of rest to mitigate stress.
Babies start developing their motor and sensory systems in utero.
- Touch is the first sensation that they develop. By 11 weeks, they begin using their hands and feet to feel the environment and their own bodies.
- Your baby’s ears develop by about 27 weeks of gestation, your baby can respond to sounds and vibrations such as your heartbeat or ultrasound when applied to your baby. As time goes by, they will also start recognizing and responding to your and your partner’s voice as well.
- Eyesight also starts developing during pregnancy, but it is not as clear as hearing. At birth, a child’s vision is mostly blurry.
Child Brain Development Stages: Birth to 1 year
Image courtesy: iStock
During this stage, there are three main processes that take place.
One such process is neurons making new connections with one another. This helps to wire together different parts of the brain that need to work together and communicate effectively.
Pruning is the second process. Early on, the brain makes extra cells and connections for flexibility, but then it finds that there are connections that it doesn’t really need. It is the brain’s way of removing connections in the brain that are extra or no longer needed.
The third process is white matter development or myelination. The process begins around birth and is most rapid in the first two years and continues almost as late as 30 years of age. This process neurons get used up and they are wrapped in a little coating of white matter. It helps messages to travel faster and more efficiently.
- In the first three months, your newborn will go from wobbly-headed to being able to lift its head and chest. They will learn to smile and grasp things in their hands. Their visions also start to get better and they are able to recognize faces from afar.
- Around the four to six months stage, your baby will start to raise their arms and eventually sit up if helped to a sitting position. They will get hold of more objects and try sticking them in their mouths. By this time, they will also start distinguishing colors and different patterns. Some babies in this stage may also begin babbling and learning to sense different emotions from different voice tones.
- By the time your baby turns nine months old, they will be able to roll over and even sit up without much help. Their babbling will start to make a little more sense. You will find your little one getting more anxious around strangers because at this stage they have learned to recognize family members.
- When they are around one, the baby’s cognition improves drastically. They can also learn to respond to requests and utter words like “Mumma,” “Daddy” among others.
Baby Brain Development Stages: 1 to 3 years of age
At this stage, complex brain functions start to develop, aside from the sensory and motor developments. There are developments in the brain that support logic, reasoning, and emotional processing.
- By this time, your baby is learning to speak in short sentences
- They are also learning to walk, climb, kick and draw
- In this age group, your kids are able to follow basic instructions and have conversations
- They are also able to point to objects like books and get excited about the kids around them
Child Brain Development Stages: 4 to 6 years of age
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During this time, the fusion between myelination and pruning continues, enabling your child to learn complex concepts and skills.
The big one is ‘how to read‘ and this skill is quite new. Experts say that there is nothing in our DNA that’s specifically designed to help us read.
So by the time your child is four years old, they will learn to read because they are able to link languages, cognitive and visual processing regions together and more efficiently.
In contrast, a two-year-old won’t be able to do the same.
- Typically kids in this age group will start reading
- They will also be able to count, identify colors, sing rhymes, and complete tasks. You will also find them staying calm amidst unexpected changes, and also learn to play with friends.
Elizabeth Norton, Ph.D., director of the Language, Education and Reading Neuroscience Lab at Northwestern University, tells Fatherly that a parent won’t be able to understand if their child’s brain is developing normally or not.
So the best way to benchmark is to look for milestones at each stage. For instance, when a toddler learns to smile or starts speaking in sentences.
These milestones are essentially manifestations of new connections that are being made inside your child’s developing brain.
Parents do need to remember that all these milestones are not set in stone. So please don’t be alarmed if your child’s brain development is not in line with the age at which most kids experience them.
You can discuss with your baby’s pediatrician if you are concerned about a missed milestone. Having said that, do not forget to enjoy your baby’s growth journey with each day bringing something new.
Republished with permission from theAsianparent Singapore