Why is the first 5 years of a child’s life so important?

Why is the first 5 years of a child’s life so important?

From birth to age five, a child’s brain develops more than at any other time in their life.

This early brain development has a long-lasting impact on a child’s ability to learn and succeed both academically and socially. The quality of a child’s experiences in the first few years of life, both positive or negative, helps to shape how their brain develops.

While the field of neuroscience is continuously developing, we already have a lot of good information that can help us understand our children’s early brain development.

Brain development in children

The brain is essentially the command centre for the body. Early in your child’s life, they will start to form synapses or neural connections in the brain at a faster rate than at any other time of life. At least one million new neural connections are made every second! They’re actually producing many more than they need, and not all of them will make it to adulthood. This allows them to learn things more quickly than adults do.

When your little one arrives, a lot of work and growth has already been done in the womb. But, there’s still a lot more growing to do. At birth, your child already has almost all of the neurons they’ll need for the rest of their lives even though their brain is generally only a quarter of the size of the average adult brain.

Most people are familiar with the “soft spot” on a baby’s head. These soft spots are called fontanelles and exist because your child’s skull is not fully fused at birth. This serves the dual purpose of helping the head fit through the birth canal and allowing room for the brain to grow quickly during early childhood. Amazingly, the brain will double in size in just the first year. It will keep growing to about 80% of adult size by age 3 and 90%, nearly full grown – by age 5.

What are the different areas of the brain used for?

Different areas of the brain are responsible for different abilities, like movement, language and emotion. These different areas also develop at different rates. Brain development builds on itself, as connections eventually link with each other in more complex ways enabling your child to move and speak and think in more multifaceted ways.

The brain is divided into three sections, the cerebrum, brainstem, and cerebellum:

  • The cerebrum (front of brain) is composed of the right and left hemispheres. The functions of the cerebrum include: movement, coordination, temperature, touch, vision, hearing, speech and language, judgment, reasoning, problem solving, emotions, and learning.
  • This section (middle of brain) includes the midbrain, the pons, and the medulla. The functions of this area include: movement of the eyes and mouth, relaying sensory messages (hot, pain, loud), hunger, respirations, consciousness, cardiac function, body temperature, involuntary muscle movements, sneezing, coughing, vomiting, and swallowing.
  • The cerebellum (back of brain) is located at the back of the head. Its primary functions are to coordinate voluntary muscle movements and to maintain posture, balance and equilibrium.

These early years are the best opportunity for your child’s brain to develop the connections they need to be healthy, skilful and successful adults. The connections needed for many important, higher-level abilities like motivation, self-regulation, problem solving, and communication are formed in these early years. It’s much harder for these essential brain connections to be formed later in life.

Early learning from childcare

Whether or not you enrol your child in a pre-school program can often be a tough decision for many parents. While it’s a very personal choice and there are many factors that go into the decision, research compiled by Urban Child Institute  in Memphis, Tennessee shows that children enrolled in pre-kindergarten classes have improved cognitive skills, decreased risk of developmental delays, and improved kindergarten readiness.

Why not come in and experience our centre on a tour and meet our team and see for yourself why My Cubby House is a great choice for your family!

We welcome children aged six weeks through to six years and offer purpose-designed environments and varied learning opportunities for each age group.