New imaging technologies have allowed neurobiologists to gain a lot of valuable insight into the brains of living adults and children.


Brain fact: Brains are ready for learning from birth.

The human brain function and development grows amazingly fast, starting from day one in the womb. By age 6, your baby's brain will be almost adult-sized. Even at birth, babies' brains contain millions of brain cells, which are called neurons.

Brain fact: Brain connections are strengthened with experience.

Insight on Brain Development

Brain connections are called synapses. Thousands and thousands of them are formed with everyday experiences. Synapses are crucial because they transmit brain impulses, which control body functions, thinking, feeling, learning, memory, and language.

Your toddler has a new toy, which he is exploring with lots of energy. His brain cells are firing away, and new synapses may occur. Toddlers' brains will make many more synapses than needed for good brain functioning. Synapses that are used frequently will be strengthened and remain. Those that are not will eventually disappear. So by hugging and reading to your toddler, you can encourage the growth and strengthening of brain connections.

Brain fact: The front part of the brain is involved in goal-oriented behaviors.

An important aspect of early toddler development involves increasing the connections to neurons in the front part of the brain, particularly the area called the prefrontal cortex. These connections start to increase toward the end of the first year—and continue until the end of adolescence. The prefrontal cortex is sometimes called the area of our “Executive Functions” because it is involved in many goal-directed behaviors such as organizing activities, planning, problem-solving, and evaluation of our own behaviors. Toddlers show beginning signs of executive functioning when they slowly and carefully try to match a set of puzzle pieces to a puzzle board.

Other Recommended Books for Parents

  • Caring for Your Baby and Child, Birth to Age 5. The American Academy of Pediatrics, Shelov, S.P.
  • The Myth of the First Three Years: A New Understanding of Early Brain Development and Lifelong Learning. Eliot, L.
  • What's Going On in There? How the Brain and Mind Develop in the First Five Years of Life, Goldberg E.
  • The Executive Brain: Frontal Lobes and the Civilized Mind, Marcus, G.
  • The Birth of the Mind: How a Tiny Number of Genes Creates the Complexities of Human Thought, Brownell, C.A. and Kopp, C.B.
  • Socioemotional Development in the Toddler Years: Transitions and Transformations, Guilford Press.

References:

  1. Ramey C, Ramey S. Right from Birth. Building Your Child's Foundation for Life. New York, NY: Goddard; 1999.
  2. Shore R. Rethinking the Brain: New Insights into Early Development. New York, NY: Families and Work Institute; 1997.