Learning about how a child’s brain develops in the early years of their life is of practical worth both for the parents and educators. Rapid growth in the field of neuroscience is brining to light new amazing truths about child brain development stages. The information provided here will be useful for the parents in understanding and raising their babies.
An astonishing amount of brain development takes place during the early period of an individual’s life, called the critical period. It is when children learn an incredible number of skills and amount of information that they will utilize to function in the rest of their lives.
Here is a concise and easy-to-understand guide to the child brain development stages. But before you dive into the child’s developing brain, it is pertinent to get a rudimentary understanding of the inner structure and working of your brain.
Basic Brain Terminology:
Basic Structural and Functional Units:
The specialized cells found in your brain and the spinal cord are called the brain cells or neurons. Their job is to transmit messages to and from the brain with the help of electrical signals.
Synapses are the structures that join a neuron’s tail (axon) to another neuron’s head and allow the passage of electrical signals through them.
The body system comprised of the brain, the spinal cord and the nerves is called the nervous system. Forming the peripheral part of the nervous system, the nerves receive input from the body through senses and communicate it to the brain through the spinal cord. After recognizing and processing the received data, the brain sends a response to the affected area.
It is a long string of nervous tissue extending down your spine and acting as a pathway to send sensory information to the brain and motor information from the brain.
Containing the medulla and pons, the brainstem connects the brain to the spinal cord. Its job is to relay messages to the entire body and control the most basic functions, like breathing.
Located at the back, it is the small portion of your brain sitting just behind and above the brainstem. In Latin, the word “cerebellum” literally means “little brain”.
Composed of the cerebral cortex, it is the largest part of your brain. Its distinguishable two parts, called the cerebral hemispheres (or the left brain and the right brain) are connected by corpus collosum.
Child Brain Development Stages:
Surprisingly, a human’s brain undergoes an impressive amount of development during pregnancy which acts as the foundation of the baby’s intelligence for the rest of life.
The neural plate, formed during the prenatal brain development, curves into the neural tube which segments into four distinctive parts, called the forebrain, midbrain, hindbrain, and spinal cord. Starting at just over two weeks, this development is finished up by the 7th week of pregnancy.
Responsible for voluntary actions, the cerebral cortex is the last part of the child’s brain that gets matured before birth.
During the early period of their life, a child goes through an amazing transformation. Starting as a helpless infant, it develops the skills and abilities like walking, talking, reading, critical thinking, and displaying advanced social interactions in a school setting.
Birth to 3-Years:
Although a baby’s brain at birth is only 25% of the size of an adult brain, it contains all the neurons needed for the rest of life. Judith Graham of the University of Maine Cooperative Extension reports that a baby’s brain contains about 100 billion neurons at the time of birth.
According to Sean Brotherson of the North Dakota State University Extension, a child develops a functional architecture of neural networks from their birth to age 3. The neurons unconnected at the time of birth begin to make connections with one another.
Under the influence of environmental stimuli, the brain forms about 1,000 trillion synapses (also called the pathways of connection), reports Brotherson.
Age 3 to 11:
From age 3 to 11, the brain hungrily responds to new learning experiences. During this period in the child brain development stages, fine motor coordination, vision, language and emotions keep on undergoing richer complexity.
According to a report by the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, the child finds it easy to learn second language and develop the skills like drawing and playing an instrument during the first decade of their lives.