What can you to do support your child’s brain development?

By: - 3rd January 2019

The brain is the main control center of our amazing human body. It is crucial for the growth of a newborn and other vital aspects such as cognitive, perceptual, and personality development. In this article, we will discuss the unparalleled qualities of the human brain, and focus on educating mothers on the dos and don’ts of healthy brain development of their children.

Normal brain development

Usually, a child’s brain increases by threefold in size during the first year (from one quarter the size of an adult brain to three-quarters), and by age 3, 80% of the development of the brain is completed. Moreover, the neural connections in the brain develop rapidly, using up a massive amount of energy. The biological tendency of the brain to learn is extraordinary. A 3 year old child has 1,000 trillion neural connections in the brain (double the amount in an adult brain), and connections that occur frequently will become stronger. Extra connections are terminated by age 11 with the process stopping at age 14. Finally, only the strongest and the most efficient connections will remain. The connections that remain are the ones that have been strengthened by frequent stimulation. The connections that lack frequent stimulation are phased out. If the brain is not stimulated during the early childhood for maximum development, the child will miss out on various learning opportunities during his or her lifetime.

Factors that affect brain development

Genetic factors and environmental factors (early childhood experiences) have a major influence on a child’s brain development. Genes decide the order in which the development takes place. Even before we can think, a newborn child’s brain cells are multiplied, deciding the child’s entire future. The development of speech, perception, learning, logical thinking as well as the foundation for ethics and social behaviours is established in a short duration of 36 months. The age between birth and 3 years is the most crucial time for the child’s brain development.

A child’s health, nutrition, psychosocial development, sanitation facilities, safety net, personal hygiene, successful communication, safety in the house and the surroundings, being cared for in an environment free from violence/abuse/neglect and filled with love are the factors that mainly contribute to a child’s brain development.

Apart from these, there are factors that are relevant to the child’s brain development during pregnancy. Pregnant mothers should abstain from taking drugs, smoking, and alcohol as this impedes brain development of the baby. In addition, stress can cause harm to the baby, therefore it is very important to be in a relaxed mental state during the pregnancy. Also, eating raw eggs can put the baby at the risk of bacterial infections such as Salmonellosis, Listeriosis and can be detrimental to the growing fetus. Taking painkillers, anti-depressants, or other medicines without your doctor’s advice can also be harmful, therefore it is vital to always seek medical advice before taking any medicine. Furthermore, chemicals used at laboratories, beauty parlors or other places can also hinder the brain development of a child during pregnancy.

Environmental factors are also significant in a child’s brain development. Social behaviors can influence the brain intensely, and this is also important for a child’s development. Social activities with parents or older siblings are a productive way of supporting cognitive development and social skills. Therefore, social interaction is a vital factor for a child’s brain development. Taking part in sports-related programmes can also reduce the risk of delayed cognitive skills and other developments.

Physical activities too impact the brain development of a child. Exercising with your child can help develop strong muscles as well as a healthy mind. In a creative environment, a child is able to come up with various new ideas and gain experience and tools. By exposing the child to an environment rich with new experiences, your child has a better chance of being a step ahead in school. Preventing harmful stress and developing family bonds can also positively influence the brain development of your child. The reactions caused by stress can take effect very fast, harming the brain.

Emotional development is also very important for raising your child to be a good member of society. If the child doesn’t have this development, he will not understand praise and punishment, and the purpose is lost. Usually, a child responds to emotions within a short duration after birth. Yet, there is a long journey ahead for social and emotional development. Empathy is the foundation for this intelligence. Apart from this, interpersonal intelligence is also crucial. This helps the child identify their own strengths and weaknesses as well as understand the likes and tendencies of others.

By providing great care from early on, your child can be raised to be healthy, intelligent, well developed, with good interpersonal relationships and emotional intelligence. This is a strong foundation for your child to learn throughout her life.

An Article prepared by Dr. S.J. Senanayake ,Queensland University of Technology, Australia

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