Brain development: why the early years count

In the first years of a child’s life, their brain development will create the foundations for all learning and development later in life. While genetics provide the initial ‘map’ for development, it is everyday experiences and relationships that shape a child’s brain.

A baby’s brain begins developing before birth and, in the early years, significant ‘wiring’ occurs within the brain, effectively programming the child’s development. Between two to six months a baby will learn about emotions through watching how you react to them when they coo, cry, smile or yell.

Making important connections
  • In the first nine months, a baby’s brain is forming connections between what they see, hear, taste and feel.
  • From nine months to twelve months, a baby will become increasingly vocal, as their understanding of emotions develops.
  • By the age of three, a child has around 1000 trillion brain connections (synapses), the most they will ever have in their life, as these are ‘pruned’ in later development.

These initial brain connections are formed as a result of the everyday experiences, relationships and care a child receives in their early years, and will provide the foundations for further brain development later in life.

What you can do

Parents, caregivers and family members play an important role in the ongoing development of a child. Providing a safe and caring environment for your child and engaging with them through talking, reading and playtime has a great influence on their early development.

Community and learning environments can also play a key role in supporting optimal development through providing support, learning opportunities and social experiences.

Image Baby crawling and smiling

Published — 15 October 2016 Last updated — 04 September 2018

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