Your Child's Brain
Your baby’s brain is built over time: It starts during pregnancy, and continues through to early adulthood. And like a building, it needs a strong foundation.
The brain is made up of several different areas that control everything we do—from hearing and walking to problem-solving and how we feel. Each area has millions of brain cells, or neurons. These neurons communicate with each other by passing chemical messages over tiny spaces called synapses. As the messages are repeated over and over, more links are made and “neural pathways” are formed. Think of these pathways as the brain’s “wiring.” In the first years of life, these connections develop at an extremely fast pace.
So how does this development happen? That’s where parents come in. You can help your baby’s brain develop in healthy ways. It doesn’t take special toys or equipment, and it’s easier than you might think!
How parents can support healthy development
- Your baby’s brain needs a strong foundation.
- Loving, consistent, positive relationships help build healthy brains and protect your baby’s brain from the negative effects of stress.
- Everyday experiences help shape your baby’s brain—from your daily routines to the people your baby comes in contact with.
Did you know?
- Your baby’s brain wiring is not fully connected at birth. It is very active, changing and developing in response to what’s going on all around them. It is the day-to-day experiences—activities like playing, being read to, learning, and interacting and being responded to by people—that helps to develop your baby’s brain.
- How well all the wiring gets set up—that is, how your baby’s brain develops—will affect her ability to learn language, solve problems, and do well in school. Later in life, it can affect her physical and emotional health and how she gets along with other people.
- Relationships are crucial. Loving, consistent, positive relationships help build healthy brains and protect your baby’s brain from the negative effects of stress.
- Even very young infants can experience stress when the places they live and play in feel unsafe, or are frightening. “Toxic” stress—which is much more serious than short-lived, everyday stress—is caused by persistent problems like extreme marital conflict, poverty, abuse, neglect, being exposed to violence, having a parent who misuses drugs or alcohol, or having a parent with an untreated mental illness. Toxic stress is harmful to your baby’s developing brain. It can lead to physical, learning and emotional problems in childhood, and these problems can carry on right into adulthood. If you’re concerned about the situation in your home, talk to your doctor or your baby’s doctor.
develop in healthy ways. it doesn’t
take special toys or equipment, and
its easier than you might think!