How Brain Development Blossoms From Ages 2-7
Before neuroimaging, many neuroscientists believed that only young brains could be expanded. They believed that all the brain’s memory-holding cells (neurons) were present at birth and that all or most of the connections between these neurons developed in the first year of childhood and then becomes permanent. We know that lifelong growth of the supporting and connecting cells enriching the communication between memory-holding cells, allied with associated increases in cognition and social-emotional skill sets, actively continues far beyond that first year.
In the first year or two after birth, most of the brain’s development and activity is programmed for automatic, involuntary, reflexive, and reactive behaviors and information acquisition to ensure survival and fulfill children’s basic needs.
This time of their lives and brain development is exciting and moves faster with enhanced responsiveness that constructs new connections amongst neurons. The growth phase happens between ages 2 and 7, as children’s brains dramatically develop the wiring conducive to information storage, communication, reasoning, and understanding. Each child develops at a unique pace.
In actuality, these critical periods in a child’s overall development that happen in bursts. One starts at the age of 2, and another begins in adolescence. During this time, the connections (called synapses) between brain cells double. For instance, your two-year-old has twice as many synapses as a grown person! That is why these early years are a prime time for kids to observe everything around them, learn, and grow. At the ages of 2-7, kids can learn faster than any other period in life. Their brain development matters considerably both before and after that span, but it is especially essential in those years between 2-7.
How can we assist in children during the brain development phase of early childhood? To do so, we can:
Instill a love for learning
Kids need to enjoy the road to learning instead of focusing on performance. Educators and parents can reinforce the joys of trying new activities and learning something fun. They need to help children realize that mistakes are a welcome, normal part of learning that every learner must go through.
This age group is an important time to establish a growth mindset. People who believe in a growth mindset think that talents and abilities are developed through effort instead of being innately fixed. Not only this, but they also believe that educators should also avoid labeling children or making global statements about their ability. They should emphasize persistence and create safe spaces for learning. Also, show enthusiasm over the learning process; doing so would generate a love for learning.
Provide kids with exposure to as much as possible
During this phase of brain development, it is advisable to emphasize skill development over depth and performance. Exposing kids to a large variety of activities lays a foundation for developing skills in several fields. Early childhood is the best time to expose children to music, reading, sports, math, art, science, and languages; because during this period, kids’ brains are at the developing stage and are ready to retain a range of skill sets. In a nutshell, we should stop calling this phase a “sampling period.” This is a window during which develops children’s range. Moreover, there is plenty of time for them to specialize later.
Emotional intelligence is key
Often, educators neglect the emotional intelligence of their learners. However, during early childhood, we should be teaching kids everything there is to know about emotional intelligence. You should start by helping children in this age group first label their emotions and then convey the story about what made them feel that way. Once children start practicing labeling emotions, educators can ask questions that encourage them to consider others’ feelings. The other way to encourage others’ care to include children in what adults do for others, for example, having them to help in household chores.
Early childhood education is essential
For the ages of 2-7, kid’s brains can retain and absorb incredible amounts of information. For example, in research, children in this age range are best suited to learn language development patterns, enabling them to master a second language to the same level as a native language. Once children reach their 8th birthday, their language learning proficiency decreases, and second languages are not spoken and native. The same age effect is found when a child learns musical abilities such as perfect pitch.
It is easy and en vogue to think of early childhood as a forerunner to “real” education, but these years may be the period that matters most. The age of 2-7 critical for an “overall and proper” brain development of a child.