The latest research indicates that the first three years of a baby’s life are critically important in the development of social, emotional, and cognitive wellness. Our earliest experiences with the adults in our lives affect our internal blueprints and have a strong influence over later growth and future health. This early development, whether mostly nurturing, or negative and neglectful, takes hold and builds brain patterns that last a lifetime
From 0-3 years old, the brain is at its most plastic, and more than 1 million new neural connections form every second--the most active period in our lives (source: Center for the Developing Child, Harvard University, www.developingchild.harvard.edu
). Around age 3, these connections slow dramatically. The brain is malleable when we are infants, but also vulnerable to what is being experienced. When a baby has stability and positive interactions, this helps build healthy brain circuitry. When a baby has harmful or neglectful experiences, this can disrupt the healthy growth of brain structure and lead to toxic stress. The more brain circuits get used, the more they increase connectivity and form strong foundations for new skills to be learned. However, if those circuits do not develop and later become dormant, this can have a negative and lasting impact on a child’s potential learning and health (source: USAID Center on Children in Adversity, www.childreninadversity.gov
All development is built on what comes before, and early experiences have lifelong significance. After our brain patterns are already developed, it’s more difficult to go back and change them later, which is why early intervention is key. Failure to address shortfalls in development can lead to enduring consequences. This is precisely why it is important to act “right from the start” to ensure that all children are able to fulfill their potential and lead productive lives in the future.