|A peek at the early
stages of brain development and how early childhood education encourages
brain growth, memory and language development in babies and young preschool
a baby's brain already has 100,000,000,000 cells. This is about
the same number of stars in the Milky Way. Unlike the rest of a
new baby's body, the brain is not complete at birth. In order to
start working, the cells need to communicate with each other. As
a baby starts to experience life, connections are made between cells -
the more connections there are, the more the brain can do.
A baby's brain develops
so fast that by age two a child who is developing normally has the same
number of connection as an adult. By age three, a child has TWICE
as many brain connections as an adult.
in brain growth.
4 months: The
infant's brain responds to every sound produced in all the languages of
8 to 9 months:
Babies can form specific memories from their experiences, such as how
to push a ball to make it roll.
10 months: Babies
can now distinguish and even produce the sounds of their own language
(such as "da-da") and no longer pay attention to the sounds of language
that are foreign.
Babies whose parents say, for example, "Lookeee at the doggiee," will
go to the appropriate picture of a dog in a picture book more often than
those babies who are talked to in normal, flatter voices.
12 to 18 months:
Babies can keep in memory something that has been hidden and find it again,
even if it has been completely covered up. They can also hold memory
sequences of simple activities, such as winding up a Jack-in-the-box until
the figure pops up.
Preschool children now have clear pictures in mind of people who are dear
to them, and they get upset when separated from these people (even their
Preschool children can hold in mind a whole sequence of spatial maps and
know where things are in their environment.
A preschool child can now hold two different emotions in his mind at the
same time, such as being sad that he spilled ice cream on his clothes
but glad that he's at a birthday party.
Preschool Education Helps
Whenever an adult speaks directly
and personally to a preschool child, cascades of impulses go through the
child's neurons (nerve cells), which are connected to one another by synapses.
The repetition of these kinds of positive early interactions actually
helps the brain reinforce the existing connections and make new ones.
By a couple of months of age,
babies can process the emotional contours of language (prosody), which
means they tune in to the emotional variations in your voice. (In fact,
toddlers can memorize nursery rhymes because rhymes have prosody!)
As the preschool teacher raises her voice an octave and draws out her
vowels, the child's brain responds by sending even more chemical and electrical
impulses across the synapses.
Early childhood teachers are
careful to have small groups for story
time so that preschool children are able to get involved and process information.
Young children need real interactions in order to learn. As she
reads, the teacher will use melodic voice tones to ensure children's involvement
Free play / Work time
During free play, preschool
children interact with one another. As they communicate, whether
through beginning language or more sophisticated use of words, the neurons
in their brains are making more connections, critical for reinforcing
Further opportunities for communication
lead to the repetition of impulses sent through the brain. The more
repetition that goes on, the more the brain grows sure in its understanding.
Repetition of language sounds is crucial to brain development.
As the early childhood caregiver
focuses her attention on each individual child in the large
group activity, the child must think about the topic for the day.
The child's brain will be active as he/she retrieves from
memory something special in her own personal history that she has learned.
Each day children reap the benefits of preschool education.
development information from an article in Scholastic
& Child, by Alice Sterling Honig, Ph.D. April/May 1999