Neural Plasticity In Infant & Toddler Learning: Tips For Every Parent - Healthy Planet School


Neural Plasticity In Infant & Toddler Learning: Tips For Every Parent

As a parent, you want to know the best way to support your child’s development. How can you prepare the most effective environment for enhancing his/her ability to learn, engage with others, and thrive in an ever-changing world?

In this article, we’re going to dive into the fascinating facts about your infant and toddler’s developing brain and explore all the ways an early learning environment can support and enhance your child’s intelligence and brain power.

What Is Neural Plasticity?

Neural plasticity, also called neuroplasticity or brain plasticity, is the ability of the nervous system to change itself in structure and function in response to experience (1). What does that mean exactly?

We can think of neural connections between the brain and the body as malleable, hence the term “plasticity.” Like the branches of a sapling, your child’s young brain is tender, flexible, and adaptive to stimuli in the external environment. Their brain grows from the experiences and exposure children receive.

Neuroplasticity In Early Childhood

In the first three years of life, children are exposed to more new information than at any other time in their lives. During that time, the brain is forming new connections or synapses every second.
At the time of birth, your child’s brain has about 2500 synapses per neuron. If that already sounds like a lot, consider this: By the time they reach the age of three, that number jumps to 15,000! As adults, we have only half that number of synapses, thanks to synaptic pruning, a process of removing connections that are not used regularly.

Just think about how much a child learns in these first years. They learn to intentionally move their bodies, to sit up, walk, feed themselves, dance, and more. They learn not only to speak, but also the mechanics of an entire language, and perhaps even more than one. They learn to recognize faces, voices, tastes, sounds, colors, and more––every second their brain is absorbing new information and making sense of it all.

How can we improve Neural Plasticity?

Children’s brains develop when we talk and communicate with them. Connections in the brain become stronger through communication and responsiveness. Caregivers of young children must keep in mind that it is important to engage with children in meaningful conversations.

Early learning environments must recognize and support the interconnectedness of developmental domains. That’s because learning doesn’t happen in silos; that is, our intellectual growth isn’t separate from our emotional development or our social learning. All learning is interconnected. To improve brain connections, children must first feel settled, safe and healthy, before they can start learning any academics. Parents must be mindful that a hungry, stressed or sleepy child, cannot possibly learn anything.

Children learn from and with their peers. Providing children opportunities to play with other children, observe each other and talk to each other, is the best way to develop children’s brains.
High-quality early learning environments also expose children to various stimuli that support the formation of new neural connections. Skilled caregivers and teachers create intentional learning activities that target particular learning domains, such as cognitive or brain development, and their specific skills, such as memory, visual processing, reasoning, and attention. At home too, parents can ensure that they play different types of games, read books from different genres and allow their children a choice from a variety of activities to participate in.

Remember to talk to your children, play a lot with them and let them interact with as many children as possible. Let them make friends and explore the world. That’s how they will become smarter. Try these at home and share your experiences in the comments section.