The phase wherein the brain cell connections are more flexible and receptive to the influence of life experiences occurs in the first five years of a person’s life.
In an article published by First Things First, a publicly funded source on early childhood, it says 90 percent of brain growth happens before kindergarten. The first few years are crucial for making the synapses, or connections, between the brain cells (neurons) as most brain processes during this period will have an impact on the developing brain.
Billions of brain cells send electrical signals to communicate to each other. These connections form circuits and become the basic foundation of brain architecture. Circuits and connections multiply at a fast phase and are strengthened through repeated use.
According to Harvard University’s Center on the Developing Child, the early years provide the “building blocks” for successful “architecture of the brain.” The higher-level abilities that come later in life, such as problem-solving, emotional maturity, and communication, the center says, are developed and formed through brain connections made during the first five years.
In addition to positive daily experiences and care, studies also show that in the first five years, nutrition plays a crucial role in brain development.
Sarah E. Cusick, Ph.D., and Michael K. Georgieff, MD state that among the factors that influence early brain development, three stand out as having particularly intense effects: provision of optimal nutrition including brain food, presence of strong social support and/or secure attachment, and the reduction of toxic stress and inflammation.
Proper nutrition helps regulate brain development. Brain boosting food items include milk, eggs, fish, green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds, citrus fruits, and berries. For infants, the most accessible source is milk with phospholipids.
Development and behavioral pediatricians recommend parents to be proactive in finding the right information, tools, counseling, and planning; taking advantage of the window of opportunity to help in the child’s early life brain connections which have a lasting effect on a child’s ability to learn and succeed.