Caregivers play a vital role in brain development

Learn more about how your baby’s brain develops and what you can do to foster healthy growth.

Experiences and interactions with the environment play a vital role in a baby's development. Photo credit: Pixabay.

Experiences and interactions with the environment play a vital role in a baby's development. Photo credit: Pixabay.

Michigan State University Extension recognizes that parents and caregivers play a vital role in fostering their baby’s healthy brain development. They also provide the experiences that lay the groundwork for their child’s abilities in learning, relationships, motor functions and emotions. When a baby is born, his brain is approximately half the size of an adult brain; by age 3, it is about 80 percent of the size of an adult brain. During this three year time period, your child will learn more than any other time in her life.

During pregnancy, babies’ brains form billions of brain cells. These brain cells begin making connections with one another, creating connections called “synapses.” At birth, babies are able to breathe, hear, suck and startle because of these synapses. Even more synapses are made in the first few months and year of life, while others fall away. Making and breaking connections is related to the child’s experiences. As you feed, hold, touch and talk to your baby, you are sending messages to their brain creating pathways between synapses. These connections will determine everything about how a child functions in the world.

Although genetics play a significant roles in your baby’s future potential development, their experiences and interactions with the environment also plays a vital role. Babies’ environment include a variety of things from the foods and substances that mothers consume while pregnant to the love, toys, social interaction and language they experience after birth. 

Babies’ early experiences cause physical changes to their brain. Neglect of a child’s need for love and stimulation can affect brain development that can lead to lifelong struggles. However, a nurturing, loving bond encourages brain growth and development that can lead to a lifetime of success.

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