What Has the Most Critical Impact on a Developing Brain?
A question that has been asked of me several times is whether I think there is one aspect of early brain development that I feel is most critical for Brain Insights to place an emphasis. When considering this, the area that immediately comes to mind is the understanding of the significance of nurturing responsiveness.
This is certainly is not the only area that is important and I will address this, but the first and primary need of a baby is to establish a trust in someone that aids in survival. The infant is helpless and needs to establish a connection with someone that will consistently and lovingly respond to expressed needs. When needs are met repeatedly and predictably in a nurturing way a feeling of security results. These repeated experiences actually create connections between neurons and to a great extent contribute to an essential foundation in the brain toward health and overall well-being in life.
These early relationships and important resulting connections have a very real impact not only on social emotional development, but also on learning.
The most advanced “thinking area” of the brain for controlling impulses, abstract thinking, planning and anticipating consequences all begins development through predictable, nurturing, respectful and responsive relationships. The need of every baby to establish a secure attachment is the reason, The Love Your Baby brain packet was the first I developed and is my absolute favorite of the series.
There is a wealth of valuable research on the crucial impact of attachment whether it is secure or insecure. Recent additional longitudinal research conducted at the Institute of Child Development University of Minnesota, reveals in-depth findings to support what previous studies have shared on this important topic.
“… a new study suggests that parents may want to focus on one major influencer: sensitivity during a child’s first few years. Researchers argue that a kid’s social and academic abilities can be stifled all the way into adulthood if they don’t receive sensitive caregiving.
According to the researchers, sensitive caregiving is “the extent to which a parent responds to a child’s signals appropriately and promptly, is positively involved during interactions with the child and provides a secure base for the child’s exploration of the environment.” In other words, it’s interacting with a child in a gentle, attentive way that shows the caregiver understands the child’s needs.”
~Study Pinpoints One Big Factor In A Child’s Early Life That Can Have A Lasting Impact: The Huffington Post by Rebecca Adams
So, clearly the influence of early relationships is extremely significant. This topic definitely needs broader awareness and greater understanding. Parents and caregivers also need support to make this essential aspect of development happen,
So in answering the question posed…
Promoting the impact and understanding of secure attachment is where I place a large focus of the work of Brain Insights. However, this is not all that a growing brain needs. Several other areas of importance are also emphasized.
In Addition to Secure Attachment Developing Brains require….
- Lots and lots of unstructured time for exploring, imaging, climbing, trial and error, creativity, roughhousing, pretending, singing, daydreaming, running, laughing, jumping, experimenting, splashing and cuddling.
- A wealth of direct caring and fun interactive face to face communication experiences, that includes a broad vocabulary and frequent experiences of having songs sung, stories told and books read.
- Nutritious foods daily, starting with a very healthy breakfast that includes adequate amounts of protein and very few simple carbohydrates. Essential fatty acids and hydration are also extremely important to a growing brain.
- A daily routine. A daily routine needs to include lots of time for child directed play and plenty of sleep at about the same time each day.
- An abundance of time to move and explore outdoors and gain the benefits nature provides.
Details about all of these topics are shared on Child Psych Central: Discover the Kid Brain! Dr. Beth Onufrak is the host of this radio show and it was an wonderful honor to be a guest. This show is titled, The Birth-to-Five Brain: What It Needs From Us. Listen and enjoy here.
With all of this in mind, in support to you as a parent or professional, I have created a list of valuable resources on early brain development and sensitive parenting. There are numerous books that are favorites, but this is a sample of terrific ones that cover the range of topics I have listed above as important to contributing to the healthy brains that all children deserve.
(Click on the titles below to link to these wonderful resources)
- The Blossom Method
- A Moving Child is a Learning Child: How the Body Teaches the Brain to Think
- You Are My World
- Inspired Children
- Elevating Childcare: A guide to respectful parenting
- Whispers Through Time: Communication Through the Ages & Stages of Childhood
- Stress Free Kids
- The Science of Parenting
- Zero to Five
- The First Five Years: Nurturing Your Child’s Ability to Learn
- Cure Your Child with Food
- Last Child in the Woods
- The Hurried Child
- How to Talk So Kids will Listen & Listen so Kids Will Talk
- Born for Love
- What If Everybody Understood Child Development
- Becoming Us
- The Power of Showing Up