Early childhood development in all aspects plays a critical role in a child’s life. A child’s brain is most adaptable and is able to adjust early in life to accommodate a magnitude of different environments, interactions, and situations. As the maturing of the brain becomes more restricted, it becomes less capable of adjusting and being able to identify as well as deal with new challenges. For example, by the first year of a child’s growth, several parts of the brain are becoming narrow to language the baby has been exposed to such as, talking, knowing their mother and father’s voices, different kinds of sounds, etc. Although the opportunities for learning new skills remain open for the different developmental goals that they need, the brain becomes difficult to change over time, as a child continuously grows. A child’s brain grows with them, their mind expands its knowledge, just like the child does. The brain being early shaped makes it easier to impact a baby’s developing brain while they are younger than it is to do their adult years. As a child grows, their early development is significant in their later lives for everyday life challenges.
Throughout history, there have been many people who have created ¨Baby Biographies¨, which is how we can understand the concepts of childhood development and all of the skills involved. ¨The German philosopher, Dietrich Tiedemann (1748-1803) is credited with creating the first baby biography (1787), but there was little follow-up to his work. Almost 100 years later, another German, biologist Wilhelm Preyer (1841-1897), kept a detailed account of the mental development of his son during his first four years. He published the results as Die Seele des Kindes (The Mind of the Child) (1882), a work frequently cited as beginning the modern child psychology movement. In America, the best-known baby biography was a collection of observations of her niece by Milicent Shinn (1858-1940), which she began in 1890. A popular version was later published as The Biography of a Baby (1900).¨ (History of Developmental Psychology.) Throughout our history, there have been many different theories about childhood development and what a child needs to have healthy brain development as well as what skills they will need later in life. Some of these theories have come from people such as Sigmund Freud, Lev Vygotsky, and Erik Erikson; each of these men had very different approaches about child development. For example, Sigmund had a theory that children would move through continuous stages of development and have different sets of skills, and they would show those skills at different times throughout their childhood, this would end around adulthood. Lev Vygotsky believed that child development is based more on social interactions and would be influenced by those social interactions and how they would develop in that category. Finally, Erik Erikson focused more on the social relationships and how certain relationships would affect a child’s development. All of these men were correct on their theories about childhood development and how the different skills would affect the child’s different stages of their development, even though there’s more to child development than these theories, these are the ones that make the most impact on a child’s development.
The early years of a child’s life are very critical for not only brain development but also very important for their overall development as they grow into adults. When they are in the womb, it is the period where their brain develops the most and is highly essential for their development; a child’s mind begins to grow while they are in their mother’s belly, the brain development starts within the first few weeks of pregnancy. Usually, most of the seen features of the brain begin in the first eight weeks and will continue to develop more until the age of six. However, the mind is not yet fully developed until the mid-20s; generally, the age of 25 is when the brain completely stops growing. According to Grob-Zakhary, a Neuroscientist explains ¨Early childhood is a great place to unpack and explore the gap between knowing and doing, because there have been tremendous developments in the understanding of how children learn and grow in early childhood. And yet the way we support at the government level, at the policy level and in education practices have not significantly changed.¨ (EdSurge)
In the earliest stages of a baby’s life, especially during the pregnancy stage to the age of three they need vital things such as nutrition, protection, and a stable environment. According to Harvard University’s Center ¨The developing child more than 1 million every single second a pace that was never repeated again.¨ (Center on the Developing Child.) The brain continues to develop as one gets older and becomes more mature. Still, it is most adjustable early in a child’s life, which means that the smallest things are more likely to influence a baby’s development when they are younger rather than when they are older. The reason for this is because the brain can accumulate a wide variety of interactions; it becomes more intricate and not as capable of adjusting to new challenges that a child will come across. From the age of one to five, a child is most affected by their experiences; they are much more critical than when the child was born. Not only are the first five years most essential but those are the ages when the child begins to develop individual skills such as walking, talking, and empathy, these are considered ¨milestones.¨ Milestones in a child’s development will start to happen, like beginning to play, identifying different kinds of toys and specific items, speaking, walking, crawling, and more. Children will develop these milestones at their own rate and usually when they are ready to and they will all begin at different ages. It is close to impossible to be able to tell when a child will learn a new skill because each child develops at their own rate, some children need more time than others, which is perfectly normal in child development.
As a child gets older and as they develop, it is imperative to have a healthy family life, stable relationships, safe environments at home, and friends for support. Babies can have stress, it can either have a positive effect on brain development, or it can have an adverse impact. Negative stress causes brain development to be less effective and not as quick to know changes and isn’t able to fix them as quickly and isn’t able to have and continue the healthy development. According to an article by Naeyc ¨Of all that brain science has taught us over the last 30 years, one of the clearest findings is that early brain development is directly influenced by babies’ day-to-day interactions with their caregivers. Their very survival depends on this availability. If babies’ expectations for protection and nurturance are met, their brains experience pleasure and delight. These pleasurable early interactions stimulate the brain, motivating the baby to relate to those who care for them with confidence and ease. If their expectations are less than adequately met, their confidence in getting their needs met through relationships may be challenged. When this occurs, emotional and social development suffer, and, because babies’ emotional base is the foundation for all other learning, so do intellectual and language development.¨ (The Heart of Early Brain Development). When babies are born, they engage with their parents and bond with them on an everyday basis. They communicate their needs in different ways; babies typically communicate their needs by crying or screaming. Most parents know that the baby is either hungry, needs a diaper change, tired, or simply just being a baby, they can express that they are happy by smiling and laughing. However, toddlers communicate their needs in a more direct way than babies because they can talk and express their feelings more than babies can do. Those parents who are attending to their child’s need, whether it’s a baby or toddler, are helping the child’s brain development in a way, and most parents don’t know this.
When a child grows up, their brain grows up with them, and usually, whatever damage they cause to their mind like smoking, drinking, doing drugs, taking prescription pills, etc. will have a long-lasting effect on their brain. Even as their brain grows, it will continue to have damage until the age of 25, those effects that they caused on the mind will be on there forever. As a teenager, these things most affect brain development because the brain is still trying to process the trauma and abuse it experienced because of the drinking or drugs, etc. But the brain is also trying to develop and continue to retain more and new information like its supposed to. It’s much harder because the brain is in recovery mode and is trying to continue developing. Usually, parents don’t know why their teenagers act out and most teens when they make a choice or decisions they typically don’t think about what they are doing and they don’t think about the consequences or how it will affect someone else. Most parents who have teenagers don’t know why their child acts out with violence, anger, or in dangerous ways. According to an article by the Department of Health, “studies have shown that brains continue to mature throughout childhood and into early adulthood. Pictures of the brain in action show that adolescents’ brains work differently than adults when they make decisions or solve problems. Their actions are guided more by the emotional and reactive amygdala and less by the thoughtful, logical frontal cortex. Research has also shown that exposure to drugs and alcohol during the teen years can change or delay these developments. Most teenagers usually act on impulse, get into different accidents, get involved in fights etc. The brain continues to mature even after full growth and doesn’t stop usually until the mid 20s. In adults the brain works to evaluate choices and make decisions but in teenagers it doesn’t work the same, there are still things that the brain needs to develop.” (Alcohol and The Developing Brain.)