Early Learning Part 1: Supporting healthy Brain development

5 March 2018

Lisa Smith is a Global Leader for Young Children at the World Forum Foundation. As part of her early childhood advocacy project she ran a series of workshops in the heart of her local community. With the aim of equipping young Romani and Traveller parents and carers with knowledge of the science behind early childhood development.

Did you know……...
…the galaxy has 100 billion stars and a human brain has 100 billion brain cells... a human brain is the most complex and profound object in the universe...........writes Lisa. 

This was just one of the many interesting  facts we learnt  using the Science of Early Childhood Development Toolkit. We decided we wanted to take you on our journey with us and will be publishing a series of short story's over the coming months looking at brain development, nurturing care, play, language and literacy and positive guidance.  

This week we looked at how our brains make us unique, how they control our personalities, emotions, language, attention memory and how we learn, behave and interpret information. Just take a look at all the different parts of the brain and what they are each responsible for. If you want to explore this in more depth you can visit  Ask a biologist. 

Key fact: The Brain is 14,00 gram organ about 3 pounds and is the size of two fists put together. A baby's brain is about a quarter the size of an adults and grows to about 80% of an adults size by 3 years and 90% by 5 years.
Key fact: The Brain is 14,00 gram organ about 3 pounds and is the size of two fists put together. A baby's brain is about a quarter the size of an adults and grows to about 80% of an adults size by 3 years and 90% by 5 years.

We discovered how in the first three to four years of a child's life their vision, hearing, emotional control, language and other brain functions brain are developing and how what they need to be supported by adults.

Check out the What can you do? section below to see the small, everyday things we discovered we could do - and were already doing - that make a big difference to babies and children's growth, learning and development. 

We also explored lots of research that showed us how the early years of a child's life even before birth was absolutely critical to the formation of a healthy brain. Check out this short video to learn more. 

After our workshop we asked participants one thing they had found most surprising. Montanna, Mum of two said, 

" I was surprised baby's could learn before they were born and were learning about the world around them even in our bellies, but then of course it makes sense that we sing and talk to our unborn children".

Nursery can provide children with lots of extra opportunities to support healthy brain development. Did you know that all 3 and 4 year olds in England can get free early years education? and if your child  is 2 years old they could be eligible for up to for 15 hours a week early years education in a nursery near you? To find out more and to check the structures if you live in Northern Ireland, Scotland or Wales visit Gov.uk

Pregnant mother touching belly. Photo zoomed in on hands and belly.

What can you do?

Focus on good nutrition and nurturance for mother and child during pregnancy.

  • Eat nutritious meals, exercise and visits to the doctors supports the healthy growth of a baby before births.
  • Avoid taking things that can harm the baby before they are born such as stress, exposure to chemicals, drugs, smoking and drinking alcohol. 
  • Talk and sing to the baby before birth to help develop a strong and nurturing bond. 

Make the most of everyday experiences with children 

  • Feeding dressing or going for a walk  are all opportunities for interactions that nurture and support a child's brain development. 
  • Take advantage of every day activities to talk with children 
  • Play simple games like 'peek a boo' or catch to build a positive relationship together. 
  • Reading a book together supports language learning and creates quiet nurturing time. 

Watch and listen to children and follow their lead 

  • Whether babies or young children are smiling or restless ask yourself, what are you telling me? Are they happy and interested? Are they tired and uncomfortable?
  • Be aware and sensitive to how children may be feeling or what they need so you respond appropriately and build trust 

Provide opportunities for children to explore the world they are learning when they play with everyday items.

  • An old pot or wooden spoon allow children to explore sound as they band the two together.
  • Flowers, leaves, sand and stones allow children to touch a variety of textures and see different colours, shapes and sizes. 
  • Talk about what children see and ask them to tell you what it is.

Look out for Part 2 - Positive Parenting