How well brain develops by age 6 determines a child’s health and performance in school and throughout life. While we know that the development of a young child’s brain takes years to complete and also know there are many things parents can do to help children get off to a good start and establish healthy patterns for life-long learning. “Well begun is half done.”
The human brain begins forming very early in prenatal life, but brain development is a lifelong process, because the same events that shape the brain during development are also responsible for storing information throughout life. The major difference between brain development in a child versus an adult’s learning is that the child’s brain is far more impressionable in early life than in maturity, which means that young children’s brains are more open to learning and enriching influences but are more vulnerable to developmental problems.
Which is more important in brain development, nature or nurture?
Genes or nature and environment or nurture play very different roles while interacting with each other at every step of brain development. Generally speaking, genes are responsible for forming all of the brain cells and general connections between different brain regions; while experience is responsible for fine-tuning those connections, helping each child adapt to the particular environment such as geographical, cultural, family and school. For example, each of us is born with the potential to learn language. Our brains are programmed to recognize human speech, to discriminate subtle differences between individual speech sounds, to put words together, and to pick up the grammatical rules make sentences. However, the particular language each child masters, the vocabulary, and the dialect and accent with which he/she speaks are determined by the social environment in which he/she is raised, beginning even before birth. Genetic potential is necessary, but DNA alone cannot teach a child to talk.
Does experience change the actual structure of the brain?
The answer is yes. Brain development is activity-dependent.
Like computer circuits, neural circuits process information through the flow of electricity. However, the circuits in our brains are much more flexible. Every experience, such as reading a book, riding a bicycle, sharing a story, excites certain neural circuits and leaves others inactive. Those that are consistently used will be strengthened, while the others may be dropped away. This is called “pruning”, which benefits neural processing, making the circuits work more quickly and efficiently.
Since providing a brain-using environment for kids to grow is so crucial for their brain’s development, that’s why most of our parents give their kids toys, video etc, to nurture the kids to be smarter and wiser.