Phaello's Article on Early Childhood Development

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Raising Children for Optimum Development

Parents, baby sitters and care givers can play a major role to help children become the best they can be. First children must be healthy, well fed and receive proper security from adults. The foundational work to the child can be done by you as a parent, what we see children as when they grow up is to a great extend the result of what has happened to the child during the early years, long before the child can go to school. The “wiring diagram” for each person’s brain (i.e. how the neurons will be connected in the brain) is determined by the genetic makeup of an individual. But for the actual connections to take place that is dependent on the stimulation and experiences in the environment (Gabbard and Rodrigues 2001).

Brain Development and the environment

Positive early experiences are very important for optimal development of children. These experiences have a lifelong effect on the learning capabilities and behaviour of children, as Isbell (2001) puts it:

"The early environment where young children live will help determine the direction of their brain development. Children who have severely limited opportunities for appropriate experiences will be delayed; this may permanently affect their learning. But, children who have the opportunity to develop in an organized and appropriate environment are challenged to think and use materials in new ways."

Critical periods (Windows of opportunity) are periods when development occurs faster than other times. It is the time when the brain is most ready to learn something new. Several areas that include language, logical thinking, music, vision and emotion have these prime times of development. If a child misses the right stimulation at this time, it is a very serious loss in terms of the development of specific functions. In abnormally deprived situations lack of stimulations may result in impairment of the child. These windows open wide during the early years and begin to narrow as the child gets older. For instance, Basic gross motor skills have their window open from prenatal stage to about 5 years of age. (Gabbard, C. & Rodrigues L. 2001).