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Brain development in children

Did you know that 90% of the brain is developed before the age of 5?! That is why every early experience, positive or negative, has an impact on a child’s developing brain.


Think of a brain as a house. The more positive experiences and connections that a child has creates a stronger foundation for the house to build on. So, as your child’s first and most important teacher, what can you do to support that development? Let’s explore!


Serve and return (or back and forth) interactions are vital to your child’s development. When a child coos at you and you coo back, you are helping their brain make the connection that vocalizations, even at this very early stage, have meaning. This paves the way for language development later on in their life. Serve and return interactions also create a secure and trusting bond with your child. When you mimic or respond to what they say, when you make eye contact, or when you just talk back and forth with them, you are showing them that what they have to say has value, an important lesson that they will carry through all their years.


Early Experiences Matter!

Every interaction, experience and connection that your child has creates an impact on their developing brain. Experiences, whether they be positive or negative, create connections (or synapses) in your child’s brain. This might look like when you point to and name an object, a teddy bear for example, and say “Teddy bear” or “It is soft”, etc. your child’s brain is making the connection that the object you are pointing to is a teddy bear and that it is soft.


Types of Stress

It may be hard to believe that a child could have stress, but they do! There are 3 types of stress a child may experience in their life. These are positive stress, tolerable stress and toxic stress.

  • Positive stresses are short term stresses that a child has support through. For instance, a first day of school or starting a daycare.

  • Tolerable stresses are stresses that could be toxic, however with the right amount of support, a child is able to navigate through the stress and develop resiliency. Think about a natural disaster for example. The confusion and unknown of that situation could be a toxic stress for the child, however, if a child has a secure and trusting caregiver to help them understand what is happening in a developmentally appropriate way, they will make it through.

  • Toxic stresses are stresses that are long term and harmful to the brain. This is because it raises stress hormones in the brain, impacting the ability for the brain to create connections. This might be something like severe neglect or abuse.


The common theme between all of these ways to support development is YOU. Your child does not need fancy educational toys to build the skills that will support them to become a successful and thriving citizen as they grow. They only need their first and most important teacher - YOU.


At Norwood Centre our team of qualified Early Childhood Development Subject Matter Experts work to provide tools that caregivers can use to support early childhood development. We hear you! If you have a question or concern, please ask us. We have a variety of Child Development Activities available on our website, find them at For short-term one-on-one coaching, please call us at 780-471-3737.



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