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Science and early childhood: why the first five years are so important


Welcome to March! So far this year we have explored two core concepts of early childhood development: 'You are Your Child’s First and Most Important Teacher' (January) and 'Play: The Work of Children' (February). As we move into March, we will be looking at 'Science and Early Childhood,' a core concept that covers brain development and its importance in a child's journey to successful adulthood.


Roughly 90% of the brain is developed by the age of five, which is why the early years are so crucial and why this month's core concept is so important to Norwood. Throughout the month, we will be exploring science and early childhood through five main topics:


Serve and Return

From infancy, you begin helping your child build a big strong brain with the seemingly simple concept of ‘serve and return.’ Serve and return is like a tennis match: when your baby cries, they are serving; when you respond by cooing or picking them up, you are returning their serve. Speaking back and forth with your child, mimicking their sounds, answering their questions, and making eye contact with them help build neural connections in their brains.


Executive Function and Self-Regulation

Executive function is the ability to focus, pay attention, remember instructions, and practice self-control-all at the same time! You might think of an air traffic controller, sending all the different planes (or thoughts) to where they need to be. Self-regulation is being able to process and control emotions. Caregiver modeling is very important for children to learn how to self-regulate.


Resilience

Resilience is the ability to ‘bounce back’ from challenges. For example, if your child is stacking blocks and the blocks all fall, resilience tells them that the tower can be built again. If your child pours their own drink and it spills, resilience helps them take action to clean it up and pour again.


Toxic Stress

Toxic stress is just what it sounds like: stress that is a challenge for a child to handle, such as lack of nutritious food, witnessing violence, or experiencing neglect. Toxic stress prevents the brain from making connections. But the good news is that having a supportive and responsive caregiver (like you) can make toxic stress tolerable.


Early Experiences and Brain Architecture

Every single experience your child has, whether it be positive or negative, has an impact on their developing brain. Think of early experiences as the foundation of a house. Positive experiences create a strong foundation for a house to be built on. Negative experiences and toxic stress make the foundation weaker.

 

We can’t wait to continue this journey of learning with you! Please keep following our blog and social media---be sure to like and subscribe to learn more about science and early childhood.

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