Brain development and the environment
Nurturing environments help to shape the developing brain. The early years are a critical time in brain development, and a supportive, stimulating and caring environment supports development and positive lifelong outcomes.
Stress and brain development
Toxic stress interferes with healthy brain development. Stress in small doses in the context of a supportive environment is important for healthy development. However, toxic, chronic stress can hinder development by interfering with the healthy development of the brain and a child’s ability to learn.
Watch Toxic Stress Derails Healthy Development (video link) from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.
Executive function and self-regulation are a child's "air traffic" control systems. They help children to manage emotions, control impulses, plan and prioritize, stay on task, problem solve, and master new skills such as numeracy and literary skills. A child’s capacity to develop these "systems" depends upon caregivers who can model these skills within safe and supportive environments.
Watch Executive Function (video link) from Alberta Family Wellness.
A child's "temperament" can change over time. A child’s emerging dispositions, such as their activity level, emotional expression, attention and self-regulation, are the result of genetics, biology and environmental factors working together throughout development. It is important for caregivers to understand their child’s natural strengths and challenges and adopt caregiving strategies that make the environment as supportive as possible for their child's unique temperament.
Watch Temperament (video link) from Parent2Parent.
Resilient parents/caregivers raise resilient children. Resilient children are more likely to thrive. By learning to be positive, committed and persevering, children (and adults) can increase resiliency. People who are more resilient are less likely to experience depression and anxiety, and more likely to have healthy relationships.
Watch The Science of Early Childhood Development (video link) from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.
Positive caring relationships
Positive, caring relationships in the early years are the "building blocks" for social development. Relationships in the early years set the stage for all other relationships in a child’s life providing the foundation for social development.
Secure attachment to a loving caregiver sets the stage for healthy child development. A child who is securely attached is more self-confident and enthusiastic in exploring their environment and more competent in mastering new challenges. This exploration provides experiences that are important for development.
Watch Serve & Return Interaction Shapes Brain Circuitry (video link) from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.
Play is the work of children. Learning happens through play. Play positively supports all child development areas and is an essential part of their overall healthy development. Play has an essential role in building children’s resilience across adaptive systems – pleasure, emotional regulation, stress response systems, peer and place attachments, learning, and creativity.
Watch The Importance of Play (video link) from the Government of UK National Health Service.
It takes a "team" to raise a healthy child. Engaging parents as partners in their child’s education can lead to a greater understanding of a child’s needs and how they learn best.