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Brain Development in the First Three Years of Life

To understand early development, psychological researchers together with parents tend to ask questions like whether early experiences leave enduring impressions on the minds of the children and their personalities. Also is whether the first relationship with parents or caregivers shapes their lifelong social relationship and self-understanding. Or is the world of an infant a buzzing confusion that requires adults to offer clarity and organization? Moreover, people question if the environment is a catalyst for healthy child development. It must be noted that about 90% of a child’s brain does develop in the first three years of his or her life. It is the period of rapid cognitive, social, emotional, linguistic, and motor development (Thompson & Nelson 2001). That is, the brain of the child grows as he or she feels, sees tastes, and hears. It is because every time a child applies a specific sense, a neuro-connection is established in the brain of the child. The creation of positive developmental progression via daily, repeated shapes the child’s thinking, feelings, behaviors, and learning. Therefore, parents or caregivers when playing, or talking g with the baby via banging pots, and pans, and filling buckets or boxes help a child’s development process. In such a case the obligation of any caregiver is established by all the needs of the developing child. Therefore, healthy interaction between a caregiver and a child determines triggers good brain development growth.

Theory of Mind

Individuals intuitively understand the actions of others. The understanding is motivated by desires, feelings, goals, intentions, mental states, and thoughts. One prominent discovery of young kids is that they often develop their intuitive path of the mental process right from the beginning of early life. A child’s developing theory of the mind transforms how it responds to people and how it learns from people. Infants and young kids begin to understand what goes in the minds of people and how their feeling and thoughts are similar to theirs.

Brain Development

Brain development takes place during early life and advances rapidly during the prenatal months. The development of the brain, starts six months after conception and when both the spinal cord and brain have started to form a shape in the embryo. Within the sixth month of pregnancy, the entire nerve cells shall have developed. Once the neurons are created, they go to the head regions and are segregated to take specific duties and create networks or synapses with new neurons thus allowing for communication and storage of information (Thompson & Nelson 2001). The formation of synapses continues during infancy. Hence, at the time of delivery, most neurons have been located appropriately within the immature brain of the child and begin to function like the mature brain. Moreover, given the need for originality and responsiveness to sensual experiences, and likings for social stimulations, the architecture of the neurons of a newborn starts to change significantly (Macvarish, Lee, & Lowe 2014).

What occurs is that prior to birth and afterward, the thriving of brain networks happens. That is neurons form more synapses in quantities that cannot be retained by a developed mind. The explosion of such synapses forms a prospect for brain development but still renders the brain incompetent and blaring with unnecessary and redundant neural links. Hence, such production gives birth to the stage of “pruning,” where unused synapses are eliminated progressively to attain the required amount to allow the brain to operate (Bruer1999).

The way Synapses are Selected For either Retention Or eradication

The stimulating experiences are what activate particular neural synapses thus triggering growth processes that consolidate the connections. Hence, through the principle of “use it or lose it” synapses that are not progressively triggered weaken over time thus allowing the structure of the developing brain to adapt to the needs of daily stimulation and experiences. For instance, during the early months, a child’s visual sharpness increases just because the neural pathways which connect the eye to the brain are consolidating as the child gazes at his or her surroundings. However, if an infant does not exercise vision deprivation, the pathways shall remain unorganized because the neurons are not consolidated thus hindering vision. Just like language learning, reflect the brain blooming and pruning (Thompson & Nelson 2001).

Thinking and Learning

Right from birth, the minds of newborns are active but their thoughts and behaviors are disorganized. From such a stage, newborns crave originality because they are bored with familiarity. Their sensory organs like eyes, and ears are attuned to occurrences that are unfamiliar. Their eyes are drawn sharply to movements and contrast thus helping them to distinguish boundaries between objects. They also learn sophisticated interpretations about size, shape, firmness, and entirety. Newborns are also able of incorporating information from various senses. Hence they tend to look towards the origin of fascinating resonances or objects that match the texture of pacifiers that have been placed in their mouths. Such early capabilities establish surprising development ideas, problem-solving, causation as well as memory during a child’s early years. For instance, in causality and problem-solving, kids tend to be captivated by running things. For instance, they learn to pull things to access to what they want or manipulate people to attain their goals. Memory, on the other hand, becomes flexible due to routine actions or events (Cusick & Georgieff 2014).


A young infant naturally can distinguish speech sounds. As early as fifteen to eighteen months old, their language learning is rapid. They can put words together into modest sentences, and master some grammar rules and vocabulary (Thompson & Nelson 2001).

Learning and Relationships

All learning during child development takes place in a social context. Even a newborn baby responds in special ways to social stimuli. However, the stimuli they portray are offered by the individual providing care to the child. For example, a baby’s interest in social sights, speech, and sounds is focusing his or her active mind in trying to interpret and understand human facial expressions, social behaviors, words, and vocal intonations. Therefore, achievements in the mind contribute to a child’s social and emotional development (Sullivan, Perry, Sloan, Kleinhaus & Burtchen 2011). For instance, the early learning of the child is founded on the interest the child has in the intentions of adult speakers. Therefore, a child does learn about the world when assisted. The child’s mind’s innate abilities and never-ending activity offer a powerful avenue for understanding things when they are assisted by daily experiences and the social behaviors of people around them. Secure, safe environments and things for play that are easily accessible allow a child to explore things and take part in activities (Bornstein & Bradley 2014).


The first attachment between a child and a parent is biological. The growth of emotional attachment at the age of one is always preceded by several months of interaction in the course of which the newborn and the mother trade spirited gazes, smirks, laughter, touch, and smiles. Hence, such interaction offers a sense of security which allows for confident explorations and reassurances (Thompson & Nelson 2001).

Self-Regulation and Social Understanding

Caretaker guides a child’s actions by applying unplanned tactics like bargaining and explanations which suit the child’s development abilities for self-discipline. For instance, a caregiver helps a three-year-old to understand the consequences of misbehavior by showing the consequences of it to create a social understanding and self-regulation (Thompson & Nelson 2001)


The personality growth of a child begins when a child learns about the phrase “who am I” in an insightful manner. The mental consideration establishes paths for greater self-awareness as children slowly learn the difference between “other” and “self.” Hence, in the second year, a child develops visual self-recognition and verbal references. At the age of three, he or she refuses assistance. She or he will insist on doing things alone to assert autonomy and competence. Moreover, during preschool years, the child develops self-monitoring and enthusiasm to succeed. At three years old, events are now remembered with mentions of personal significance. Here, autobiographical memory is constructed to create a consistent identity throughout the events of life (Thompson & Nelson 2001). Moreover, at this stage, self-awareness is strongly dependent on the assessment of those to who the child is attached emotionally. Consequently, at the age of two to three years old, the child’s emotions broaden beyond simple emotions to include shame, guilt, pride, and embarrassment which are elicited by a social situation. Hence, self-concept is determined by social interactions with others (Hawley & Gunner 2000).

The importance of Caregivers

The sensitivity of the caregivers also influences an additional catalyst for intellectual growth. Caregivers stimulate a child’s mental growth through a variety of activities. Most importantly, they establish everyday habits that allow a child to expect, exemplify, and recall the sequences of activities or actions like preparing breakfast, going to a mall or daycare, going to bed, or taking a bath. Moreover, caregivers are responsible for constructing collective actions which are practicable for a child and can encourage new abilities and form self-importance after achievement (Phillips & Adams, 2001). Such activities can be storytelling and jigsaw puzzles among others. In such a case, a caregiver, through singing assists the child to develop and advance language growth. Hence, both parents and caregivers do a lot of intentional actions to promote the learning and intellectual development of the child. Most importantly, the catalyst they offer are uncoached (Lally & Mangione 2017).


In conclusion, healthy interaction between a caregiver and a child determines triggers good brain development growth. Rapid brain growth occurs in the first three years of his or her life. Brain growth starts in six months after conception and when both the spinal cord and brain have started to form shape in the embryo. Due to the need for novelty and attention to sensory experiences, and likings for social stimulations, the architecture of the neurons of a newborn starts to change significantly. Moreover, through the principle of “use it or lose it” synapses that are not progressively activated wither over time thus allowing the structure of the developing brain to adapt to the needs of daily stimulation and experiences. Several months of social interaction always precedes the growth of emotional attachment at the age of one. Therefore, caregivers are critical to stimulating a child’s mental growth through a variety of activities and establishing everyday habits which allow a child to expect, exemplify, and recall the sequences of activities


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Bruer, J. T. (1999). The myth of the first three years: A new understanding of early brain development and lifelong learning. Simon and Schuster.

Cusick, S., & Georgieff, M. K. (2014). The first 1,000 days of life: the brain’s window of opportunity.

Davies, D. (2010). Child development: A practitioner’s guide. Guilford Press.

Hawley, T., & Gunner, M. (2000). How early experiences affect brain development. Retrieved from http://www. ounceofprevention. Org.

Lally, J. R., & Mangione, P. (2017). Caring relationships: The heart of early brain development. YC Young Children, 72(2), 17.

Macvarish, J., Lee, E., & Lowe, P. (2014). The ‘first three years’ movement and the infant’s brain: A review of critiques. Sociology Compass, 8(6), 792-804.

Phillips, D., & Adams, G. (2001). Child care and our youngest children. The future of children, 35-51.

Sullivan, R., Perry, R., Sloan, A., Kleinhaus, K., & Burtchen, N. (2011). Infant bonding and attachment to the caregiver: insights from basic and clinical science. Clinics in Perinatology, 38(4), 643-655.

Thompson, R. A., & Nelson, C. A. (2001). Developmental science and the media: Early brain development. American Psychologist, 56(1), 5.



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