The first 3 years are the most important for a child’s cognitive, emotional, and physical development later in life.
During these early years, tangible factors, such as adequate nutrition, clean water, and good health, affects brain development. Also, intangible ones like experiences and interactions with parents, family members, and other adults influence how the brain develops.
Why are the first 3 years important?
The first 3 years of life are when a child’s brain grows at a rapid rate. It is the stage when the brain is most sensitive to external influences. Every touch, movement, and emotion at this stage generates a myriad of electrical and chemical activities in the young brain, as billions of cells are organizing themselves into critical neural networks. The implication is that all experiences Your Child makes during this period set the foundation for all future learning. Thus, warm and responsive care can positively affect Your Child ‘s development. A child who lacks care, experiences abuse, starvation, or neglect will have a weaker-developed brain, and the foundation for future learning becomes weak.
All aspects of development don’t progress at the same rate in the first 3 years
The main elements of emotional intelligence, such as curiosity, intentionality, self-control, relatedness, confidence, capacity to communicate, and work as a team, will usually depend on the kind of early care a child receives. These factors determine how a child learns and relates to events in life. However, not all aspects of a child’s development progress the same way. For example, children can catch up later in physical development areas, such as height and weight. The same is also true for cognitive skills. However, when children don’t get the right start, they find it difficult to reach their full potential.
Learning continues beyond the first 3 years
While the first 3 years are vital, the rest of childhood is also crucial because brain development continues well beyond that period. The neural networks and connections continue forming even all through the adolescent period and into adulthood. But again, a child’s foundation is built during the first years, and if the foundation is weak or small, it might be challenging to develop a strong structure upon it.
What you can do
You can support Your Child ‘s brain growth by speaking to, playing with, and caring for the little one. Your Child will learn best when you and your partner take turns in playing, talking, making eye contact, reading books, eating together, dancing together, going for walks, or simply cuddling the little one.
Ketsupa Jirakarn (Mental health specialist) (31 March 2021)