Brain Development in the Toddler (Ages One to Three)
It is commonplace in academic writing on child development to speak of a given year as being “critical”. Naturally, in childhood, every year is critical, with the earlier years being more critical simply because it is in the early years that the child gains the ability, confidence, and sense of self-worth with which to deal with adversity in the later years!
But it is hard to argue with the premise that the first three years of life are the most critical of all, if for no other reason than the fact that seventy-five percent of total brain growth and development takes place during that period! Interestingly, within that three-year period, the second and third years differ significantly from the first year in that the parents must now begin putting intelligent input into their nurturing. In the first year, the infant is still in a semi-fetal stage, where sheer physical survival is the issue at hand. At this stage, simple generic nurturing consisting of feeding, protection, and loving attention is enough. But in the second and third years, the infant is already transforming from this semi-fetal creature into the thinking and feeling human being that he has the potential of becoming. This puts extraordinary demands on the parents to put some real thought into what they are doing!
For the parents of toddlers, it is important to understand that brain growth depends on more than just the nutrients the brain receives in the blood stream. Countless studies show that actual physical brain development is enhanced by the child living in an environment that is both intellectually stimulating and emotionally nourishing. How important is it that we provide this environment? Considering this toddler will be a fully fledged human being, and a vital member of society and of our own family, it is one of the most important things in the world!
Here are some suggestions on how to promote healthy brain development in two- and three-year-olds:•