Understanding Neuroplasticity: How Your Child’s Brain Learns and Develops
You may have heard before that what your child learns as a baby creates the foundation for their future. You also may be wondering, how is that possible? If my baby or young child won’t be able to remember this time of their life, how will it “set the stage” for the years to come? The answer lies in how the brain learns and develops, and something called neuroplasticity.
Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to reorganize itself by forming new neural connections and pathways throughout life.
What does that mean exactly? Let’s take neuroplasticity apart to understand it better:
- Neuro: Relating to the brain and neurons, the nerve cells that power the brain.
- Plasticity: Having the ability to be shaped or molded.
- Therefore, neuroplasticity is the shaping and molding of our brain.
So what powers the “shaping and molding” of the brain? Learning and Memory.
Medical experts now know that when we learn new information and take on new experiences, they can actually shape, mold and change the makeup of our brains.
- New information and experiences help to organize (and reorganize) our neural pathways in the brain.
- Neural pathways are the connections in our brain—think of them as the brain’s “wiring.”
- Our brains “rewire” themselves as they take on more information and learn from experiences—in other words, learning can physically change our brains!
Why is it so important to understand neuroplasticity when thinking about baby’s brain function? Because as a child, every experience and bit of information is new! In fact, baby’s brain develops about 1 million new neural connections every second. So the majority of shaping and molding of the brain will happen in the early years of life.
Additionally, while baby may be too young to form conscious memories, they can form unconscious memories (also known as implicit memories). These can form as early as just a few months after birth, and will be a guiding force in shaping baby’s neural pathways.
Neuroplasticity does continue to happen as we age, but not as frequently. That’s because as we get older, our brains want to rely on existing neural pathways, rather than create new ones. So, the pathways we create as a child can, in many ways, be the foundation of our learning and thinking throughout our lives.
It’s important to keep your baby active and learning, so they can continue to develop and shape their brains.
Here are some ways to do that!
Keep your child learning!
- Play with your child!
- Take them on errands with you.
- Learn about communication and sensory skills, key to taking in new information.
Keep your child active!
- Sign up for our Baby Games Calendar to get activities for your baby sent right to your inbox!
- Learn about motor skills and Tummy Time.
- Check out this list of 80+ activities that kids can do at home.
Make sure to prioritize healthy sleep.
- Learn all about the importance of sleep and how much sleep your child should be getting each night.
- Here are tips for helping your baby or child get a better night’s sleep.
Create healthy routines so the repetition strengthens the neural pathways.
- Learn more about executive function, an important set of skills that we use every day!
- Here’s how to build a routine with your family.
Want to learn more about baby’s development and track their milestones?
Download the FREE Pathways.org Baby Milestones App!
Check out what else to expect from your baby. Follow their milestones here!