Brain Development 101

Stages of Critical Brain Development

Birth to 6 months old
Brain growth is unmatched during the first six months of life. The most critical windows during this stage are vision, vocabulary, and emotional development. Because the windows for vision and emotions shut so early, it is important to pay attention to them during this stage.
6 to 12 months old
With connections primarily established for sight, the critical windows during this stage are speech and emotional development. The foundations for governing emotions are established. Language capacity grows tremendously during this period, and this is a good time to introduce the natural sounds of other languages.
12 to 18 months old12 to 18 months old
Most of the critical windows of human brain development are open during this stage. At no other time is the brain so receptive and responsive. Many of the neurological connections that govern a lifetime of skill and potential are beginning to take shape.
18 to 24 months old18 to 24 months old
Children in this stage are gaining more control of their bodies, and their motor skills are developing. They are becoming more aware of other people’s feelings and beginning to learn to share. Language and vocabulary remain important. Attention should be given to math and logic as well.
2 to 3 years old2 to 3 years old
By the age of three, much of a child’s brain growth and density is complete. The brain patterns that will guide a child’s development are already well established. The critical windows for some skills such as speech begin to close, so vocabulary building is important. Brain patterns for music begin to develop at the end of this stage.
3 to 5 years old3 to 5 years old
Between the ages of three and five, most of the remaining critical windows in a child’s brain development begin to close. There appears to be a connection between the brain patterns stimulated by music and the part of the brain used to understand spatial concepts in math. The brain patterns created while learning a musical instrument between ages 3 and 10 are hard-wired for life.

Additional Information
Explore these links to learn more about early childhood development.

NEWSHOUR-Child’s Play
Lee Hochberg of Oregon Public Television reports Recent scientific studies have found that the human brain does much of its development in a child’s first three years of life.

At birth, almost all the neurons that the brain will ever have are present…By the age of 2 years old, the brain is about 80% of the adult size.

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