Understanding how a baby’s brain is built is without a doubt the most fascinating aspect of human development.  Well for me it is!  What happens to a child in mum’s womb and the 2 years following sets a child up for the rest of their life.  It will determine how they learn, how they will feel about themselves, and how they will feel about others.  It also sets the blueprint for health for the rest of their life – both physical health and mental health.  Now tell me that doesn’t fascinate you!

Holistic development in a child encompasses four key domains. They are the physical, intellectual, social, and emotional domains. What happens in each domain is interlinked with all the other domains, and holistic development is determined by how a child’s brain is nourished.  It doesn’t matter who you are, because every child is born with the capacity to reach their full potential but what does matter is what you as a parent do.

We are all familiar with the story of the tree sown in two types of soil. One is lovingly sown in fertile soil with rich nutrients, plenty of water, enough sunshine, and pruned and tended to by a loving gardener.  The second seed through no fault of its own falls in dry parched soil, with little water, little sunshine, and is never looked at.

As expected the first will grow tall, straight, and will flower in springtime, produce seeds in autumn, it will reach its full potential as a tree.  The second seed will respond to nourishment as and when received, it will bend and curl to reach sunshine, it will endure and do its best to survive, it may never get the opportunity to flower in springtime but it will strive to be the best tree it can be given its conditions. The chances though, of this tree reaching its potential are slim.

Humans are no different! If you can, picture a child’s brain as a small tree because something very similar is happening.  Environments and Experiences in these few years determine how the brain grows and develops.  And an incredible occurrence happens at two years of age, their brain prunes off the parts of the brain that are not used and focuses and develops the parts that are needed for the life and conditions they have experienced. A child’s brain at 2 years of age is 75% of its adult size.  The reason why it is so big at this age is that your child is learning more in these two years than they will at any other stage of their life – even if they go on to do a Ph.D.!

The experts refer to brain development in early childhood as brain architecture and we here at Lifestart love this analogy because when you think of architecture we normally think of houses, buildings, and so on.  The strength of good architecture is not actually in the building that we see, although it may be the most beautiful building you have ever seen.  The strength of good architecture is in the foundations of the building – hidden well beneath the ground.

For humans, brain architecture is critical, yes it is hidden and we can’t see what is happening to it in the first few years. But whatever happens, should it be positive or negative it is the foundation upon which everything else in a child’s life is built on. Nourish it with love, tenderness, time, words, and play.  The most important thing in your child’s life is you. In fact, you are your child’s architect and through positive parenting, you can provide the foundations for your child to help them reach their potential.

If you need any advice or support in understanding this contact us at headoffice@lifestartfoundation.org or you can sign up for one of our SOOC programmes at mary.holmes@lifestartfoundation.org.  The Growing Child Magazine is available here and provides great insights on holistic child development up to age five.  You can also check out our more science-based blog on ‘Your Child’s Brain Development.

Ps. Happy Building!