The Future in Our Hands

developing synapses in the brainby Janice Fletcher, Associate Professor Child, Family, and Consumer Studies, University of Idaho, Moscow, Idaho

The first years of life hold the most critical periods for brain development. A hundred billion brain cells develop in the nine months that a mother’s womb nurtures a developing person. When the child is born, these billions of brain cells, called neurons, begin to connect to help a child build a useful brain. These connections are called synapses. The number of synapses multiplies to make trillions of connections that form a “map” with increasingly more complex connections. The network of connections influences intellectual capacity, memory, problem solving, and language. Most of these connections are made in early childhood with the first year being remarkably busy!

There is no longer a question of “if” it is helpful to provide a stimulating environment for children. Research tells us that it is not only helpful if…

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