Early Years

Newborn sleepingThere is no time in a human life where more learning takes place than in infancy. The experiences infants and toddlers are exposed to will help build brain connections that last a lifetime. We know that 80% of a child’s brain development happens before they turn 3 years old, and VAELP, in partnership with local childcare centers, are committed to ensuring meaningful learning from birth through kindergarten. Remember, there are only 1,800 days between a child’s birth and when they start kindergarten, so make every interaction count!

From the CDC:

The early years of a child’s life are very important for later health and development. One of the main reasons is how fast the brain grows starting before birth and continuing into early childhood. Although the brain continues to develop and change into adulthood, the first 8 years can build a foundation for future learning, health, and life success.

How well a brain develops depends on many factors in addition to genes, such as:

  • Proper nutrition starting in pregnancy
  • Exposure to toxins or infections
  • The child’s experiences with other people and the world

Nurturing and responsive care for the child’s body and mind is the key to supporting healthy brain development. Positive or negative experiences can add up to shape a child’s development and can have lifelong effects. To nurture their child’s body and mind, parents and caregivers need support and the right resources. The right care for children, starting before birth and continuing through childhood, ensures that the child’s brain grows well and reaches its full potential.

From the CDC:

Children are born ready to learn and have many skills to learn over many years. They depend on parents, family members, and other caregivers as their first teachers to develop the right skills to become independent and lead healthy and successful lives. How the brain grows is strongly affected by the child’s experiences with other people and the world. Nurturing care for the mind is critical for brain growth. Children grow and learn best in a safe environment where they are protected from neglect and from extreme or chronic stress with plenty of opportunities to play and explore.

Parents and other caregivers can support healthy brain growth by speaking to, playing with, and caring for their child. Children learn best when parents take turns when talking and playing and build on their child’s skills and interests. Nurturing a child by understanding their needs and responding sensitively helps to protect children’s brains from stress. Speaking with children and exposing them to books, stories, and songs helps strengthen children’s language and communication, which puts them on a path towards learning and succeeding in school.

Exposure to stress and trauma can have long-term negative consequences for the child’s brain, whereas talking, reading, and playing can stimulate brain growth. Ensuring that parents, caregivers, and early childhood care providers have the resources and skills to provide safe, stable, nurturing, and stimulating care is an important public health goal.

When children are at risk, tracking children’s development and making sure they reach developmental milestones can help ensure that any problems are detected early, and children can receive the intervention they may need.

The Basics, Inc.The Basics is a public education campaign built on five evidence-based parenting and caregiving principles important for healthy brain development for children from birth to age three. Eighty percent of brain growth happens in the first three years of life, and every child from every background can benefit from routinely engaging in these fun, simple, and powerful learning experiences. The Basics brain development campaign is working through a variety of local partners to ensure that every parent and caregiver is fully supported by family, friends, and the community to use ‘The Basics’ practices in everyday life.

Toddler painting

Child Find is the process school divisions must use to locate, identify and evaluate children who need special education and related services. It is the first step in the process of determining if a child is eligible for special education.

Learn more about Child Find