1. Encourage early learning for a head start at school
Our brains are built over time. When we’re babies, construction is in overdrive: a baby’s brain cells make 700 to 1,000 new connections every second
. By the time we’re three years old, our young brain is still twice as active as an adults.
This period of active brain development is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity - the more skills children acquire early on, the better they learn later. Psychologists have found that, when learnt early, skills like regulating their emotions and actions give children a head start at school: for example, by helping a child ignore background noise in the classroom and focus on solving a problem.
Here are some easy ways to start learning early:
- Something as simple as playing with a rattle can stimulate learning: slowly move colourful items for your baby to see and reach for, or help them follow an object with their eyes.
- Get the most out of your everyday play by asking questions. When you’re looking at picture books together or playing hide and seek, ask about the pictures they see or where you’ve hidden items.
- Cut out simple pictures of familiar things, people and animals. Try to get pictures with different colours, textures, scenes and faces. Talk about the pictures as your baby looks at them.
- Playing with every object they can find will come naturally to your child. It’s for a good reason - that’s how children experiment to learn about the world around them. You can help by making sure they have access to safe and clean household items to handle, bang and drop.
A baby’s greatest power - the rapid development of her brain - is also her greatest vulnerability. Deprivation and stress can stop a child developing skills they’ll need for a lifetime. In Belize, mother-of-two Keisha discovered the impact of focusing on a child’s first years. “When Andrew was five, he told me he couldn’t read,” says Keisha. “I cried that night - it broke my heart. But since having Alishia, I am much more aware of what she needs as a child.”