Various studies reveal that young children who receive parental nurturing and cognitive stimulation performed better in language and memory tasks. They also have higher IQs when tested later in life. Evidently, as shown by a study published in 2010, the physical structure of the developing brain is shaped by experience.
Learning and the young brain
These studies support what many specialists in human development have long presumed — that environmental inputs have a direct consequence on the wiring of the connections within the brain. As the brain develops, a baby learns new skills. The brain grows not only in size, but also in its range of functions.
A phenomenon known as neuroplasticity is central to a baby’s amazing capacity to adapt to changing situations. Without it, learning new skills is impossible to achieve. For instance, the strengthening of certain connections in the brain, fortified by actual experience, makes it possible for a child to take the first step, and eventually learn how to walk independently.
Nurture and nature and their different roles
As such, parents must be aware of the role the child’s environment plays in the development of motor skills, language, reasoning, and other cognitive functions. The basic wiring of the connections of the brain is determined by genetics, but environmental stimulation largely influences the connections that persist, and those that are eliminated. To illustrate, while every baby born has the potential to speak a language, the particular language he will speak depends on the conversations and activities he is exposed to from the time he is born.
Early brain development is an interesting area of study partly because of the many unknowns. Nevertheless, in terms of influences, it is widely accepted that aside from the child’s genetic make-up, factors such as nutrition, environmental exploration through physical activity, and parental love all play significant roles. The brain continues to develop until a person reaches the age of 20. But the rate of growth and development in the early years is unparalleled.