Brain building is the development of a child’s brain as they grow.
The process of brain building takes time—it begins at birth and continues into adulthood. Children’s brains develop in several phases, with each stage building on the previous phase. While each stage is important, the early years are vital for creating ‘brain architecture.’
Building healthy brain architecture in a child’s early years helps create a strong foundation for future learning and development in order to be successful in life. With each skill a child learns, the brain becomes stronger, which also affects physical health, emotional health, social skills, and decision-making.
The Science of Brain Building
Building strong brain architecture is like building a house.
When you build a house, you start by laying the foundation. A strong foundation supports the house and helps it withstand potential damage and storms. A weak foundation however may not be able to withstand different kinds of stress, and may need major repairs later on.
As a child develops, their brain is also built like a house. From the moment a baby is born, the process of building a foundation for brain architecture begins. This foundation is made up of brain cells, which are like the building blocks of a house. Connections between brain cells are made when a child has different kinds of life experiences, which helps the child learn new skills.
There are two kinds of experiences that have the biggest impact on a brain’s architecture. They can either strengthen or weaken the connections between brain cells.
- Repeated, positive experiences help brain cell connections create a sturdy foundation for children to learn and develop new skills. Parents and caregivers can help children build healthy brains through frequent, positive interactions that follow the child’s lead. Learn more here: Strong Families
- Brain cell connections can become weaker with stressful, negative experiences. Known as toxic stress, these experiences are not helpful to a developing brain. Learn more about how negative experiences can affect a child’s development, and what you can do to help in the tabs above.
What We Can Do
Just like building a house, it takes many people with different kinds of roles to help a child build strong brain architecture.
Parents and caregivers have the opportunity to help children learn and practice new skills on a daily basis. This repetition of positive experiences helps the brain grow stronger. For more information and resources that parents and caregivers can use, click here.
The community surrounding a family is also important to the success of a child’s development. For families to provide the best care for children, they need a community that is shaped by policies, programs, and services that positively impact a family's wellbeing.
A family’s community can include people who fulfill all kinds of roles in a child’s life, such as friends, teachers, librarians, and local government programs and policies. Learn more about how you and the community can positively affect the lives of children in Frederick County in the tabs above.
Brain architecture. Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. (2019, August 20). Retrieved November 22, 2022, from https://developingchild.harvard.edu/science/key-concepts/brain-architecture/
Every citizen in Frederick County has the opportunity to play a role in creating a supportive and nurturing society for young children and their families. From engaging with local government to building personal relationships with others, there are opportunities to create lasting change in both the public and private sectors.
By staying up-to-date on policy issues, voting in local elections, promoting family-friendly programs and initiatives, anyone can advocate for the wellbeing of families. When a society helps provide resources and support for families, it creates opportunities for young children to develop foundational skills and strong brain architecture for success in life. The Center for the Study of Social Policy offers research-based findings that show how communities can strengthen and support families, resulting in a positive impact to early childhood development: Strengthening Families.
To better explain the important science of early brain development, the USC Creative Media & Behavioral Health Center has created The Brain Architecture Game. Watch the video and play the game to understand more about how a child’s brain responds to positive and negative experiences. The IECC is also available to answer questions and provide support for hosting playthroughs of the game. By sharing this game with civic groups, church groups, people who work with children and families, or citizens who want to help the community reach its full potential, it can help create a systemic change that benefits families and young children.
Supporting young children and their families is both a community effort as well as an individual cause. Building strong brain architecture for developing children begins at home, and is both a mental and physical component of a child’s development. Both the brain and the body need to be given healthy, supportive care and nourishment in order to build essential, foundational skills for a successful future.
Below is a list of activities that anyone can learn and practice with children, such as parents, caregivers, family members and friends. These activities are also helpful and practical for adults as well. Guiding children with these strategies helps them learn to navigate and manage stress, benefitting their physical, emotional, and mental health.
- Getting sufficient sleep: Learn more here
- Having a healthy diet: Find recommendations here
- Engaging in regular, physical activity
- Spending time in nature
- Finding time and identifying ways to play and be creative
- Learning to have present, mindful experiences
Another way to learn more about how parents, teachers, policymakers, and others can affect life outcomes for both children and their surrounding community is by watching the Brain Hero video from The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University (Spanish Translation).