Early Brain Development is Key to Future Success

Ninety percent of a child’s brain development happens in the first four years of life. It’s an astounding fact that highlights the importance of providing enriching environments for all children in their early years. “The more experiences they have, the more they are exposed to, the more the brain develops. That’s why we say it’s a window of opportunity,” says Claudia Harrison, Executive Director of First 5 Ventura County. 

There are simple things parents can do to promote brain development from infancy. “When you look at your kids and they look back at you and they smile, then you smile and they smile more. Or they make a sound and you respond by making a sound. That kind of positive interaction is extremely important,” Harrison says.

Exposing children to words has tremendous power to promote brain development, and this is an area where the opportunity gap faced by many children shows up at an early age. “This is astounding, but by the age of three, children from lower income families are exposed to thirty million fewer words than children from higher income families,” Harrison says. Even parents who lack the time or ability to read books to their children can help close the gap by telling stories or singing songs throughout the day. Or consider taking your child to one of the many story times at a nearby library or bookstore. But don’t think sitting your child in front of the TV is a good substitute for real human interaction. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends zero screen time before the age of two.

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Another fun and interactive way to put the brains of young kids to work is to visit one of the six Born Learning Trails located in public parks throughout Ventura County. First 5 and United Way created the trails which guide visitors through a variety of activities such as hopscotch, listening to birds or recognizing shapes. A listing of Born Learning Trail locations is available here

First 5 Ventura County coordinates a variety of additional early education programs for kids and parents. They’ve established eleven “Neighborhoods for Learning” throughout the county that provide services to promote health and early learning in the first years of life. You can find your local Neighborhood for Learning on the First 5 website or by calling 211.

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