Nurturing the whole child – body and brain

December 14, 2016

A boy in a dinosaur shirt
A boy dressed in red, laughing as he reaches the bottom of a yellow slide

At Children First, our work goes well beyond child care: the education and nurturing environment that we provide actually impact the brain development of our children. Our teachers and volunteers, in partnership with parents and caregivers, help our students to gain the cognitive, social and emotional skills they need to succeed in kindergarten, college and throughout life.

Did you know that the human brain is only 25 percent “ready” at birth? That 75 percent of our brain develops after birth – and most of that development takes place in a child’s first five years?

It is only when children feel safe, when they receive the proper nutrition, when they are empowered to explore their environment, that they can thrive intellectually, emotionally and physically. Early childhood brain development is particularly crucial to overall well-being; here are five reasons brain development matters, according to the Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University.

  • In the first few years of life, 700 new neural connections are formed every second. These are the connections that build brain architecture – the foundation upon which all later learning, behavior, and health depend.
  • Early experiences and the environments in which children develop in their earliest years can have lasting impact on later success in school and life. Differences in the size of children’s vocabulary first appear at 18 months of age, based on whether they were born into a family with high education and income or low education and income.
  • Significant adversity impairs development in the first three years of life—and the more adversity a child faces, the greater the odds of a developmental delay. Risk factors include poverty, single parent, and low maternal education; children exposed to multiple risks face a 90-100 percent likelihood of having one or more delays in their cognitive, language, or emotional development.
  • Early experiences actually get into the body, with lifelong effects—not just on cognitive and emotional development, but on long-term physical health as well. A growing body of evidence now links significant adversity in childhood to increased risk of a range of adult health problems, including diabetes, hypertension, stroke, obesity, and some forms of cancer.
  • Providing young children with a healthy environment in which to learn and grow is not only good for their development—economists have also shown that high-quality early childhood programs bring impressive returns on investment to the public. Three of the most rigorous long-term studies found a range of returns (including increased earnings for and tax revenues from program participants, and decreased costs for special education, welfare, and crime) between $4 and $9 for every dollar invested in early learning programs for low-income children.

At Children First, we are committed to providing a nurturing, safe environment for our children, offering them the opportunity to achieve their full potential – physical, emotional and intellectual. But we couldn’t do it without a caring community and generous individuals. We are so grateful for this ongoing support!