Brain Development and the Art of ParentingEarly Childhood Health & Development: A Series of Policy Briefs Dedicated to Optimizing Early Childhood Health and Development
Message from the Health Officer: Research on brain development provides exciting evidence to support what we instinctively know - that early childhood is a crucial time to begin investing in children to ensure their optimal development and to provide an enriching environment that facilitates brain development. This policy brief teaches us that in the first three years of life, an infantís brain is developing, and that experiences shape this development. An enriched environment, which includes day-to-day activities such as talking, playing, and looking at books, will facilitate development in the regions of the brain that control these functions. Conversely, severe deprivation and insecure attachment with the primary caregiver (usually the mother or father) can have a negative effect on brain development, particularly on the childís ability to retain memories and therefore to learn.
Children learn well before they reach school, and early learning experiences actually shape the architecture of the brain. While learning can take place throughout life, the flexibility of the brain in the early, developing years provides an opportunity for enrichment that is probably unmatched at any other time. We must support our children during this early stage to take full advantage of this unique window of opportunity. To do this, we must invest in our communities by supporting education and learning opportunities, and programs that foster stable, well-functioning families.
Jonathan E. Fielding, MD, MPH
Director of Public Health and Health Officer Los Angeles County Department of Health Services