The more we learn about early childhood development, the more we realize the truth behind Lincoln’s words. We now know that brain architecture is profoundly affected by our earliest experiences and interactions, and mothers and fathers are a child’s first and most influential relationships.
The infant brain undergoes explosive growth during a child’s first few years, building upon interactions with the world and the adults in it. The simplest interactions have the most significant influence on neurological development during these early years. One important set of interactions is often compared to a volleyball or tennis match because it involves a “serve-and-return” exchange between the child and parents. The child serves up the interaction by looking, pointing and perhaps cooing or making sounds, and parents respond with sounds, words, facial expressions and touch. These responsive, positive interactions arising from stable, healthy relationships build and strengthen synaptic connections in babies’ developing brains, forming a crucial foundation for future cognitive, social and emotional development.
On the other hand, when a small child is left idle or receives inconsistent or negative feedback, brain circuitry is either weakened or develops counterproductive links that can result in behavioral challenges or learning difficulties.
As our first and most important teachers, mothers and fathers play a critical role in the early serve-and-return process. So please remember your mother on this Mother’s Day or whoever else provided you with love and support during those early years!