Development and learning are dynamic processes that reflect the complex interplay between a child’s biological characteristics and the environment, each shaping the other as well as future patterns of growth.
Advances in neuroscience over the last two decades have provided new insights regarding the processes of early brain development and their long-term implications for development and learning. The findings provide robust evidence supporting the importance of high-quality early learning experiences for young children for promoting children’s lifelong success.
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Neural connections in the brain—which are the basis for all thought, communication, and learning—are established most rapidly in early childhood. The processes of forming new neural connections and pruning the neural connections that are not used continue throughout a person’s lifespan but are most consequential in the first three years. When adults are sensitive and respond to an infant’s babble, cry, or gesture, they directly support the development of neural connections that lay the foundation for children’s communication and social skills, including self-regulation. These “serve and return” interactions shape the brain’s architecture. They also help educators and others “tune in” to the infant and better respond to the infant’s wants and needs.