The Critical Learning Years
Children Between The Ages of 2 and 7 May Be The Most Intelligent Humans On The Planet
Studies show human brain development begins utero. The brain starts developing about the third week of gestation. Neural progenitor cells begin to divide and differentiate into neurons and glia, the two cell types that form the basis of the nervous system. As the brain struggles to absorb information and understand its environment, the foundations for learning develop.
The next critical period of brain development begins around age two and concludes around age 7. Children's brains continue absorbing information and start to process or categorize it during this crucial phase. If intelligence defines the ability to learn, the prime opportunity to lay the foundation for a holistic education for children is in the early years. Maximizing this critical period is essential to encouraging a love of learning.
Two-year-olds have twice as many synapses as adults. Twice as many synapses enable the brain to process information and learn faster than at any other time of life. Capitalizing on this physiology gives the child a significant advantage later in life.
Don’t Overlook Emotional Intelligence
As important as it is for children to read well and understand math fundamentals, benefits are limited if the child cannot function in modern society. Emotional intelligence or socialization cannot be disregarded. A child’s character is almost completely formed by age eight. Therefore, the advantages of learning during this first critical period of brain development must extend to personal character-building skills such as kindness, empathy, and teamwork.
Learning A New Language
Research suggests children also learn some critical skills during this first period of brain development. For example, children in this age range are best suited to understand the patterns of language development, enabling them to master a second language to the same level as a native language. However, once children reach age 8, their language learning proficiency decreases, and second languages are not spoken as well as native ones.
Don’t Treat Young Children’s Education As Merely
A Precursor to “Real” Learning
We must take advantage of this early physiology and invest in our children's primary years. They matter most for their success and our country's survival.