Early experiences for babies and young children leave an imprint on their brain that affects their entire lives. Healthy brain development depends on many factors, but learning environment can be the most impactful one. Read on for important brain development facts and the best ways to boost brainpower in early childhood.
Did You Know?
- Brain development begins shortly after conception and does not reach full maturity until the third decade of life
- Brains develop within the context of experience and environment
- Each stage of brain development sets the stage for the subsequent one (basic systems develop early and affect complex systems later)
- Experiences during the first years of life have an especially powerful role in influencing the developing brain
Now, what’s the best way to boost your child’s brainpower and increase his learning power? By creating positive and enriching learning environments, which can actually reverse the negative effects of early stress and neglect for young children.
What do Positive Learning Environments Look Like?
For those setting up classrooms or home learning environments, consider making ‘interest areas’ that are carefully selected to reflect children’s interests and needs. Choose materials that can be used in a variety of ways (blocks, art materials, fabric pieces) and reflect a child’s natural interests and home culture. This will invite him into the learning experience in a comforting and natural way. Label storage areas to help children find and put away materials themselves. Keep materials in consistent, easily accessible places, such as on low shelves or on the floor, and in containers that children can see into and handle.
Attributes of a Positive Learning Environment
If you are setting up early learning environments at home or at school, ask yourself: do you have materials, furniture, and storage to support:
- Interaction – encourage curiosity and interaction with materials, with the learning environment, and with each other
- Collaboration – plan activities for children to play and learn with each other
- Participation – help children learn new skills and be part of decisions on how to set up the learning environment
- Communication – create opportunities for children to speak, sing, write, draw, and play with letters, puzzles and books
- Concentration – introduce children to new concepts or ideas and have spaces for them to think and learn
- Investigation – provide opportunities to explore, experiment, play, try, and discover
How to Create your own Positive Learning Environment
Now that you know what to aim for in a positive learning environment, here are some easy ways to get started:
- Have furnishings and displays that are accessible to children of various abilities to see and explore
- Have blocks and manipulatives that invite children to build and create
- Provide materials that allow children to experience various sizes, textures, colors and shapes
- Make sure children see themselves reflected in the environment
- Create an environment that stimulates communication, invites questions, encourages investigation and promotes exploration
- Observe the interests of your children and change the materials, objects, and furniture according to their interests
- Involve children in setting up the environment
A safe, positive learning environment with enriching materials and toys plays a huge role in your child’s brain development. Looking for more ways to boost your child’s education? Follow ECR4kids on Pinterest, Twitter, and Facebook!
About the Author:
Lisa M. Lasky is the Senior Director of the National Equity Project. She has worked in education for over 25 years as a teacher, leader, school and district coach, and has led several organizational/system change projects across the country. She is a founding director of the National Equity Project, based in Oakland, CA, and has served in many roles including Associate Director, Director of Elementary and Middle Schools, Director of the School Grants Program, and Deputy Director. She currently leads NEP’s Leadership Development and Coaching Division – overseeing support and services to a portfolio of clients from California to Mississippi to Washington, DC. Lisa holds a B.A. in Sociology and English from the State University of New York, College at Cortland and an M.A. in Education from UC Berkeley.