Tag Archives: infant and toddler brain development

When Does Literacy Begin?

We know children pick up language starting from birth—they hear our conversations, they repeat our words, and then words turn into sentences. But when does literacy really begin?

Literacy begins the first day you bring your baby home and starts with the process of language development. This is displayed through body language and signals your baby uses to communicate. To foster this communication further, parents should speak to their babies frequently as they interpret cues and focus on different kinds of communication.


In the last ten years, neuroscientists have done tremendous research on infant brain development and identified areas of the brain responsible for different functions. Here is a quick and easy overview:

Wernicke’s area: Located in the temporal lobe and plays a critical role in the ability to understand meaningful speech.

To develop this area, speak to your baby in whole language (use short complete sentences) and read to him or her daily, as reading helps develop listening skills, language skills, speech patterns, and memory. Age appropriate music with rhythm is another great way to develop of this area of the brain. Not only does music help with language, it also introduces other cultures and teaches infants how to follow directions—like the song “If You’re Happy and You Know It” (clap your hands!).


Broca’s area: Located in the frontal lobe of the brain and controls the production of spoken and written language.

Once your infant is mobile, place a bin of interactive picture books on the floor within reach, so your baby has the opportunity to expand his or her vocabulary. Make sure to interact with your baby while he or she flips through pages, but also give him or her time to play with books and toys alone.


Temporal lobe: Located above the ears and responsible for hearing, speech, and some learning and memory.

Infants and toddlers love repetition! This is because it’s how they start to understand what you’re saying and what words mean. To encourage temporal lobe development, repeat the words to a favorite song frequently over a period of time, and you’ll see that your child will start to know what comes next and develop important memory skills.

When babies are born their brains are 25% developed, and by the time they are five years old development is at 95%! So focusing on developing these three areas of the brain between birth and age three is crucial in order to avoid problems later on.

By Daseta Gray, an educator with over 20 years experience. She consults for Sabree Education Services. Read her previous posts here.

Brain Development During The Infant & Toddler Years

Brain Development During The Infant & Toddler Years

The brain is like a circuit breaker it has many wires but in order for the box to function all the wires must be connected. All children are born ready to learn, however, if the different sections of the brain are not stimulated the brain will not function as a whole.   Caregivers should adjust their parenting style to facilitate new brain research that has shown that we need to focus on the learning centers of the brain.

Brain development takes place in stages and this is referred to as Hierarchical, “Bottom-up” sequence. This post discusses some recent findings on brain development. The nervous system begins to develop around the third week of pregnancy. The architecture of the brain develops over time. At birth the brain is 25% of its size and at 5years old it is 90% if its size. (Elliot, 1999). It is critical that you give the social and emotional skills to your infant and toddler during these critical years. As your infant grows the quality of brain development   will be dependent on the experiences that you expose her brain to. These experiences will determine the foundation for learning and behavior. If you do not stimulate all the areas of the brain it will consolidate with age and will become very difficult to awake (stimulate).

The different sections of the brain and their functions:

The Hinder brain (cerebellum and the brain stem):  Motor regulation, balance, heart rate and breathing.

Mid brain (emotional center): blood temperature, blood pressure, appetite, satiety, emotion reactivity, sexual behavior, context memory

Forebrain (cortex): reasoning, logic, abstract thought.

These sections of the brain must be developed simultaneously. This actually begins before your baby is born.

Sections of the brain.

Sections of the brain.

There are several factors that can put brain development at risk as your baby is developing in the womb. Here are some of them:

  • Poor nutrition
  • Pregnancy complications
  • Alcohol
  • Prescription/illegal drugs
  • Stress
  • Depression

A caregiver can do a number of things to support synapse development, for example, repetition of a sensory motor activity helps toddlers to maintain important synapses. That is why it is important to maintain the same routine with young children because repetition helps young children to learn social skills. New discoveries also help to maintain synapses. It is very important that you allow your infant and toddler to freely explore by creating a safe space. It is also important that infants/toddlers maintain positive relationships with caring adults, have stimulating environments and caregivers that are interacting with the children.

Caregivers should be aware of the current brain research as this will allow them to help children develop using developmentally appropriate practice. When caregivers are aware of the process of brain development they can better help infants and toddlers along the stages of development.

Once your baby is born you will need to begin facilitating brain development and begin to prepare your infant for school. As discussed earlier there are different areas of the brain that are responsible for different domains but you must stimulate all areas of the brain in order for it to develop well.

Science has found that stress can have an impact on the developing brain

Our ability to manage stress begins in those early years of brain development. This is controlled by a set of inter-related brain circuits and hormonal systems that are specifically designed to deal with your ability to adapt to different environments and their challenges. The circuits that handle this are very delicate during the pre-school years. When a child feels threatened, stress hormones are produced and convert the physical and emotional stress into chemical signals that are sent throughout the body as well as the brain. It is important that you teach your infants and toddlers how to adapt and respond to stress in a positive way because you are setting the foundation for life. Poor response to stress can prove to be a health hazard for life. If a child is exposed to long periods of stress the outcome can lead to stress related disorders such as: depression, anxiety, drug abuse, stroke, and diabetes.

It is very important for young children to have a positive relationship with their care giver because it reduces stress. The quality of the childcare program also should reduce the amount of stress that your child may experience.

It is very important that caregivers nurture brain development in infants and toddlers!


Brain Development in Infant and Toddlers developed, by J. Roland Lilly 2009 West End

Brain Research and Early Childhood Development, by Kathleen Canley Gallagher

Excessive stress disrupts the Architecture of the Brain by 2005, National Science council on The Developing Child

By: Daseta Gray, MA Ed, Certified Infant/Toddler Specialist; Available for workshops; creator of Baby & Wee™ sessions for parents of infants and toddlers 0 – age 3; facilitate trainings for childcare providers.

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