Stimulation helps with early brain development in children

There is still a popular view that children should develop at their own pace and should not be challenged for which they are not yet ready.

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According to Audrey van der Meer, professor at the Norwegian University of Science and Technology (NTNU), this view dates back to the early 1900s, when doctors believed that genes govern our development, not external factors. In their opinion, accelerating a child's development is harmful as it should occur naturally.

Early psychomotor stimulation in the form of infant gymnastics and potty training play a key role in Asia and Africa. Recent studies also show that it contributes to brain development.

Van der Meer, as a professor of neuropsychology, has been using advanced EEG technology for years to study children's brain activity.

Development in children is especially important in the first years of life because the brain is the best at absorbing information (123RF)

Her research shows that neurons in the brains of young children multiply rapidly and become more specialized as they learn new skills. Neurons in very young children can create up to a thousand new connections per second.

In addition, it turns out that the development of the brain, senses and motor skills are synchronized. Van der Meer believes that even the smallest children need to be stimulated and challenged according to their age from birth. He emphasizes that simply carrying in a pram or carrying it on your hands is not enough.

'Research shows that babies born in cultures where stimulation from an early age is the order of the day develop faster than their peers. Young children's brains are very malleable so they can adapt to their surroundings.'

"New synapses formed in the brain disappear as a child grows if they are not used. With age, the brain loses its plasticity," says van der Meer.

In the seventies it was believed that a child could only learn one language correctly. Bilinguals were advised to use only one speech in the presence of their descendants as this risked disrupting the learning process.

Today it is known that this is a wrong theory. There are known cases of children who speak three, four or even five languages ​​fluently without mistakes or delays. According to van der Meer, toddlers should learn the language by talking and interacting with another person, because passive listening or reading alone may not be enough.

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Since a lot happens in the brain during the first years of life, van der Meer suggests that it is easier then to promote learning and prevent future problems in school.

Increasingly, in the context of teaching and learning, we hear about early intervention, which means helping children as early as possible to ensure their successful transition to the next stages of development. This theory is based on the fact that the brain has the best ability to learn from its environment at an early age.

"When I talk about early intervention, I don't mean six-year-olds, but even younger children - from newborns to three," says van der Meer. She adds that a huge number of kids attend kindergartens, so the quality of time they spend there is particularly important.

"The kindergarten should provide more than just childcare in the absence of parents. It should be a place for development" - sums up the professor of neuropsychology.

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