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Infancy and Early Childhood Development

            Research on the brain and early childhood development indicates that the first four years of life are a period of particularly rapid development of brain structures and function. According to Larissa Scott (2004) the potential of the brain can be enhanced by presenting the right experiences at the right times, in the right amounts. In the initial stages of life, children's brains can be compared to a sponge soaking up liquids. As the newborn's five senses are stimulated the information gathered causes brain activity. This activity leads to the development of motor, emotional, behavioral, cognitive and social functioning.
             As the brain collects more information it begins to make connections between old and new knowledge, discarding information that does not sustain relevance to the environment. This sorting and learning process can be regarded as a function of the elimination of unnecessary associations and maintenance of those that are used. This places a great responsibility on primary caregivers to provide children with endless opportunities for gathering new information and maintaining associations with previously experiences. .
             The National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2007) reports that specific experiences have a significant effect on specific brain circuits during specific developmental stages. The ability to think and regulate emotions is determined by the availability of appropriate experiences at the right stages of development. Children need to be introduced to new tasks gently, too much, too soon is overwhelming. Learning requires focus, sustained attention and the capacity to tolerate frustration. Most children develop faster in one domain, motor, emotional, cognitive, social, than others. Children tend to choose activities that match their strengths and give them the greatest sense of achievement. It is important to help children find private ways to practice their relative weaknesses.

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