Humans brains grow from 25% of adult weight when we are born, to 90% of adult weight by age three. This phenomenal growth happens thanks to the production of billions of cells and many trillions of connections or synapses between them.
When a baby is born they already have about the same number of neurons, or nerve cells, as an adult does. When a neuron is stimulated it will grow a network of branches (dendrites) and connections (synapses) to its neighbours. If your baby’s brain is stimulated more, it will grow a more complicated structure of nerve branches. Although the growth of a human baby’s brain is quite outstanding, during the first few years of life, your baby will actually lose about 50% of their brain cells. This happens as part of a process known as neural pruning, which helps to organise the brain and make it more efficient.
Neural pruning is based on a use it or lose it approach. Any experience that your baby has or activity that they take part in helps to establish neural pathways. The more use a pathway gets, the more it is protected against pruning. If it isn’t commonly used, it will be treated as being unnecessary.
During the first few years of life, there are some critical windows during which your child should acquire certain skills. Once the window to acquire a skill closes, learning it becomes a lot more difficult and is sometimes impossible.
BRAIN DEVELOPMENT AND CRAWLING
At Cognikids, we are particularly interested in the brain development that occurs around certain actions, including crawling.
Until a baby learns how to crawl they tend to operate homolateral (one sided). For example, their right arm and right leg will move together. When babies begin to crawl using opposite hand and leg (the cross crawl) this is usually the first time that opposite sides of the body work together to perform a deliberate task on purpose.
The cross crawl helps and encourages crossing the mid-line. The mid-line is the invisible line that runs down our centre and divides the left and right side of the body. Crossing the mid-line is very important for learning skills like walking, running, swimming and even writing. It also helps to build connections between the two hemispheres of the brain, helping information to flow between the two sides.