Brain Development and Early Childhood Education


As an advocate for early childhood education, the following would be disseminated as a brief to the Maryland State Assembly in support funding additional research in study brain development specifically as it relates to the development of young children.


“Early brain development is for the long-term” (Mustard & Rowcliffe, 2009, p 150)


From conception until the day we die, our brains process every thought and interaction we have. Recent brain and educational research (Begley, 1997; Families and Work Institute, 1996; Gonzalez-Mena & Eyer, 2007; Jensen, 2005; Shore, 2003; Wittmer & Petersen, 2006) clearly shows these neural pathways can be made richer and stronger through appropriate early care and challenging experiences that take place in carefully designed, nourishing environments.”, (Rike, Taylor & Moberly, 2008, p 23).  Wasserman (2007) states that “the 21st century has brought about many new technological advances that help to pinpoint specific areas of the brain that have difficulty and need to be improved to aid the education of the children within our classrooms”. (p 415).

For a child the human brain develops more than ninety percent (Rees, Booth & Jones, 2016) before their sixth birthday. According to Lebedeva (2015) the framework of the brain relies on four systems: regulation, sensory, executive and relevance.  Regulation controls our appetite, sleep, our stress levels and recovery system and without it we are unable to learn or process any information (Lebedeva, 2015).  Regulation is dominantly observed during the infant stage of early childhood.  “One dominant theory is the Mutual Regulation Model (Tronick & Beeghly, 2011), where it is the co-regulation of both the care provider and the infant (or child) that creates the brain patterns conducive to learning”, (Lebedeva, 2015, p 23).

During the first three years, particularly year three, relevance in brain development is where emotions, along with sensations begin to create memories and find intentions. Using the sensory system children begin to place senses in how they relate to relevance.  As early childcare educators, observations of this growth is evident as children experience new experiences.  Lastly, the executive system in brain development as Lebedeva (2015) reports is real time processing of intellect and emotions.  During preschool years children begin to correlate how emotions work with critical thinking and which are appropriate or inappropriate behavior.  Early childhood care providers can help children navigate through these feelings and place merit on their purpose.

“When providers are supported in seeing behaviors in the context of these systems, they are better able to understand that all behaviors have meaning, and are influenced by a child’s earliest relationships”, (Lebedeva, 2015, p 24).  “Universally-targeted educational programmes which encourage learning in a way that is supported by the available literature on brain development have the potential to be beneficial for children’s learning”, (Rees, Booth & Jones, 2016, p 13).  Early education programs can show and demonstrate “strong evidence of the flexibility of the children’s brains as they pursued never-ending possibilities for exploring and learning with the materials”, (Curtis, 2014, p 26).

In conclusion Rike, Taylor and Moberly (2015) state the job of early childhood educators the best and why knowledge of brain development is important to our field: “we build brains”.  Without research and study of brain development in young children, we cannot effectively utilize tools and resources they need to successfully grow.



Curtis, D. (2014). Seeing children find endless possibilities. Exchange (19460406), (215), 24-27.

Lebedeva, G. (2015). Building brains one relationship at a time. Exchange (19460406), (226), 21-25.

Mustard, J. F., & Rowcliffe, P. (2009). The long reach of early childhood. Our Schools / Our Selves, 18(3), 149-158.

Rees, P., Booth, R., & Jones, A. (2016). The emergence of neuroscientific evidence on brain plasticity: Implications for educational practice. Educational & Child Psychology, 33(1), 8-19.

Rike, C. J., Izumi-Taylor, S., & Moberly, D. (2008). We grow brains!  Exchange (19460406), (181), 22-26

Wasserman, L. (2007). The correlation between brain development, language acquisition, and cognition. Early Childhood Education Journal, 34(6), 415-418

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