23 September 2009

Which Quality Factors Improve Children’s Cognitive Development Between Birth and 5?

Children undergo their most rapid brain development between conception and 36 months of age (National Scientific Council on the Developing Child, 2004). Children’s brains and minds develop in tandem; therefore, access to resources that promote optimal development is particularly important during a child’s earliest years. Early mind development is a compilation of the cognitive, social and emotional skills that human’s develop and build more complex skills upon as they age. In turn, early growth is an important predictor of later life outcomes. Early brain and mind development are both experience dependent (Thompson, 2001, Spring/Summer). Young children utilize the components of their early relationships and resources to support the physical development of their brains as well as the acquisition of their cognitive, social and emotional developmental skills.

Years of research has demonstrated that children who receive supportive, nurturing care in a rich language environment have better cognitive development by the time they enter kindergarten (Burchinal et al., 1996; Willms, 2002; Howes, 1997; National Institute for Early Education Research, 2003, December). In turn, increased kindergarten readiness has been linked to better performance in school and enhanced preparation for the workforce. There are many things that parents can do to support their children’s cognitive development including:

Speaking to infants and children often and trying to use at least 5 words per sentence;

Reading to their children daily from an early age;

Using the teachable moments of daily life to help children gain understanding of early math and science concepts, for instance cooking together can be an excellent opportunity to explore things like ratios and fractions and the differences between liquids, solids and gases (Zero to Three, n.d.).

Not surprisingly, the same characteristics that help improve cognitive development at home also apply to child care settings. Child care settings that have small caregiver to child ratios and well educated caregivers who receive ongoing training and support provide demonstrable increases in children’s language and cognitive development and also in their school readiness. Small caregiver to child ratios provide caregivers with the energy and time to respond more sensitively and thoroughly to children’s needs. Ongoing education and training arms providers with the information and skills they need to provide a rich language environment and utilize effective curriculums that improve children’s pre-literacy and pre-math skills (Burchinal et al., 1996; Willms, 2002; Howes, 1997; NIEER, 2003, December).


Burchinal, M.R., Roberts, J.E., Nabors, L.A. and Bryant D.M. (1996, April). Quality of Center Child Care and Infant Cognitive and Language Development. Child Development 67, 2, 606-20.

Howes, C. (1997). Children’s experiences in center-based child care as a function of teacher background and adult: child ratio. Merrill-Palmer Quarterly, 43, 404-425.

National Institute for Early Education Research. (2003, December). Can A College Degree Help Preschoolers Learn? Fast Facts: Issue No. 1. New Brunswick, N.J.: Author. <>

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. Young Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships. (2004). Working Paper No. 1. Retrieved [August 21, 2009] from http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu

Thompson, R. A. (2001,
Spring/Summer). The Growth of the Brain. The Future of Children: Caring for Infants and Toddlers 11, 1. Accessed September 2009. < journalid="44&articleid=" sectionid="1212&submit">

Willms, J.D. (2002). Vulnerable children and youth. Education Canada 42, 3, 40-43.

Zero to Three. (n.d.). Everyday Ways to Support Your Baby or Toddlers Early Learning. Washington D.C.: Author. Accessed September 2009. < docid="3081&AddInterest=">

1 comment:

Mylittle Genius said...

Awesome post! Thanks for sharing this valuable & informative information.
Child Brain Development | Brain Development In Early Childhood