by Jessica Crosby, NCFA Intern
Time and time again, we have all heard that the first few years of a child’s life are crucial to their brain development. Research shows that brain development in early childhood affects children emotionally, socially, and intellectually for the remainder of their lives. Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child discusses a principle known as the serve and return process. The serve and return process emphasizes how critical parent-child interaction is in the process of brain development. A perfect example of the serve and return principle is the Still Face experiment, which was conducted originally by Dr. Edward Tronick and shown here by Tapestry Ministry’s Adoption and Foster Care Ministry. When a child does not experience this interaction appropriately, it is a threat to their development and well-being. Unfortunately, many children who have been placed in institutionalized living environments are not given the appropriate one-on-one attention that is essential for their proper development.
Fortunately, children have the capability to catch up in some areas of development. Research shows that the period of flexibility and plasticity in the brain does not fully form until age twenty-five.1 While adoption and foster care are a step in the right direction for children who were previously in institutionalized living situations, it is also important that the caregivers and parents are implementing exercises that aid in specially stimulating the child’s brain when we know that they have experienced trauma or environments that would contribute to developmental delays or attachment concerns.
There are many simple games and activities that parents can involve their toddlers in to influence vital brain development. Click here to view brain-boosting toddler activities that enhance developmental skills and that will continue to help cultivate their cognitive, social, and emotional brain development. Other brain enhancing activity ideas and tips can be found at Better Brains for Babies, Ways to Boast Your Baby's Brain Power, and Activities to Boost Brain Development in Children. We at National Council For Adoption hope these resources will be helpful in parenting adopted children and helping them to overcome trauma and delays and achieve their full potential in your family.
1 Building Adult Capabilities to Improve Child Outcomes: A Theory of Change. (n.d.). Retrieved January 26, 2015, from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/multimedia/videos/theory_of_change/