The 5 Most Important Things to Do in
a Child's First 2 Years.
Dr Kathie Nunley, 2017
first two years of a child's life may be the most important, in
terms of brain development. At no point in his or her life will
there be a better opportunity to affect brain structure and function.
Every parent and caregiver wants to do what's best, but doesn't
often know exactly what that is. It's as simple as remembering that
the brain is affected by three things: external stimulation, nutrition
and internal chemistry. Here are my top five suggestions for things
you can do to give a young child the best start in life.
on language. The number one predictor of a child's success in school
is the richness of their vocabulary by the age of 3. So talk to
your child. Use your big words. Point things out as you move about
the world with her. Real life, face-to-face human interaction. If
you and your spouse or partner have different native languages,
each of you use your native language when talking to the child.
Bi-lingualism is a wonderful asset for brain health.
television and other visual electronic media (yes, this includes
your smartphone). The reticular activating region of the brain,
located in the base of the brain, can be over-stimulated by visual
electronics during the first 24 months. This brain region is responsible
for attention span. Allow it to develop normally, by avoiding visual
Mother's milk is best. The natural fats in breast milk help speed
myelination of the central nervous system. Myelin is the fatty covering
that develops on nerves as a child develops. The faster the nerves
myelinate, the faster information can travel and the more information
that can reach the brain from the peripheral nervous sytem. If nursing
isn't possible or when you do start your child on other foods, remember
to include plenty of natural fats in his diet for good brain health.
Let your child sleep in total darkness and total quiet. The retina
of the eye needs a significant amount of total darkness for proper
development. Lights in the nursery, even nightlights, can disrupt
proper retina development and increase the liklihood that your son
or daughter will be nearsighted. Quiet is important for the brain
maintanance that occurs during sleep. Babies need lots and lots
of sleep in order to process what's been going on in their wake
hours, and let their brains prune and branch appropriately. Backgroud
noise from a radio, music maker or television disrupts this brain
Touch your child. Skin-to-skin contact is critical for healthy nervous
system development in a child. Children who are not touched, do
not thrive. Make sure you touch your child as much as possible.
Face, arms, legs, etc. Insist that all caregivers hold them while
feeding. Let your child experience a variety of tactile stimulation
as well. Let them feel soft things, furry things, rough sand, cool
A child's brain
develops more in the first two years than any other time period.
Take advantage of this critical time period by provides lots of
human, real world interactions followed by plenty of dark, quiet
sleep periods, for the best start in life.
Dr Kathie Nunley is an educational psychologist, researcher and
author of several books on parenting and teaching, including A Student's
Brain (Brains.org) and the best selling, "Differentiating the High
School Classroom" (Corwin Press). She is the developer of the Layered
Curriculum® method of instruction and has worked with parents and
educators around the world to better structure schools to make brain-friendly
environments. In addition, her work has been used by the Boeing
Corporation, Family Circle Magazine, the Washington Post, and ABC
her: Kathie (at) brains.org