Although most of a child's brain cells are formed before birth, most of the interconnections among these cells are made during infancy and early childhood.
Many factors influence the development of a child's brain. These include both physiological and psychological factors. Some factors are outside of our control, such as good genetics. However, most factors for brain development are within our control, such as good food and nutrition, parental love and nurturing, physical activity and diverse experiences.
Experiences in all five senses are critical to fully develop all functions of the brain. Seeing, hearing, touching, smelling, and tasting all help create neural connections important to brain development. Sensory experiences lay out neural circuits in the brain. Continued reinforcement of these circuits creates patterns in the brain that help a child form thoughts, habits, memories and an overall sense of consciousness.
The first three years of a child's life is especially important. During this time 1,000 trillion neural connections are created. Brain development can be classified into several major areas: visual, auditory, language, motor skills, emotional skills and social skills.
During the first few months of life, babies learn to recognize shapes, colors and objects. The baby starts to see objects at varying distances and detect movement. The baby also starts to recognize sounds. These visual and auditory developments continue rapidly before beginning to slow around the age of 4 or 5 years old.
Understanding language begins to develop at birth through constant exposure by parents talking, singing and reading to the child. The child begins to respond through babbling. Over time, this evolves into understanding and speaking a language that continues to develop until adolescence.
Physical and motor skills can be divided into gross motor skills (e.g., walking) and fine motor skills (e.g., coloring with a crayon). These skills start at birth and continue through adolescence. Gross motor skills start to develop earlier than fine motor skills. Once basic motor skills are mastered, continued experiences help refine movement and coordination, such as catching a ball while running.
The last major set of skills to develop are emotional and social skills. From birth through adolescence a child learns awareness of others, how to play with others including sharing, and more subtle feelings such as empathy and trust.