Finally, the knowledge that pediatricians and childcare providers have known for years is being given credibility. The Carnegie Institute released a study on Early Brain Development, the First Three Years. The National Institute of Health (NIH) is studying the effects of quality childcare on child development. Developmental and behavioral pediatricians throughout the country are focusing in on the social and developmental interactions during the important early years of growth.
Now there are scientific studies backing up the statement: “Quality childcare is important for the development of the child.” The NIH has stated that quality childcare is defined as the positive interaction between the caregiver and the child. This does not necessarily state any particular staff to child ratio, but rather the ability of the caregiver to respond to a child’s needs. The Carnegie Institute is looking at the actual growth of the brain. The more stimulation a child has in various forms, the more the brain grows and learns to understand what it will need to know. For instance, a child after two years can speak Chinese. His parents are Chinese and he learns it from a early age. As adults, having two years of Chinese instruction does not guarantee that there will be fluency in the language.
Learning math skills apparently improves with the listening to Mozart as an infant (probably dealing with the beat of the music). Language skills are greatly increased at age five years if the child had someone read to them an hour per day as an infant. These studies are now moving from cognitive learning into the social and interactive areas. Through a series of brain mapping with special brain scans, it is being proved that positive interaction from a parent or caregiver to an infant increases the development of the right side of the brain. Infants will learn how to respond socially, deal with stress, and interact with peers better when their environment is stable and people interact positive with them.
Dr. T. Berry Brazelton through his studies of Touchpoints has shown how even a six month old infant makes “friends” with a special peer in the nursery; to the point of crying when their friend cries! A mother’s cortisol level (a chemical that deals with emotion) rises giving a warm feeling to them when their infant responds to them through a smile, look, or touch. The infant also responds, and this response is causing the part of the brain dealing with social interaction to grow. This is why some children feel more comfortable with who they are as they get older. Dr. Peter Giorski, a Boston behavioral pediatrician, feels that by age four, children understand whether the world is a world of opportunity or not.
What does this mean to the caregiver? It means that a child needs quality time, someone who will interact positively with them, and someone who will meet their needs. An infant needs stimulation in a positive, loving, caring manner. It means that reading to infants and the tone of our voice is important. It means that listening to music around children can assist in their development. It means that the teacher in the infant room may just be the most important teacher in the center.