How early experiences foster neural connections in babies and toddlers

How early experiences foster neural connections in babies and toddlers

How early experiences foster neural connections in babies and toddlers


Lesson 3: Early Childhood Development


*Note: This lesson and others are designed to be easily used with screen readers.

image1.jpgLet’s continue your prenatal learning into the child’s early years by first reviewing—and further discussing the developmental domains!

Within the physical domain we look at brain and body growth and motor (movement) development. Physical and motor growth is most impressive in our earliest years. Just think of that one cell becoming a newborn child in just a few short months. (Note: These months might not seem as short if you are the one pregnant. ()

Motor development (a major part of the physical domain, as is growth and sensation and perception) refers to the advancing movement abilities of the child. You will read about both gross motor and fine motor development. When you think about gross motor (BIG movements, such as crawling), I want you to think of the milestone dates given in your text as generous (as are many pediatricians) in giving you a good idea of what ‘normal’ is. Please use the handout attached instead of your text as your reference.

The cognitive domain is the second domain of development. “Cognitive,” or cognition refers to mental processes, such as thinking, remembering and problem solving. Understanding the process of learning is an important application in the cognitive domain, and is what we refer to as a meta-cognitive process (meta-cognition involves thinking about your own thinking). What a child learns in early childhood sets up the child for her entire life. In fact, research clearly demonstrates that kindergarten success predicts all future academic success. Thus, we can predict success for a senior in high school, for example, by his kindergarten success. WOW! This knowledge has sparked current research investigating HOW to help those children at risk (particularly due to poverty) for low kindergarten success from as soon after birth as possible.

A big part of your study of early childhood cognitive development is the child’s ability to learn language. Language acquisition in early childhood (which determines language abilities for one’s entire life) is largely impacted by environment. The child NEEDS to hear and have symbols (words) connected to objects for him by other children and adults to learn it. Sadly, if a child is not in an environment that is rich with language demonstrated for him, he will never catch up. The child’s ability to learn language (from birth to three especially) is so impressively fast—we just can’t learn language to that level past these critical years. Although environment is an important key to language development, our ability to learn language is very much an innate (inborn) process. Our brains are set up (pre-wired) to learn language. For example, my daughter looked out the car window one day and yelled “COWS!” My son rolled his eyes and said, “You mean deers. Babies don’t know anything!” Did I ever say “deers” to or in front of him? Of course not—his brain had applied a rule of language.

The third domain of development is the social-emotional domain. Did you know that you are born with just a few basic emotions? What are they? It’s not until you get into toddlerhood (close to age one) and beyond that you develop complex emotions, such as embarrassment. How do you know what these emotions are? How on earth do you know how to handle them at your youngest ages? YOU DON’T . You need to learn about them from those around you. This is why talking—explaining feelings, validating them (they are ok and everybody feels these ways at times), explaining what to do about them, and demonstrating what to do about them is so important. Children need to look to others, particularly their primary caregivers, to learn about emotions, and they learn a lot by what you say to them… and they learn a lot by watching how their caregivers handle their own emotions—and will be much more likely to copy what mom does when she’s feeling angry (for example) than to act how mom said to act when feeling angry.

What about the social part of this domain (although emotions are definitely part of this)? Should babies and young children be around adults? Should they be around other children? If you answered ‘yes’ to both questions, you are correct! Why? Think about what is valuable that the child learns from each.

With every developmental milestone, from any of the three domains, there is a range of appropriate times that a child should meet that milestone. For instance, the average time for a child to walk is a little over 12 months. So, about 50% of children can walk well at a little over 12 months of age. The RANGE of when a child learns to walk is about 9 months to 15 months. So, most children learn to walk between 9 and 15 months of age. Does this mean that if my child does not walk until after 15 months then there is a major problem? No. Could there be? Yes, and that leads us to the idea of ‘red flags.’

When a child is deviating past the norm (the ‘normal’) for a milestone or nearing the end of the range for when we would expect that skill to develop, it should raise a ‘red flag’ or a bit of concern for us as parents, educators or professionals working with the child. This is not to say that there is necessarily something wrong– but checking into it with a child development specialist can never hurt. Addressing any delay or problem early often provides a better likelihood that the child does not continue to fall behind peers and experience further delays across all three developmental domains. The public school district typically has at least one early childhood specialist and a team to provide services at NO charge to the parents or caregivers. The child development specialist is usually able to come right to your home to assess (figure out if and what is going on with the child by watching the child and talking to him/the parent)– and ultimately provide some type of therapy with the child if needed. A good rule of thumb is that if there is even the slightest question as to delay, a parent should contact his/her local school district’s early childhood department for an evaluation.

The time period from conception (and before) to age five is full of excitement. I hope you enjoy your reading in chapters 3, 4 and 5. As you think about early development, it may help to understand a few names given to the time periods…

Infant (birth to age 1)

Toddler (age 1 to age 3)

Preschooler (age 3 to age 5)

Assignments for Lesson 3:

1. Read chapters 3, 4, and 5. For each, begin by reading the summary at the end of the chapter. Then page through the chapter, looking at main headings and bolded terms. This will help you to get the main ideas and prepare your learning for the details. Highlight or taking notes on important points. Do the Test Yourself recall sections throughout the chapter. You don’t need to turn these in but they WILL help you earn better scores on your quizzes!

You don’t need to KNOW everything at this point. In fact, reading or learning about a concept MANY times is what leads to full understanding and lengthy memory storage. ( After reading the chapter, take the chapter quiz. You will have a good idea about the concepts at this point—so that you can more easily find the information in the chapter to double check your understanding—or to find something you know you read but didn’t quite stick! Your second (or fifth!) try on the quiz (each of the three quizzes for this lesson!) will give you a second (or fifth!) chance to make sure you LEARNED the included information (OK, and help with points)!

2. Attached important information not specifically tied to one assignment in this lesson:

1. Erikson’s 8 Stages of Man theory: Your book describes this theory stage by stage throughout the lifespan, BUT this handout gives you a great visual and brief overview of the entire theory of psychosocial development. This is helpful for your learning in this lesson—and we will look deeper into the ENTIRE theory a bit later. (

2. Handout on motor development (as described earlier in this lesson to replace your textbook’s overview picture)

3. PowerPoints for Chapters 3, 4 and 5. These are meant to serve as outlines for your studying, and include helpful pieces of information, video clips, and examples to aid in your understanding. (

4. What Children Need Assignment: (30 points)

Part 1: Head to the website / and you will see (around the middle of the page, not the tabs at the top) four areas to explore. The first three are listed here, as these are the three areas that I want you to focus on:

Early Development & Well-Being How the earliest relationships with caregivers make a lasting difference

Early Learning How early experiences foster neural connections in babies and toddlers

ParentingHow loving connections in the early years last a lifetime

1. Choose TWO of the three areas, and for each of the two you choose find one posting (“topic”) that you find particularly interesting. For instance, if you click on “Early Learning” you may then choose “Play.”

2. For each of the two you choose, you should summarize your reading in one large paragraph. Thus, you should have two large paragraphs to submit.

Part 2: Watch (and take notes on) Improving Early Child Development with Words: Dr. Brenda Fitzgerald (22 minutes) at

1. Why do we need to learn language? How do we know? Explain.

2. Describe TWO important research studies (what did they do and what did they find) presented by Dr. Fitzgerald. You should have one big paragraph. Please include great details. (

Part 3: Watch this talk by Dr. Bruce Perry on Social and Emotional Development in Early childhood (one hour in length) at . Summarize your learning in THREE large paragraphs. There is lots in this video (Dr. Perry is amazing)—and thus I suggest that you watch entire talk and take great notes. Next, based on your notes, decide the key areas you want to talk about and choose the key details. THEN, write your summary paragraphs—AND lastly, go back to the video and watch again to make sure that you are accurate and to see if there are other details you would like to include! You may (and are encouraged to) connect your learning in this video to your textbook learning. This may be in your explanations or in examples that you give. Be sure that each paragraph includes significant video learning when doing this. ?

Your completed assignment is due in the appropriate Assignment folder by Sunday, October 9th at 11:59pm .

5. Quizzes: Chapters 3, 4, and 5 (20 points each quiz)

Click on the Quizzes link, and click on the Chapter 3, 4, or 5 Quiz. You will complete 20 questions in multiple-choice format for each quiz. You have 20 minutes to complete the quiz. You may use your book and notes.

b. At the end of your quiz, you will find out if you answered any questions incorrectly and which questions you missed.

You may take the quiz up to three times in order to further your understanding of the chapter by clicking on the Chapter 3, 4, or 5 Quiz and completing the quiz again. Your quiz questions may include the same and/or a mix of different questions each time, with a varying order to which they will appear. Only your highest score will go into the Gradebook .

These quizzes are all open before the start of this lesson—and are available to complete for the entire lesson to give you lots of flexibility in your learning! Time flies though, so be careful to organize your time. You should be planning to complete about one chapter per week—so plan out your hours and days so that you can get all of this great learning in! All three quizzes (chapters 3, 4 and 5) will officially close on Sunday, October 16th at 11:59pm.

You have reached the end of Lesson 3!


© 2022. Angela G. Bagne. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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