5 important things that happen in the first two years
The all-important first two years
Your child’s early learning and development has far-reaching implications for the future of the economy, the political climate and international relations. Crazy to think that what you do each day as a parent has that kind of implication, but it does! The child you are raising today will help create our future.
Here are five really important things that happen ONLY in the first few years of life that affect your child in later years.
In the first two years…
CHILDREN NEED to move. So their muscles and bones and brains will grow properly. According to one study, the average toddler takes around 176 steps each minute. Big play, where children can run, spread out, climb, spin, crawl around, and use their whole body to move promotes physical development, coordination, and learning. Even the tiniest babies need tummy time every day to flex those core muscles and support physical development. Floor time is the best way to play, talk, sing, read and explore objects, so get down there and hang out with your babies and toddlers.
CHILDREN NEED secure attachments. So they’ll have healthy relationships later in life. Yep, it’s true. Responding to cries, staying attuned to your baby’s emotions, feeding, changing diapers, snuggling, and playing ‘get your belly’… all these things support attachment. Attachment is when your baby looks to and relies on you to take care of them and love them. They feel safe because you are there. And years down the road when a child is ready to enter a committed relationship with someone, the trust and attachment established in the first years is foundational to emotional intimacy.
CHILDREN NEED to be spoken to. So they can learn to speak a language (or two). We are born with the ability to learn any language – the door on the language center of the brain is wide open in the first years of life and then the neurons not used are pruned away. That’s why young children can easily learn more than one language and why grownups have to work harder to learn a new language. Toddlers add new words to their spoken vocabulary at the rate of one every two waking hours. By age 6, a child understands about 13,000 words. And children who learn more than one language in early childhood have improved cognitive development. The best interactions between child and adult include a minimum of 3-5 back-and-forths.
CHILDREN NEED good nutrition. So they can have normal rates of growth. If we continued to grow at the same rate throughout childhood as we do in the first year we would all be giants! By 12 months, an infant’s weight triples and height doubles. If bodies grew at the same rate as their brains, they would weigh 170 lbs. by one month of age. Neural connections (synapses) grow from 2,500 per neuron to 15,000 per neuron in the first two years. Poor nutrition, stress and not getting enough rest has a significant effect on physical growth. And guess what? Flavor preferences learned in infancy last for years, so try lots of different foods!
CHILDREN NEED to try and try again. So they can develop resilience. Resilience, the practice of ‘sticking to it’, is vital to cognitive development. When we have high expectations of a child’s ability to succeed (whether stacking blocks or finding the toy hidden under a blanket), we communicate they are capable, independent and able to make things happen on their own. This responsiveness attributes to a child’s resilience. If we do things for them in a moment of frustration, we inadvertently cause them to be dependent on adults for problem-solving. And that’s not helpful to anyone! Instead, patiently showing them how to do the task and wait for them to figure out on their own how to be successful.
Keep these things in mind if you ever doubt the importance of the time you spend with your child… feeding them, changing diapers, playing with them, talking with them – sometimes saying the same things over and over and over again!
What can feel repetitive and even mundane is exactly what they need — your presence, your attention and your kindness. All these little things contribute to growth and development in every area.
You’ve got this parenting thing! We’re here for you.