Why do children produce new neurons

Brain research: developmental steps of the brain in toddlers

Hardly anything is more exciting than watching babies and toddlers grow up. They are constantly discovering something new, learning and changing their behavior through the new experiences. Brain research now knows very well how the human brain develops in infancy. For learning processes, networks are built up in the brain between the individual neurons located there. The number of brain cells is about the same in newborns and adults. They are just linked to one another to varying degrees. But it is precisely these connections that have to be created in our brain so that we can recognize and understand the world as it is. A huge number of these networks are constantly being built up, especially in toddlerhood. So there is a lot going on in the mind of the little ones.

In the beginning, networking is an end in itself

In the first three years of a child's life, each individual brain cell forms up to 10,000 networks with others. Most of them make no sense in everyday life and are continually corrected in the course of later development. In this early developmental stage of the brain, they are not primarily formed in order to be able to grasp and understand the world or the environment, but mainly because a non-networked brain cell is not viable in the long term. The networking of the neurons is still predominantly used for the mere end in itself of survival. In addition, children in this development phase can roughly differentiate between things according to color, shape, noises and size.

Teddy is not always brown

Since a large part of the previous networks were still wrong, they are constantly corrected from around the age of two. "A teddy bear is soft, small and brown", for example, is a link that is corrected as soon as the first polar bear teddy bear is given. In this phase, the child also has the need to check its connections again and again - precisely because so many of them are incorrect or too undifferentiated. So if the little bundles of joy keep dropping things, it may not be easy for parents, but it is only a logical consequence of this extremely important check. Devices that can be classified as dangerous at one time and completely harmless at another time are particularly insidious in this phase. Stovetops and irons seem to have a magical attraction for some children. One reason for this is that the brain does not know for sure what to connect these sometimes called, sometimes cold objects. So it always sends a verification impulse to check whether the previous classification can continue.

If-then connections develop

Around the age of four, a lively exchange between the two hemispheres begins. "The child now recognizes the otherness of the thoughts and motives of other people and can empathize with roles," explains Martin R. Textor, who has a doctorate in early childhood education, from the Institute for Education and Future Research on the website "Familienhandbuch.de". As a result, children develop a feeling for the needs and the behavior of other people based on them. The ability to think about other roles is expressed, for example, in the popular "father, mother, child game". In addition, more complex if-then connections are formed, i.e. a first look through the principle of action and reaction. Until recently: "If I give the cup a nudge, it will fall", the thought continues: "If the cup falls, it breaks. And if it breaks, mom gets angry and scolds."

The basic structure is permanent

This phase is very important for parents. With the child's new ability to empathize with other people, parents can help strengthen the child's ability to empathize at an early stage. To achieve this, experts recommend the method of induction. The parents show an exaggerated reaction to the negative behavior of their offspring. For example, if a child hits its mother's arm, she would hold her arm with a sad and sad look and say "Ouch, ouch! That hurts!" call. After a short time, the child will put on a similar look and, in the best case, begin to comfort and caress the mother. The child learns that other people have the same bad feelings when they are hit or when something is broken for them that they feel even in such moments.

Even with the if-then connections, parents should be careful not to draw false conclusions. If a child learns at this stage that all they have to do is start screaming to get their way immediately, the consequences can be fatal. Because the basic structure of the links once established is permanent and forms the basis for the entire further personal development. A later correction is very difficult, if at all, possible.

"Use it or lose it"

By the way: From the age of ten, many connections die off again. As part of optimizing its performance, the brain breaks down unused connections in order to expand those that are heavily used. "Use is or lose is" is what Textor calls this phenomenon. From the age of ten, the only thing that helps is constant training to permanently consolidate connections that have already been made.

Test your child's brain

The ability to distinguish colors from one another or to perceive contrasts develops in the first years of life. With the help of eye tests it can be checked whether the necessary connections have already been made in a child's brain. We have put together one of these tests for you. Check here that everything is fine with your child.