Recent research has shown that, while a child's brain does have inherited characteristics, it is far from complete upon birth. Rich stimulation and experiences during the first six years of life cause connections (synapses) to develop between the 100 billion individual neurons (nerve cells) and branches to develop and extend the brain cells, and this process has an enormous effect upon the brain's eventual capacity and usefulness. Basically, the brain must be wired and trained through activity to connect and use these neurons, or they become useless.
Furthermore, it is evident that there are specific windows of opportunity for the development of certain abilities, after which it is either much more difficult or even impossible to develop those abilities. A child who, because of cataracts, cannot see by about two months of age will probably never be able to see, even if those cataracts are removed. A child who does not hear a language in a native accent by about age ten will never have a proper accent and will have more difficulty "thinking" in the language. As long as the window of opportunity is still open, however, a young child's brain can often compensate for accident, injury, or certain birth defects, because it is still able to develop these neuron connections.
Infants and young children are driven to learn. They try repeatedly to conquer new tasks and love the process. They soak up new vocabulary and syntax like a sponge. They welcome each new activity as something to be excited about and to conquer.
Children's capacity and desire to learn is practically unlimited, and the "developmental stages" originally proposed by Piaget and accepted by countless educators since then vastly underestimate young children's capabilities. It is through challenging and realistic next-step experiences that they progress and develop their ultimate brain function. With opportunity, guidance, and parent and caregiver support, showing that we are genuinely excited about what they are learning, the child soon develops a confident and positive attitude toward learning and a healthy view of the realistic challenges which lead to self-satisfaction. It is, therefore, incumbent upon us to provide a rich variety of experiences which will foster brain development and a higher intelligence.
At Harwood Hills Country School, we strive to "feed the brain" through fun activities which give children the great start they need to be successful in elementary school and beyond. We provide challenge, while encouraging creativity and curiosity. Most of all, we want the learning to be fun, so that they will be hungry for more!