Did you know at birth, the average baby’s brain is a quarter of the size of the average adult brain and it doubles in size in the first year? That’s right DOUBLES in size, so by age 1 the brain is already half the size of our adult brains. That is so much growth in such a small window of time.
By age 3 it has grown to 80% and by 5 nearly full grown or around 90%. That means the majority of growth happens in the first 3 years of life. The saying “you are your baby’s first teacher” is so true. They are learning everything from you! They are constantly watching, listening, and absorbing your every move. Overwhelmed with the responsibility? Not sure where to start, or how to help? First off, relax and take a deep breath, you are doing great! I will help you through different ways you can maximize brain development and help your little one reach their full potential.
Let’s explore how the brain works. About two weeks after conception the neural tube, which is the embryonic precursor to the central nervous system, begins to form. That means a baby’s brain is already developing before most even know they are pregnant. Around week 10 the neural tube has become the brain and spinal cord, and the first synapses form and electrical activity has begun. Synapses are basically pockets of space in the brain that pass messages to communicate from cell to cell. By the end of the first trimester the baby has made enough neural connections that they now have a full range of involuntary movements, like yawning or stretching. In the second trimester, so much growth happens. Most mothers will feel kicks and maybe even some punches. The baby will begin forming their senses, and can taste and hear. The brain stem will almost fully mature by the end of the second trimester, which is responsible for controlling heart rate, breathing, and blood pressure. During the last 13 weeks of pregnancy the brain roughly triples in size, and the cerebellum is developing fast. The cerebellum is the part of the brain that is responsible for motor control. The cerebral cortex is the part of the brain responsible for thinking, remembering, and feeling. The cerebral cortex develops rapidly in the last few weeks of pregnancy and starts to function when the baby is full term. This is all before the baby is even born. What can you do during this time? Eat well, take your vitamins, sleep when you can, drink lots of water, and get routine check-ups.
Tune in next week for the second part of this series about development after your baby is born.
I offer specialty coaching sessions with families in their home to help you facilitate developmentally appropriate play with your child, based on their age and developmental age. For more info, please contact our office at 515-226-3415 or
About the author: Hi, I’m Stephanie. Welcome to my first official blog post as the Pediatric Sensory Development Specialist at Integrative Family Medicine (IFM). I am so excited to walk you through understanding brain development and how sensory play can help your child’s physical, emotional, and mental development. To truly understand brain development you must understand how the brain works. I believe having this knowledge can help parents everywhere understand their children and anticipate their needs even before they can articulate them. There is a lot to cover when it comes to pediatric development, I plan to cover as much as possible in this blog series.