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Why are the first five years of my child’s brain development so important?

The Leap Years

During the first five years of life, a child will undergo such intensive developmental transformations that it’s often hard for parents to recognize their newborn as the same little person entering kindergarten. These first five years are often called “the leap years” not only because a child grows by leaps and bounds but also because a child’s ever-changing brain is continually evolving—literally leaping forward with learning, developing, absorbing and building a foundation for how they will learn for the rest of their life.

In fact, 85% of a person’s brain is fully developed by the time they turn five. That means an overwhelming majority of your child’s physical, cognitive and social brain function will be shaped by his/her experiences in these first five years.

Brain Development

A child’s brain essentially wires itself during these early years—with neurons working hard to make connections with one another and forming the architecture of your future adult’s brain—a process that continues into adulthood. Simpler circuits come first, and more complex brain circuits build on them later. Genes provide the basic blueprint, but experiences influence how or whether genes are expressed. If stimulated with experiences that reinforce motor skills, behavioral control, language and emotional regulation, the young brain builds a strong infrastructure for all future learning, behavior and health. Conversely, if the impressionable brain isn’t properly nurtured, or if it endures a pattern of adverse or traumatic experiences, the resulting foundation can carry weaknesses with negative side effects lasting into adulthood.

With so much happening in this early stage of childhood, it becomes very apparent how crucial a role early child care plays in impacting your child’s life and the reason that positive, nurturing experiences are so important prior to kindergarten. 

Having a nurturing environment is certainly critical in the home environment but it’s just as vital in a child care setting where professionals are trained in the ways a young brain makes connections. Great child care programs expand a child’s relationships and implement activities specifically designed to reinforce the neurological foundation for children to become confident, socially capable, healthy adults. When considering the impact these early educational and social experiences have on a young brain, it becomes obvious how important quality childcare is for your child’s future.

Defining Quality

But how does a parent or caregiver learn to define high quality? And what does it look like in real life? That’s where the ABC Quality program comes into play. As one of the many important programs offered by the South Carolina Department of Social Services (DSS) and administered by the Division of Early Care, ABC Quality is our state’s go-to resource for information about child care and child care quality. ABC Quality is a voluntary rating and improvement program that helps South Carolina parents find high quality child care providers in most any part of our state. Parents and other caregivers can visit us online to search for a provider and learn about our quality rating system. We also have special resources — like this blog — containing useful child care and development information. You can also learn about other important childhood development subjects such as brain development, the important role of play in childhood, and ways to make good nutritional choice for your child that.

ABC Quality is all about helping parents and caregivers define quality care for their child and helping you raise young South Carolinians who will thrive into adulthood. Building a brighter South Carolina begins right here—giving you access to exceptional child care and development programs in South Carolina that deliver quality educational and interactive experiences that will help your child develop to the best of his or her ability.


By ABC Quality Team on September 4, 2020