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Supporting your child's brain development

The most important time for brain development is the 1,000 days between conception and third birthday.

It's particularly important to support your child's brain development at this time.

At birth, you child's brain is around 25% of its adult size. By aged 3, their brain will be 80% of its adult size.

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Read about your baby's brain development in the womb

What you can do to help your child's brain development

Your child’s brain develops best when they are:

  • healthy and well nourished
  • in a healthy routine - for example feeding, sleeping, cuddles, reading together, bath time
  • protected from stress or neglect
  • with a loving and responsive caregiver or caregivers
  • given the chance to play and explore safely

As a baby, they can already recognise familiar sounds and will have developed some taste preferences.

Their early experiences, relationships and environment impact on their development. These experiences lay the foundation for important outcomes like future success and health.

Interact with your baby

Babies are born ready to communicate with you. They do this through crying, facial expressions, gestures, babbling, and laughing.

When you react, you help to build a strong foundation for their brain and your relationship with them.

You can do this by:

  • making eye contact
  • mirroring their expressions or movements
  • talking or making the same noises back to them

When your baby repeats an experience, it helps with their brain development. For example, when they keep grasping your finger with their hand, it makes the paths in their brain stronger which relate to movement, touch, and to you, their care giver.

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Find out about your child's social, emotional and behavioural development

Talking and reading

Talk or read to your baby. Do this even when you know they can’t understand you yet. Evidence shows it can help their brain development, especially their language.

Exercise and nutrition

Good food helps your child’s brain to grow. Some great foods for your child's brain are eggs, leafy greens and fish.

Being physically active is also good for your child's development. Start with tummy time.

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Find out about introducing your baby to solid foods (weaning)

Read about what to give children aged 1 to 4 years to eat

Get tips on teaching your children to be active

Playing

Exploring the world around them is important for your child’s learning. Help your child to explore safely.

Playing helps children to develop and learn a range of skills. It also lets your child know you love them and that they're important. This can positively help their long-term mental health.

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Learn about how your child develops through play

Soothing and comfort

Respond to your baby consistently when they're distressed. It will help calm them down and reduce their stress levels. It has been shown to build their resilience.

Vaccinations

Vaccinating your child protects them from illnesses that can:

  • be life-threatening
  • damage the growing brain

Learn about how your child develops through play

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Learn more about vaccines for your child

Keeping yourself healthy

It's normal to feel overwhelmed sometimes. Many parents feel stress, anxiety, low mood or depression.

Feeling distressed doesn't make you a bad parent. Taking care of a baby is physically and emotionally tiring.

It's important that you ask for help when you need it and get to take a break.

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Find out about the baby blues

Learn about postnatal depression and how to get support

Read parenting advice for difficult days

Read about parenting challenges and how to get support

page last reviewed: 29/04/2021
next review due: 29/04/2024