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Learning and Cognitive Development

How children think and learn: research articles

When Your Child’s New Friend is Imaginary

NYU Child Study Center

3 year old Anna with her imaginary friendMany young children, particularly those between the ages of 3 and 5 years, develop imaginary friends.  Children this age are typically beginning to decipher the boundaries between fantasy and reality, and their “new” imagined friends are part of this process. 

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New Study Indicates Long-term Benefits of Early Education

Story time at Lakeside PreschoolScience Daily

A new study conducted by researchers at Columbia University’s Mailman School of Public Health examines the impact of intensive early education programs on the health and health behaviors of low-income children.  The study used data from the well-known Carolina Abededarian Project (ABC), a randomized control study that enrolled 111 infants in the 1970s and continued to follow them through age 21.

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The Foundations of Lifelong Health are Built in Early Childhood

17 month old CameronCenter on the Developing Child  Harvard University

This topic, available in both PDF and video formats,  explores the impact of healthy development in the earliest weeks and years of life.  Postive early experiences can shape and strengthen developing biological systems which in turn can lead to a healthier and more productive life in adulthood. 

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Children’s Emotional Development is Built into the Architecture of Their Brains

Center on the Developing Child  Harvard University

Wyatt and MomA growing body of scientific evidence demonstrates that emotional development begins early in life and is closely connected with the emergence of cognitive, language and social skills. Early emotional development lays the foundation for later academic performance, mental health and the capacity to form successful relationships.

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The Science of Early Childhood Development

Center on the Developing Child  Harvard University

Kaili and MomThis edition of the InBrief* series addresses basic concepts of early childhood development, established over decades of neuroscience and behavioral research, which help illustrate why child development—particularly from birth to five years—is a foundation for a prosperous and sustainable society.

* InBrief is a three-part series that offers short summaries of the scientific presentations given at the National Symposium on Early Childhood Science and Policy in June 2008.

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The Timing and Quality of Early Experiences Combine to Shape Brain Architecture

Center on the Developing Child  Harvard University

Takumi and dadThe foundations of brain architecture are established early in life through a continuous series of dynamic interactions in which environmental conditions and personal experiences have a significant impact on how genetic predispositions are expressed. Because specific experiences affect specific brain circuits during specific developmental stages—referred to as sensitive periods— it is vitally important to take advantage of these early opportunities in the developmental building process.

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Excessive Stress Disrupts the Architecture of the Developing Brain

Center on the Developing Child  Harvard University

StressScience tells us that experiences early in life may have long-term consequences for a child’s learning, behavior and both physical and mental health.

Some types of “positive stress” in a child’s life (overcoming the challenges and frustrations of learning a new, difficult task, for instance) can be beneficial. On the other hand, severe, uncontrollable, chronic adversity (defined as “toxic stress” ) can produce detrimental effects on developing brain architecture as well as on the chemical and physiological systems that help an individual adapt to stressful events.

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Children Develop in an Environment of Relationships

Center on the Developing Child  Harvard University 

Mateo and parentsNew research shows the critical impact of a child’s “environment of relationships” on developing brain architecture during the first months and years of life. We have long known that interactions with parents, caregivers and other adults are important in a child’s life, but new evidence shows that these relationships actually shape brain circuits and lay the foundation for later developmental outcomes, from academic performance to mental health and interpersonal skills.

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