The brain, the brain, the centre of the chain

Early stimulation sets the stage for a child’s future but while every student can learn, they do it in different ways.

Portrait of Tammy Strobel

Early stimulation sets the stage for a child’s future but while every student can learn, they do it in different ways

If you’ve ever had a child imitate your actions or repeat what you say over and over again, then you probably already know that these tiny tots are quite easily influenced. A popular quote even likens children to wet cement, because anything that falls on them makes an impression. Pamela See, Educational and Developmental Psychologist of Th!nk Psychological Services, refers to this phenomenon as plasticity. “The brain development of a child is more plastic in early life than in maturity,” she explains, “and this plasticity means that a child’s brain is more open to learning and enriching influences.”

Windows Of Opportunity

Scientists have also determined that neurons in the brain peak at certain points in a child’s life, and call these sensitive periods when specific learning takes place “windows of opportunity”, as they are often the times when children are able to soak up knowledge like a sponge. This is an all too familiar concept for Freda Sutanto, a psychologist at Kaleidoscope Therapy Centre for Children. “Children tend to learn and internalise information without as much effort or focused awareness as adults, which is why the sponge analogy has been used often. I think that children have a greater capacity for learning and they pick things up faster because their brain is designed to be more malleable.” she says. In this way, experience plays a crucial role in “wiring” a young child’s brain.

Build Better Connections

Because the brain is a social organ, its development is dependent on social interactions. The brain needs and relies on experience. So, based on the link between outside stimuli and brain development, it’s fair to say that the earlier a child learns about their environment the better off they’ll be. Fostering a love of education in children at an early age is also important as it sets the stage for development that continues into adulthood. According to UNICEF, on average, each additional year of education boosts a person’s income by 10 per cent and increases a country’s Gross Domestic Product by 18 per cent. Some researchers even estimate that if every child learned to read, around 170 million fewer people would live in poverty.

Learning Is Emotional

In Singapore, the fear of not giving one’s child a leg up in life has sprouted a multi-billion dollar enrichment industry but Freda warns parents not to be overzealous when it comes to signing up their children for extra lessons. “Do not expect classes to “raise” your child’s overall development or IQ,” she stresses, adding that “child development and IQ are a product of a complex set of interactive genetic and environmental factors and are best supported within the day to day parenting environment.” She encourages parents to be the main teachers for their children as learning is actually emotional at heart.


Mums have their say on enrichment classes here.