The Science

Brain development is key!

It’s great to encourage families to play together, but now studies have shown that increasing home learning opportunities in the early years will make a real difference in children’s school readiness and attainment.

Starting Out has been specifically designed to capitalise on opportunities and strategies to reinforce this development in a fun and flexible way.

What is the brain and what is it composed of?

The human brain together with the spinal cord, form the Central Nervous System.  At birth, there are approximately 86 billion nerve cells called neurones which link with each other and are responsible for children’s learning and development.

At birth 25% of the brain is developed but by the age of three, with good stimulation, 80% of the brain will be developed.  Not many of the neurones are linked at birth but as different sense receptors in the body are stimulated, connections start to be made as messages are transmitted from one neurone to another.


Getting things right initially is more efficient and ultimately more effective than trying to fix them later - early plasticity means it is easier and more effective to influence a baby's developing brain architecture than to rewire parts of its circuitry in later childhood or adult years.

Chris Paterson (2011), ‘Parenting matters: early years and social mobility’


How does the brain work?

Nerve cells start in the eyes, ears, tongue, nose and skin and, when stimulated, send messages to the brain which learns to understand and respond to them.  Each time a stimulus is received, the pathway that the message takes is strengthened and eventually, with large amounts of stimulation, neural pathways are formed.  This is the basis of learning and it is through repeated stimulation that learning is strengthened.

What does the brain need to make it work well?

In order for the brain to work well it needs good nutrition and stimulation through the senses.  There are optimum periods for different types of learning in young children’s lives, when it is essential that good external stimulation is provided in order to develop strong neurological pathways.

Practitioners will learn more about brain development in the early years at a Starting Out training day.

Further reading suggestions

  • Why Love Matters
    Sue Gerhardt
  • The genius of natural Childhood
    Sally Goddard Blythe
  • The Boy who was raised as a dog
    Bruce D. Perry & Maia Szalavitz
  • Understanding Schemas and Emotion in early Childhood
    Cath Arnold & Pen Green team
  • The well being of children under Three
    Helen Bradford
  • 21st Century Boys
    Sue Palmer
  • Involving parents in their childrens learning
    Margy Whalley
  • Working with parents
    Margy Whalley & Pen Green team