What is our ‘new normal’ doing to the brains of our children?

What is our ‘new normal’ doing to the brains of our children?

Written by Dr Tessa Grigg and Bindy Cummings

At GymbaROO, parent education has always been a primary focus. New research is indicating that, not only is actively supporting the earliest years of brain development vital, but also that our changing environment is altering the outcomes for our children. Parents need to know what they can do to remedy this and assist their little one’s development.

The supporting documentation is now vast and undeniable – a baby’s brain grows most rapidly in the first twelve months of life, and this is a critical period for learning. What happens in the first year of life affects all later development. The correct stimulation for babies can influence how well they behave, read and learn when they reach school. In addition, they have improved confidence, coordination, communication and socialisation skills.

However, recent research from Brown University 1 has indicated that the way children are presently living is impacting their neurodevelopment. Lockdowns, masks, closed early childhood facilities and restricted movements are removing much of the stimulation our children’s brains were exposed to pre Covid. Parents are also under increased stress and pressure to manage their own lives, which impacts the development of their children’s brains. Deoni1 and his team compared the cognitive scores of children born in 2020 and 2021 with those born between 2011 and 2019. They found that the children born during and after 2020 displayed reduced verbal, motor and cognitive skills, compared to the children born before 2019. While the study is yet to be peer-reviewed, it points to issues that we are concerned about at GymbaROO-KindyROO. We also suspect that it is not just infant brains that are being deprived of external stimulation.

Our new way of living has taken away much that we took for granted. In the past 18 months there have been the obvious changes, like children being in the same environment with fewer resources, for longer. Then there are other, less obvious differences, like mask-wearing, which removes information that a baby would normally gather from the faces of the people they encounter.

However, with the right information there is lots that can be remedied. Parents can have a dramatic influence over their children’s brain growth and their future learning ability. We believe that every parent has the right to give their child the chance to be the best that they can be and the right to easily access information so they can make this happen.  One option provided by GymbaROO-KindyROO is our Active Babies Smart Kids twelve-part, online video series for parents of babies is entirely FREE. Our series is highly recommended by doctors, paediatricians, early childhood experts and the Maternal Child and Family Health Nurses Association. The future for the babies engaged in this program is looking brighter. We also have our classes running in some states for older children and online classes for people who are not able to get to a centre.

Why the first year is SO important to future learning

Neuro-scientific studies are continuously demonstrating that much of the essential wiring linked to learning is laid down during the earliest years of life. Research into brain development clearly shows a child’s success at school is set in the earliest years of life2, 3.

There is an exciting and enormous amount of brain growth that can go on in the early years if children are given the learning opportunities and the opportunity to use their brains. The human brain grows by use and this growth is practically complete by six years of age.  This does not mean we cannot learn after this age, it simply means that the quality of learning available to us will depend primarily on the foundations we have acquired in our earliest years.

A baby’s brain grows through movement and the correct early movement experiences are easy, natural and fun and any parent can do them with their children. We provide a wide range of activities making it easy for parents to understand how to best interact with their children.  Parents are a child’s first, most important and best teacher. Through our GymbaROO-KindyROO programs – in class and online, we strive to help parents feel confident in their knowledge about their children’s brain and body development and provide them with developmentally appropriate and loving activities that can be easily accomplished both at GymbaROO-KindyROO and at home.

GymbaROO-KindyROO – making the world brighter one child at a time.

Read more on how to help a baby to ‘use’ their brain here.

  1. Deoni S.C.L., et al., Impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on early child cognitive development: Initial findings in a longitudinal observational study of child health. Developmental Cognitive Neuroscience, 2021.
  2. Butcher, P.R., et al., The quality of preterm infants’ spontaneous movements: An early indicator of intelligence and behaviour at school age. Journal of Child Psychology & Psychiatry & Allied Disciplines, 2009. 50(8): p. 920-930.
  3. Stevens-Smith, D.A., Active Bodies/Active Brains: The Relationship between Physical Engagement and Children’s Brain Development. Physical Educator, 2016. 73(4).