How do childhood experiences affect brain development?
Our brains develop from before birth and into adulthood (Siegel and Bryson, 2012). But there are key ‘sensitive periods’ during early childhood and adolescence where children and young people’s brains are more affected by positive or negative experiences (Shonkoff et al, 2008).
What happens in a child or young person’s life during these periods can have a significant effect on their brain development.
Positive experiences throughout childhood help to build healthy brains, while experiencing childhood trauma and abuse can harm a child’s brain development (Shonkoff et al, 2015).
But our brains always have the potential to change and grow. It’s never too late to give a child or young person positive brain building experiences.
Having caring relationships and access to support services can reduce the harmful effects of negative experiences and help a child’s brain develop in a healthy way (Shonkoff et al, 2015).
How we use metaphors to explain brain development
We want to create a shared and simple language around child brain development that can be used by all professionals, parents, carers and children.
These metaphors can be used to improve understanding of child development and give positive brain building experiences to children who have experienced trauma.
On this page you’ll find information about each of the six metaphors and tips on how to use them in your work with children and families. We also have a summary booklet you can download to learn more about each of the metaphors and access further reading.