A baby's brain is only partially developed at birth. Trillions of nerve cells or neurons are developed just prior to birth, but these neurons are not connected. The development of a person's brain happens most rapidly during the first three years of life as connections or synapses are developed between neurons. It is the development of these synapses that forms a person's capacity for intelligence. The period of the first three years of life is critical because after developing synapses the brain goes through a process of pruning or eliminating the neural connections that are not frequently used. Synapses are formed through nurturing verbal, auditory and tactile activity. Early experience can have a dramatic impact on the brain wiring process causing the final number of synapses in the brain to increase or decrease by as much as 25%. Listening to adults speak with each other or listening to and watching television does not nurture growth of neural connections.
The activity that most effectively develops neural connections is direct interaction between adults and children and children and children through play. In play activities children can develop capacities in multiple domains. Verbal, conceptual, motor, emotional, psychological and imaginal capacities can all be developed through natural playful activities.*
The Learning Basket approach includes thePlay to Learnactivity book for parents and caregivers. The book contains over 150 developmentally appropriate interactive activities for adults to do with infants and toddlers. These activities are simply stated in language that is appropriate for readers with an eighth grade reading level. Multicultural pictures illustrate each activity and icons communicate what a child can learn in each. The icons express learning objectives across four major domains of learning: the Cognitive, Social, Personal and Imaginal. The assumption that young children can develop multiple intellgences is foundational to this approach.
*Barnet, Ann and Richard Barnet. (1998) The Youngest Minds. NY: Simon and Schuster.
Rutter, Michael and Marjorie Rutter. (1993) Developing Minds: Challenge & Continuity Across the Life Span. NY: Basic Books.
Kotulak, Ronald. (1996) Inside the Brain. Kansas City: Andrews and McMeel.