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  • What a child experiences during the first years of their life has a lasting impact on the development of their brain.

  • While genes set the roadmap, experiences create the neural connection inside the brain that sets the foundations of our emotions, language, motor skills, vision, and memories.

  • If one region gets additional stimulation, the neural pathways within that area and the connections to other areas grow stronger.

  • This process is called synaptic pruning.

  • You can also imagine your brain as a planet.

  • There is Motor Skill Metropolis, Memory Mountain, and Vision Village.

  • Through the years, popular cities grow bigger and links between them get larger.

  • Now, if one area was never developed, there can be traffic jams.

  • This then slows down the development of the entire brain.

  • Some neurotransmitters will be tired getting to work.

  • Others will take shortcuts and get lost.

  • Betty Hart and Todd Risley studied children's exposure to language.

  • On average, children from families on welfare were exposed to about 600 words per hour.

  • Kids from rich families got about 2,000.

  • By the age of 3, the gap becomes 30 million words.

  • But it didn't end there.

  • Children from privileged families received much more positive feedback.

  • For every 6 words of praise, there was only 1 word of discouragement.

  • Welfare kids, however, had twice as much discouragements as praise.

  • This could make a difference that lasts a lifetime.

  • In a study that began in 1963, psychologist David Weikart and his team randomly divided 123 underprivileged kids into 2 groups.

  • One group spent 2 years at a top preschool with excellent teachers.

  • They made art, discussed problems, and received a lot attention, respect, and love.

  • For the other, life went on as usual, often without much attention from anyone.

  • 40 years later, the HighScope Perry Preschool Study was published.

  • At age 5, 67% of the children in the top preschool group had an IQ of over 90; they were school-ready.

  • Of the others, only 28% achieved that.

  • At 14, there was a big difference in basic classroom achievements.

  • At 27, the top preschool group were more likely to own their own home.

  • And at age 40, they earned more money and were less likely to ever be sentenced to jail.

  • The researchers concluded that the 2 years at preschool nourished the children not only intellectually, but also gave them social skills, courage, and perseverance.

  • This combination of character strength, also called "grit", was later responsible for their success in life.

  • The $15,000 invested in putting those kids into preschool later benefited the entire society, mainly through a reduction in crime.

  • The total return of investment was estimated to be at a $195,000.

  • In 2006, Nobel Prize winning economist James Heckman published what became known as the "Heckman Curve".

  • It shows the return of investments in education, which is the highest in the early years.

  • Governments have since started to act.

  • In Germany, parents get a lot of financial support to raise their kids.

  • In Japan, mothers or fathers can take a full year of paid leave.

  • In France, all children go to kindergarten free of charge.

  • If you happen to be in charge, know that with every extra minute you spend encouraging and talking to that little troublemaker, you might be doing him a favor for life.

  • According to the University of Michigan, "Regular family dinners are a stronger predictor of good grades than doing homework."

What a child experiences during the first years of their life has a lasting impact on the development of their brain.

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