Learning after the Birth
A baby’s brain is a magnificent engine for learning. After the birth, baby’s memory develops and moves beyond the “here and now” limits of the sensory world, babies explore and learn their new world through all the five senses – hearing (mummy’s voice), vision (daddy’s face), smelling (mummy’s skin), touching (grandparents caressing) and tasting (milk), though these senses are not fully developed. While the outside world continues to shape baby’s brain development through sensory experiences, babies also go through important prelinguistic stages of communication through their repertoire of facial expressions, cries, and babbling. Various studies have shown that during the first few months of life, infants can perceive and discriminate all the sounds of any human language. But around 6 months of age, they show preferences for their mother language, and by one year old, the babies no longer responded to the phonetic elements of a language other than their mother language.
The neuroscience has confirmed that the neural circuits in our brains are determined both by genetic instructions and by experiences encountered in the environment. Contrast to Arnold Gesell’s approach, which stresses genetic maturation as the source of child development, Jean Piaget’s studies on cognitive development pledged “constructivism” and “interactionism” of child development, stressing the constant interaction between heredity and environment in developmental processes. For Piaget, there are no limits to human development, and individuals’ cognitive structures are the product of active construction and interaction to the constraints of experience.
Henri Laborit, French physician and neurosurgeon, also states in his book La légende des comportements that“It is through action that the newborn constructs its body schema. When its hand touches its foot, the two sensations, one in the hand and the other in the foot, turn inward onto its own body, whereas if the infant touches its bib, or its mother’s breast, then the sensation in its hand opens onto the outside world.”
Function determines structure. Body gets stronger through exercise, and brain grows with the use, this is the important principle of children’s brain development. Since not all of the baby’s brain circuits are complete at birth, and they do not yet interconnect the various parts of the brain effectively, thus babies retain only scattered impressions of their self interactions with environment. This is why, the early learning process is important to a child’s mental development.