It is thought that there are critical windows of opportunity for the various stages of development. Some of the windows open earlier and likewise, some relatively later. The more you understand the optimal times for development, the more you'll be able to give your child the stimulation he or she needs.
Social Development (0-18 months)
From birth, babies are primed to build strong emotional bonds with the people who give them consistent loving care. Without positive social experiences during the first 18 months, the less likely they are to develop secure, trusting relationships. Many experts believe that stress hormones affecting the limbic system (a key area of the brain) to be a main culprit when children do not develop the proper foundations. Emotional foundations built during the early years are crucial in developing relationships throughout his or her life.
Motor Skills (prenatal-4 years)
A child's brain is primed to give generous amounts of time for optimal growth. You can watch and see how much your child is developing as soon as he or she is born. But keep in mind that much needs to be accomplished before your child will be running, jumping, climbing, or riding a bike. Likewise, your child's brain is forgiving when the proper stimulation is not happening during the optimal time. An example experts give is how in some cultures babies are carried on .cradleboards' during their first year or two, yet they learn how to walk easily given the opportunity to practice.
Speech and Vocabulary Skills (0-3 years)
The first three years of life are fundamental for learning language . any language. The more language a child hears, the larger his or her vocabulary will be as they grow into adulthood. What kind of talk they hear is also important. During this period, it is what kind of language is spoken directly to a child that is most effective to build "circuitry" to support vocabulary growth and proficient language skills. Experts agree that no infant will experience that 'back-and-forth' stimulation in front of a television.
Math and Logic Skills (1-4 years)
Between one and four, children develop the ability and capacity to understand logic and mathematical concepts. Activities such as stacking blocks and knocking them down, stringing wooden beads together, or counting a row of peanuts before eating them one by one help a child grow into a skilled mathematical and logical thinker. Children who aren't given these types of opportunities are more likely to fall behind their peers and have to work hard to catch up.
Musical Skills (3-12 years)
Babies love music from birth. By the time they are toddlers they are enjoying dancing to the radio and singing songs. If you are wanting your child to play a musical instrument you'll want to wait until their eye-hand coordination is more developed (around age three experts agree). But, is there an upper limit for the "window of opportunity?" Some researchers believe that beginning around age ten to twelve years of age the window begins to close (just like when children start to lose their ability to learn multiple languages). What happens, according to these same researchers is that while it is possible for an adult to learn how to play an instrument, they would never develop the necessary neural foundations to become virtuosos. The main gist here is, earlier to play, the more years are available to enjoy and create music.
Without interesting experiences to stimulate and guide development, the child's brain is and would be in jeopardy. What role to parents play? It is our responsibility to make sure that there are enough resources available from day one to make our baby's life the best it can be.
Book/Source: Baby Minds: Brain-Building Games Your Baby Will Love, by Linda Acredolo, Ph.D., and Susan Goodwyn, Ph.D.