The brain's an extraordinary organ. Despite weighing only two percent of our body mass, the brain accounts for nearly twenty percent of our oxygen and calorie intake. And it puts that energy to good use. During childhood, the brain effectively builds itself in response to the world around it.
The brain boom
The first years of life are an astonishing period of growth for the brain. At birth the brain is already a quarter of its adult size, and by the age of three, your child's brain contains around 1000 trillion synapses (nerve cell connections), far more than it will ever need. During early childhood, the brain is still under construction.
Important connections in the brain are being strengthened and new connections are being made, while unused synapses are gradually pruned away. The plasticity of the young brain makes the early school years an important period for development. This is the easiest time for your child to learn new skills and behaviours.
By the time your child hits adolescence, the connections in the brain will have been trimmed down to around 500 trillion, a number which will remain roughly stable throughout their adult life.
The building blocks of the brain
A baby's brain develops in a number of stages, mastering the basics before moving on to more complex things.
1. First to develop is the brain stem, which handles basic life support such as breathing and the beating of the heart.
2. Next comes the cerebellum, which adds simple reflexes such as blinking the eyes.
3. The limbic system develops after the cerebellum, bringing the exciting world of emotions.
4. Last to form is the cerebral cortex, which manages most higher brain functions. It can take over twenty years for parts of the cerebral cortex to mature fully.
The fact that emotions develop before logic won't be a big shock to most parents of young children!
A whole lot of lobes
Much of our thinking uses multiple parts of the brain, but when it comes to certain basic tasks, there are specific parts of the cerebral cortex that do the heavy lifting:
> The frontal lobe is the largest of the four main lobes, and plays a major role in decision making and managing emotions. The frontal lobe is central to cognitive function.
> The parietal lobe processes touch, heat and other sensory information coming from the skin, and also plays a role in your child's spatial awareness and hand-eye coordination.
> The temporal lobe handles information coming from the ears, and helps your child comprehend spoken language.
> The occipital lobe is mainly concerned with vision, processing information from the eyes and shaping how your child sees the world.
Docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) is a particularly important chemical in brain development. You may know it better as one of the famous Omega-3 fatty acids. DHA plays a large role in the development of the eye and brain and is especially concentrated in the brain's membrane-rich grey matter.
During breastfeeding, your child can receive DHA through your milk, but after weaning, your child's diet will be the primary source of these important fatty acids. A good solution is to get your kids eating seafood, particularly fatty fish such as salmon, tuna and anchovies. These fish pass on the Omega-3 fatty acids they receive from the algae in their diet.
If your kids aren't fans of fish, eggs also contain small amounts of DHA. For an additional source, you may like to consider a nutritional supplement.
Quality in a capsule
Alongside a nutritious diet, Pentavite High DHA Kids Capsules can be a helpful way to support the health of the growing brain. They come in a convenient twist-off capsule, so you can add the liquid to food or drink.
Along with DHA and its fellow Omega-3 eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), the capsules also contain iodine to help support cognitive function. Our High DHA Kids Capsules are odour-free and have a delicious natural berry taste, so even the fussiest child can enjoy them. And remember, brain development isn't all about diet. Curious young brains thrive when surrounded by play, encouragement and love.
Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. Supplements should not replace a balanced diet.