The Science

1 million neural connections per second.

That’s how quickly a child’s brain is developing between birth and age three. 

Infants and toddlers are ready to absorb new information, environments, and love from their caregivers. Those earliest days, weeks, and months are at the core of ZERO TO THREE’s work as the premier organization translating the brain science of early childhood into a better world for babies and toddlers. 

When we're born we have billions of neurons. But they're not, for the most part, connected.

Connections between synapses—or signals sent through the brain—are strengthened through repeated positive experiences. These connections are vital in helping babies learn the essentials they need to survive and thrive within their family, community, and culture. 

Why the early years matter.

Different types of learning take place at different times in our life. The highpoints on the curves, illustrated here, are what researchers refer to as “sensitive” periods, when a child is particularly sensitive to certain types of interactions. Sensory pathways such as hearing, language, and higher cognitive function all peak by the first three years of life. 

During the first three years of life, emotionally nourishing relationships lay the foundation for lifelong health and well-being.

Research and clinical experience demonstrate that a baby’s earliest relationships and experiences with their parents and other caregivers dramatically influences brain development, social-emotional and cognitive skills, and future health and success in school and life. 

Whether babies are born healthy with the potential to thrive as they grow depends on maternal well-beingnot just during pregnancy, but even prior to conception. This is particularly true among people of color and their babies due to intergenerational trauma and lived experiences with institutional and interpersonal racism. 

Adverse childhood experiences literally get under our skin.

As science has provided us a window into how the brain develops and can be nurtured, it has also documented how the early years can lead to profound and lasting gains in school achievement and lifelong success…or not. Researchers have learned that early adverse experiences become integrated into our bodies, impacting lifelong development, emotional success, and mental and physical health. 

Where we come in:

Each baby's potential is unlimited. The window of time to provide a child with the foundation for success is not.

When parents and caregivers receive the support they need to foster close connections and healthy relationships with their babies, they are able to serve as a buffer against the impacts of ongoing and inherited trauma many families face every day. 

ZERO TO THREE works to ensure that babies and toddlers benefit from the family and community connections critical to their well-being and development. Healthy connections help build babies’ brains. By supporting the caring adults who touch the lives of infants and toddlers, we hope to maximize our long-term impact in ensuring all infants and toddlers have a bright future. 

Babies and toddlers need your support now more than ever.

Together, we can strengthen families across the country and around the world.

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