Tag Archives: attachment


Nurturing Baby Brains: Key Insights on the First 60 Days and 1000 Days

The first months and years of a child’s life are critical for healthy development, which is why I was so excited to speak with two experts on the neuroscience of early childhood.

Deborah McNelis and Nathan Wallace shared fascinating research on how baby brains grow and practical tips to provide the responsive care little ones need. As an early childhood educator, their insights gave me so much to think about in caring for infants in my own setting.

Let’s dive into the key takeaways on supporting our smallest humans during the foundational period of the “4th trimester” and first 1000 days.

The 4th Trimester: Why the First 60 Days Matter
Deborah McNelis explained how the first 60 days are like a 4th trimester, where newborns need round-the-clock nurturing to finish their development outside the womb.

A baby’s brain forms 1 million neural connections each second at this time based on their caregiving experiences! A consistent, responsive bond wires the brain for lifelong emotional and physical health.

Primary Caregiving in Childcare Settings
Both experts emphasized the importance of a primary caregiver model where babies bond closely with one or two consistent teachers. This “dyadic” caregiving approach mimics the evolutionary environment human brains expect.

Frequent transitions between multiple caregivers raise infant stress. Childcare centers should prioritize assigning infant teachers as primary caregivers to support secure attachment, something that the EYFS advocates with the Key Person approach.

Look Inside Developing Brains
Nathan Wallace described how experiences shape gene expression in the first 1000 days from conception to age two and a half. Low-stress environments allow more energy to build the “higher” brain centers for emotional regulation, problem-solving and learning.

Trauma and adversity in this period can significantly impact brain architecture. While not irreversible, it takes more effort to “rewire” neural pathways later on.

Fuel Creativity to Boost Brains
I loved Wallace’s point that creativity fuels cognitive development! Allowing infants endless opportunities for play without structured academics builds the foundation for intelligence.

He said genius Albert Einstein attributed his scientific breakthroughs to a nurturing early childhood full of creative freedom.

This emphasizes the different roles of early educators compared to primary teachers. We scaffold play much more than giving direct instruction.

Takeaway for Educators
Both experts agreed the most important thing is a nurturing relationship between caregiver and child. Infants need to feel heard and emotionally reflected before logical explanations. A little empathy goes a long way with our wee ones!

The research on brain development shows how early educators should have empathy and patience for the learning journey infants embark on each day. I hope these insights help you see their world through a neuroscience lens as well.

What are your biggest takeaways on supporting baby brains? Share your thoughts in the comments!

Want to find out more?

Both of the sessions discussed here are available to Early Years TV Premium Members:
You can find Deborah McNelis’s session here
And Nathan Wallis’s session here

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Guest post

Sustained Shared Thinking: Children and Trauma

My new online course on Sustained Shared Thinking is now available. You can get it at a special price here…
>> The Sustained Shared Thinking Online Course <<

Sustained shared thinking tipsToday’s guest blogger, Jane Evans, has specialist knowledge in a much under represented area of early years – trauma and domestic violence. She is the creator of the ‘Tuning In’ Parenting Beyond Trauma, Parenting Towards Harmony and Happiness Programmes, and the ‘Tuning In’ Beyond Trauma Training for professionals.

Statistics from the womensaid organisation are shocking:

At least 750,000 children a year witness domestic violence. (Department of Health, 2002).
In 75% to 90% of incidents of domestic violence, children are in the same or the next room.

This is a subject which desperately needs discussion.

I’m very excited that Jane has written this blog post to promote such discussion about the subject. Do add your comments!

Tend and nurture a child’s emotions and they will grow to reach for the sky.
by Jane Evans, Specialist Parenting & Behaviour Skills Consultancy

Reading Kathy’s article on Sustained shared thinking gave me an ‘aha’ moment.

It prompted me to think about all the children, and parents, I have worked with, over a 15-year period, who have lived through trauma. Those people who so badly needed someone who could spend the time to help them to find the tools to expand on their thinking.

All children clearly would benefit from this, but the children I have known have experienced a variety of traumas in their short lives. Most of their experiences were of living with domestic violence and abuse, along with other forms of abuse and neglect.

As a Parenting Worker in a range of settings with families with complex needs, I often began my work with the main carer, usually a mother. I then did some 1:1 work with a child or children and used this to inform my work with the main carer.

I observed first hand the effects of trauma on the child’s development and the complex pattern of attachment between the main carer and the child, and the ways in which this impacted on the child’s social and emotional understanding and skills – and this is where practitioners need to focus their skills.

Taking part in ‘sustained shared thinking’ with traumatised children needs an extension of most practitioners’ skills. Knowledge and understanding of the effects of trauma on:

• brain development and function
• impact on behaviour
• speech and language
• social and emotional skills

would need to be the foundation for this.

Why? Children who live with, or through, trauma rarely develop the ability to access and connect with their feelings. There is often very little input from their carers who are preoccupied by their own stress and trauma and may not be able to offer this.

Therefore, it is crucial to take time to start this journey with young children by gently suggesting feelings they may have or thoughts so as to put ‘pennies’ in the empty slot machine.

Then, when they are asked, as they will be in life, how they feel about something they can ‘pay out’ with a response that they feel and understand. This in time will also give them the ability to empathise and understand that others have a mind and a set of feelings too.

Practitioners can gently suggest without jumping in too soon, “I saw what happened with you and Alfie, I wondered how you were feeling about it?

(Pause for child to respond), I was thinking that maybe you felt anxious, sad, confused etc.?”

Pennies are put in so they can later be ‘paid out’. Thinking can be expanded and built on once the child begins to feel that it is safe for them to look inwards as well as outwards. The practitioner is there to support them in doing this.

Traumatised children will often present as ‘falsely fierce’, fearless and overly confident.

Life experience has taught them this is how to survive and it needs an attentive, focused practitioner to pick up the subtle signals they throw out that all is not as it seems. These children do not have the ability to think things through, but are often only able to react on impulses to survive, as that is what has got them this far in their difficult lives.

‘Sustained shared thinking’ seems to be the first step in offering a much needed ‘attachment figure’ to children who have lived through trauma and the importance of this is inestimable!

More insight into, and understanding of, how parenting is affected by trauma, such as domestic violence, can be found during my training in Bristol in September.

Click here for my Tuning In Beyond Trauma Training

click here for information about Colette Winters training

About Jane Evans:

I have extensive experience of direct work with parents, carers, children and professionals who have been faced with the effects of trauma, such as domestic violence and abuse, child safeguarding issues, substance dependency, homelessness, mental illness, learning difficulties, school non-attendance and loss.

The families and professionals taught me that a different approach to supporting parents and carers was needed and that it had to be about emotional intelligence and empathy so this has been the corner stone for the parenting programmes, professional’s training, 1:1 parenting and consultancy work which I now offer.

Email: janeevans61@hotamail.co.uk
Phone: 07946318404
Twitter:JaneEvans @janeparenting

My new online course on Sustained Shared Thinking is now available. You can get it at a special price here…
>> The Sustained Shared Thinking Online Course <<

And to read my ultimate guide to Sustained Shared thinking, click here:

>> The Ultimate Guide To Sustained Shared Thinking <<

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