The Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University has a new, interactive multi-media presentation entitled “Five Numbers to Remember About Early Child Development”. The numbers are:
- 700 Per Second—In a young child’s brain, new neural connections are formed at the rate of 700 per second. Reciprocal interactions with adults are one of the primary methods through which these neurons develop.
- 18 Months—By the age of 18 months, disparities in vocabulary, based upon the education level of the child’s parents, begin to appear. By the age of 3 years, children of college-educated parents may have a vocabulary 2-3 times that of children whose parents have not completed high school.
- 90-100%—Children who are faced with 6-7 risk factors (poverty, parent/caregiver mental illness, maltreatment, etc.) in the first 3 years of life have a 90-100% chance of developmental delays.
- 3:1 Odds—Similarly, children who are faced with 7-8 risk factors are 3 times more likely to develop cardiovascular disease as adults.
- 4-9 Dollars—Several longitudinal studies on the impact of high-quality early childhood education programs have demonstrated that every dollar invested yields $4-9 in future returns.
So, what does this research tell us? Early childhood education is extraordinarily important and well worth the investment. A relatively small investment early in a child’s life can prevent lifelong problems. Children in difficult home environments may need more extensive interventions. Quality early childhood education benefits not just the child and parents, but all of society.