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8 Ways the First 5 Years Impact Your Child’s Life

Updated: Jun 28

Babies are born learning. The first five years of a child's life are an extraordinary period of development, laying the groundwork for their well-being and success. During this critical time, we shape our children’s experiences and how they learn.

Quality early learning is accomplished by providing young children with a safe, trusting and nurturing environment with a loving parent or caregiver that helps children build confidence, problem-solving skills and other life skills for success.

Here are eight ways to promote a quality learning environment that will impact your child's future.  

Little girl pondering.


1. Brain Development 

The brain is 90% developed by age 5.

The early years of a child’s life are marked by rapid brain development. The experiences they have during this time greatly influence the way their brain forms. 90% of a child’s brain develops by the age of five. 

Engaging activities, strong relationships and a safe home contribute to the formation of healthy development — laying the foundation for higher learning abilities and emotional control as they grow.  

One example of a brain boosting activity is reading. Try reading a bedtime story to spark an interest in books while also reinforcing your connection and creating a calm environment before sleep.   

Hot Tip: Visit your local library or check out Dolly Parton’s Imagination Library


2. Social and Emotional Skills  

As your child develops, they form a natural attachment to you and other caregivers. These attachments impact how safe they feel and how much they trust others.

They also begin to learn about emotions and relationships through play.  

Babies and young children learn through play. Spending quality time together and playing helps them gain skills for building healthy connections and managing their emotions in the future.  

To improve socialization skills, invite a few friends over to play. You could sing a song, play hide-and-go-seek or have a dance party.  

Hot Tip: Plan play dates with children outside the family. This can help boost socialization skills, like sharing.  


3. Language Development 

Language development for babies starts with learning letters and turns into first words.

Learning words and phrases are key milestones in early childhood. Exposure to conversations and storytelling helps kids move from babbling to forming sentences. 

Talking, singing and reading to your child builds a strong foundation for good communication and ongoing learning. Research shows that reading, singing and talking to children as babies will build a child’s language skills long before they can talk or understand what is being said. 

When you’re reading a book, you might point to a picture of an animal and ask, "What’s this?" This gives your child a chance to think critically and build their language skills in a fun, interactive way. 


4. Physical Development 

Motor skills, or movement skills, develop significantly in the early years. From learning to grasp objects to taking their first steps, your child’s physical abilities progress quickly. 

A supportive environment provides opportunities for all kinds of movement, contributing to your child's overall physical well-being. 

Here are a few ways to get moving:  

  • Play catch with your child or roll a ball back and forth.  

  • Ask them to bring you a common item. Think: a toy or a book.  

  • Have a pet? Play with your animals together.  

Hot Tip: Children with active parents are more likely to grow up to be active themselves. Moving together is also a great way to bond. Let’s move


5. Bonding  

During the first five years, the bonds a child forms create a foundation for emotional regulation, self-esteem and their ability to form healthy relationships.  

Consistent support during this period fosters a sense of safety and trust. 

When we notice our children smile, laugh, frown or cry and respond with acknowledgement, we’re letting them know we care. This small act helps them feel safe to share their feelings and learn how to better manage them.  


6. Behavioral Patterns 

Early experiences shape the behavioral patterns children carry into adulthood.  

Positive reinforcement, consistent boundaries and guidance contribute to the development of self-regulation — or their ability to manage their behavior and emotions throughout life. 

For example, did your child do a great job sharing with their sibling? Tell them how much it’s appreciated. 


7. School Readiness 

The early years serve as a critical period for preparing a child for school and developing learning skills.  

Exposure to letters, numbers and reading contributes to your child's readiness to learn. We can help our child prepare by: 

  • Counting everything! How many trees do they see? How many dogs do you have? 

  • Singing lyrics to a popular song to support their memory and rhythm. 

  • Pointing things out in the world and telling them what they are. 

Make learning fun! Dress up, play make believe and be silly. The best way to boost learning skills is through play. 


8. Foundation for Lifelong Health 

The earlier the better! Creating healthy habits helps children begin the process of developing lifelong well-being. Nutrition, sleep routines and physical activity during this time significantly impact their sense of safety, support and independence. 

Parents and caregivers are the first and most important teachers. We set an example for them with everything we do. Along with helping them establish healthy habits, it’s important we show them how we take care of ourselves too. 

Hot Tip: Looking for healthy and affordable recipes? Here are a few! If you’re struggling to provide nutritious food for your family, you may qualify for WIC.  


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