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How Children Grow—Especially the Brain

August 10, 2019

Another Way for week of August 9, 2019

How Children Grow—Especially the Brain

Our two oldest grandsons start real school as kindergartners this August. My mother told me recently she cried when her oldest grandchild, Larry, started school. I was a little surprised.

Perhaps my mom was also recalling her oldest daughter, Nancy, as a very young first grader (age 5, we had no kindergarten), missing the bus and deciding to walk home from school one day. We lived four miles away from town. She bravely started out, all alone, and walked at least a half mile before someone who knew our family distantly, saw her walking, picked her up, and carried her safely home. A small miracle itself.

I don’t think I’ll be weepy, since ours don’t live nearby, but going to school is a monumental step, for sure, even when they’ve been going to daycare and preschool most of their young lives.

When you think about all they’ve managed to “conquer” in five, almost six years since they made their way into the world and our anxious arms, it is nothing short of astonishing. Our grandsons could at first only lay there, look around, and cry if wet, tired, or hungry.

They soon learned to hold up their heads, communicate purposefully with their cries and behavior, sit up, crawl, walk, and talk. And now they are reading, even before starting school. These boys were born in September and November, and as with many other parents, their families decided it was better to start real school at almost 6 rather than almost 5.

So what have YOU or I mastered in the past five years? Anything as remarkable as all that?

From helpless one-day-olds, they can now engage in thoughtful conversation and great questions beyond the endless why’s. They have both certainly been read to for untold hours, and have patient, loving, intelligent parents.

The brain alone grows greatly in the first five years: A website on early childhood development says “At birth, the average baby’s brain is about a quarter of the size of the average adult brain.” Did you know the brain doubles in size that first year and it is nearly 90 percent of its mature size by age five?

Me carefully holding my one day old grandson.

I found this even more fascinating: “A newborn baby has all of the brain cells (neurons) they’ll have for the rest of their life, but it’s the connections between these cells that really make the brain work.” I had known that it is these brain connections that help us move and think as well as communicate: pretty much everything we do. “The early childhood years are crucial for making these connections. At least one million new neural connections (synapses) are made every second, more than at any other time in life.” This is one reason our daughters and their husbands have chosen to not let their children watch much TV or videos. (From

So yes, the mental growth of children by age five is just incredible. I’ve also been thinking about what kind of world their children and their grandchildren will inherit or face: it is almost impossible to fathom the new technologies they will see and use. I certainly never thought of or imagined the many gadgets and tools we take for granted today. In my 16 years of formal education, I went from pencils and chalkboard to a huge computing machine at college (circa 1971) where we made punchcards using “Fortran” to enter data on the machine. Teachers went from old style non-digital overhead projectors using plastic sheets to write on, to video projectors plus whiteboards and smartboards.

The early years of learning are just fascinating, and thrilling to live through again through the eyes and experiences of the grandchildren. Not everyone is so lucky, I know, but most of us have children we can connect with at times through volunteer work, babysitting, neighbors, siblings with children or grandchildren, the nursery at church, or as an aide at school. Or offer foster care. Take time to appreciate, learn from, and enjoy any children in your life!


I’d be happy to send you one or several “Guidelines for Parents” postcards from the historic “Heart to Heart” radio program by Ella May Miller. Send a self-addressed, stamped envelop to Another Way Media, P.O. Box 363, Singers Glen, VA 22834, or request by email from .

Another Way is a column by Melodie Davis, in syndication since 1987. She is the author of nine books. Another Way columns are posted at a week after newspaper publication.  



  1. Having spent the last week with a newborn and a two-and-a-half-year-old I say amen to the privilege of watching young humans develop.

    • What a wonderful week especially with a newborn. A blessing indeed. I saw photos on Facebook. Thanks for commenting here and may you and the family have joy abundant ahead.

  2. One reason I like working with 2-year-olds in pre-school at church is the magical changes I see: They come in not talking and needing diaper changes and leave with language skills (even talking to one another) and many are potty trained.

    You know all about what I’ve learned in the last 5 years. Now I’m learning “marketing,” as my own publicist. I told Cliff this morning, “I don’t want to learn anything new for a while!”

  3. I have also volunteered to help in teaching our youngest disciples as we call them at Trinity. We have been lacking little ones, but we are forging ahead to reinstate lessons for the little ones even while they are in the nursery during worship. I love your example of how they come to you not talking and in diapers and leave talking as friends!

    And you know learning new things keeps the brain going. 🙂 But I hear you on enough already. Good luck!

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