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June 24, 2024

Why MINIBOSS from the age of 6?!

 What is neuroplasticity, and why it’s important when considering a child’s development and education?

In short, our brain becomes more rigid with age, and it’s important to form a strong foundation of thinking patterns from early childhood. Trying to learn how to see the world differently, or to behave differently even after 14 years of age means breaking and “fixing” some parts of the foundation. This requires a greater effort and is not as successful as building the right foundation from the start.

Thompson RA, Nelson CA (2001) Developmental science and the media: Early brain development.

Neuroplasticity and age

Neuroplasticity is brain’s ability to change its structure and function in response to environmental demands through neural connections. Neural changes occur on multiple levels and on different time scales (from milliseconds to decades) and can be positive or negative. Positive changes are reflected in improved capabilities and performance (e.g. acquisition of new skills and knowledge). Negative plasticity is evident through a decline or loss of functional ability.

Age is the most important factor determining the brain’s capacity to change.

Neuroplasticity is strongest during our first five years of life, which provides us with the invaluable ability to learn with enormous ease. We acquire new skills through mere observation, immersion, and interactions in our social environment.

After the age of 3, our cognitive functions start declining, and our brain enters a steady “use it or lose it” stage, when established neural connections become stronger and more permanent through repeated use, while unused connections weaken and prune off. This is why repetition is the key to learning mastery.

At the age of 5-6 years, our ability to learn a new language is many folds lower than at the age of 7-8 months, when it’s at its peak. As for our cognitive functions, they drop many folds by the time we reach 14-15 years of age. It’s important to emphasise that there is a significant decline in the brain’s cognitive function EVERY YEAR from the age of 3 until 14-15.

It means that in our adolescence, we have to apply greater effort to learn something new than in childhood. After we reach early adulthood, learning and getting rid of bad habits become increasingly difficult to achieve. After the age of 30, the amount of effort required to make changes to our thinking or behavioural patterns becomes greater than the brain’s ability to change, and it significantly increases with every decade.

Best age to start learning and the influence of parents

What does it mean for learning? If we want to learn a new skill, it is truly best to start sooner rather than later as it requires significantly less effort to form strong brain circuits during early years than it is to intervene or “fix” them later.

It is important to emphasise that in early childhood, we inherently lack autonomy and the capacity to make informed decisions. Consequently, we are fully dependent on our parents, teachers, and other influential people to nurture and guide us in the proper direction towards a meaningful and productive life.

For those of us who are parents of young children, it means that we need to start teaching our children important skills, behaviours and attitudes from very early childhood. Depending on what the skills are, it can be from 3-6 months (e.g., language), 1-2 years (hygiene, routines and social habits such as saying “hello” and “thank you”), or 5-6 years of age, when children start grasping logical concepts, and new skill can be taught – whether it’s sport, musical instrument, writing, reading or business. The earlier a child starts learning new skills, the more engrained they will become in their brain, and the more masterful they will be in their adult years.

Some parents believe that their children are too young to learn a skill or behave in a particular way – whether they are 6 or 14. The above summary of many years of research shows that thinking that way parents limit their children’s opportunities.

What if Mozart’s father thought that Wolfgang was too young to start learning to play piano at 3? Would Wolfgang start composing at 5? Would he become one of the most well-known composers of all time?

When I hear some parents say about their children that he or she is too young (to grasp the concept of business at 7 or start planning a family grocery budget at 12), I listen to it with sadness. These parents are taking away an opportunity from their children to become more proficient in necessary life skills, limiting their kids’ options to propel to heights in the area of business and financial freedom. Shouldn’t we, parents, help our children open every door of opportunities, so it becomes their choice what to do and how to do it, not ours?

Here are some examples of the famous entrepreneurs, most of whom do not describe themselves as exceptionally smart or gifted:

Richard Branson, who started his first “Virgin” business venture at 16, was growing Christmas trees when he was 10.

Jo Malone, a British perfumer, started making her own perfumes at 9, with flowers from the garden and grated soap.

Mark Cuban (American “Shark”) started selling rubbish bags to his neighbours at 12, so he could buy a new pair of sneakers.

Ray Dalio, the American investor-billionaire, bought his first shares at 12.

Ingvar Kamprad, who opened the first IKEA at 17, started his entrepreneurial journey selling matches to neighbours from the age of 5.

Warren Buffet started selling chewing gum to neighbours at the age of 6.

The list goes on.

So, dear parents, every time you think “my child is too young” for something:
1) remember that your child's neuroplasticity is significantly decreasing every year until they reach 14-15 years of age;

2) think of the people who are icons in their field, research at what age they started learning their skill, and imagine if their parents said: “my child is too young for it”. 

Would you like to give your child an opportunity to reach the top of their chosen area of interest, or limit them to what YOU think is reasonable? Would you like your child to go further and achieve more than you?

Every year counts.

References

  1. Bayer D, Feloni R (2014) 9 legendary entrepreneurs who started when they were kids.
  2. Choy L (2017) Neuroplasticity and mental wellness: our path forward.
  3. Lindenberger U, Lövdén M (2019) Brain Plasticity in Human Lifespan Development: The Exploration–Selection–Refinement Model.
  4. Thompson RA, Nelson CA (2001) Developmental science and the media: Early brain development.

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