I heard secondhand from an extremely honest and reputable source that during the first three years of a child’s life, their brain develops to about the 80% level. That’s pretty impressive and seems about right.
Let’s see. At 3 years of age your favorite munchkin is talking, walking, toilet trained (minus the wiping part), feeding themselves, dressing themselves (however uncoordinated) and beginning to complain. Yep, surprisingly, that’s a fairly high-level of function and gets us off to a good start. These functions are practiced and perfected to some degree over the remaining years of one’s life — no matter how long. For those who regularly end up with lunch on their shirt, or sporting two different colored socks, the pursuit of perfection is ongoing and, at times, can be an arduous journey.
So the gray matter is 80% all there by the end of the third year. Yet, the brain is not fully developed until we are somewhere around 26. If my math is correct, that means that over the next 23 years, we fill in the missing 20%. If evenly apportioned, that’s less than 1% growth per year. Lacking science as proof positive of such a hypothesis, there must be a different developmental scale. I think most of us can agree that during the teenage years, brain development is not evident.
Complaining takes on a much bigger role during the teen years, while talking (at least to one’s parents) slips south as well. When’s the last time anyone anywhere has ever remarked on a teen’s comments by saying, “Ahhh, isn’t what he just said adorable?”
Here’s what I’m thinking. Walking, using the potty, feeding and dressing remain at a constant level with minor improvement. Then, I’m pretty comfortable that we should take the block of six years during the teen years and account for no appreciable improvement. That means the remaining development of 20% is probably disproportionately used between the ages of 3 and 10 and/or 20 to 26. I’m going with the 3 to 10 age range, with a quick burst of the few remaining percentage points somewhere in the last few years leading up to 26.
My kids are now north of 26, and their brains are fully developed. So far, so good. I would suggest to you that, in fact, with rare exception, their minds are hitting on all cylinders. What a journey it was.
Now I have grandkids who are in those first three years of developing to the 80% level. They seem brilliant, comparatively speaking to our kids. They’re smart and coordinated, and they know how to push all the right buttons with Poppy and Mimi.
We’re enjoying their development immensely. Don’t worry, we know the teen years are just around the corner.