Children are fast learners. For newborns, the world is a flood of information and they absorb it like a sponge. Connections between neurons in the brain called ‘synapses’ form, and because children have the ability to take in large amounts of information, the number of connections in a young child’s brain (particularly babies and toddlers) is far greater than an adult’s.
This is because, unlike adult brains which ignore irrelevant information, the developing brain takes in everything, and forms neural connections that are virtually useless. As the child develops, certain synapses which are used more and more are strengthened and become more efficient. This is due to a phenomenon called neuroplasticity, which is the ability of the brain to change; something which is particularly active during early years but still occurs well into old age.
Neural connections that are not used weaken and may eventually be discarded altogether in a process called ‘synaptic pruning’ which happens as children get older. Essentially, the brain is a “use it or lose it” system.