The Adaptable Brain

Child Neuroplasticity – An Overview

We are always evolving, learning and changing, as children and as adults. Our brains, especially, are always adapting by what we learn and experience in our environment. Just like we need healthy food for our body, our brains also need positive stimuli to nurture and grow.

Neuroplasticity is the brain’s ability to adapt and reorganise its structure in response to its surroundings. Neuroplasticity is constantly in motion and is influenced by the day-to-day environment. The brain is constantly updating its circuits to maximise efficiency. As we learn, the brain creates new connections of neurons to accommodate the new information. In contrast, the brain also “rewires” old connections that are no longer used. This is one reason why practice and repetition are so important in learning and maintaining a new skill.

A child’s brain is particularly vulnerable to its surrounding environments. Unfortunately, bad habits can be wired into the brain just as easily as good habits, so it’s very important that a child has lots of positive influences in their environment. As the brain can rewire its connections, it is important to challenge and adapt any bad habits as early as possible.

Take home messages

  • The brain is always updating in response to its environment. Provide a positive, stimulating environment for children in order to help them, and their brain, grow!
  • Practice and repetition are important to solidify the connections and maintain a new skill. Practice what you learn daily, not just in OT sessions!
  • The brain can also form connections for bad habits. Make sure you practice your skills correctly!
  • The brain can “rewire” its connections to maximise efficiency. If a child has formed a bad habit, early intervention is important to solidify the correct connections!

Hannah Mraz (Paediatric Occupational Therapist)