3 to 5 years: a more efficient brain

3 to 5 years: a more efficient brain
Your child’s brain is processing information more and more quickly, which leads to a sudden jump in intellectual ability.

Your child’s brain is processing information more and more quickly, which leads to a sudden jump in intellectual ability.

One of the reasons children develop so quickly at this age is the increase in a substance known as myelin, a white coating that speeds the transmission of signals between neurons. “The brain is able to process information faster, which leads to improved intellectual, emotional, social, and motor skills,” explains researcher Sarah Lippé, who studies the brain mechanisms involved in children’s learning. The white matter in your child’s brain will continue to form until about the age of 25.

Mastering language

Children between the ages of three and five are steadily building their vocabulary. Their sentences become longer, and their pronunciation becomes clearer. Three-and-a-half-year-old Ophélie now forms sentences that have a subject, verb, and complement. “The structure of her sentences has gotten a lot better over the past few weeks, but she still struggles a bit with pronunciation,” says her dad, Guillaume. “She hates when people don’t understand her!” Proper pronunciation isn’t learned overnight. By the age of five, most children have mastered the basics of language and are able to make themselves understood.

Learning to reason . . . more or less

 The changes taking place in a child’s brain between the ages of three and five open the door to different and more complex games. More and more often, these games will have a goal, such as building a house. This gets kids thinking about the best approach to take and how to overcome any bumps in the road.

During this stage, children typically love to play make-believe. Ophélie, for example, often plays house with her seven-year-old sister. “She’ll play every role: mom, dad, baby—even the family dog!” says her dad. “She develops each character by having them do all kinds of activities. She also imitates what she sees going on around her. We’re having work done on the house, and last time, she went around pretending to fix the windows.”

Playtime has countless benefits, stimulating development in areas such as creativity, memory, independence, initiative, and decision making. It is also extremely important on a social level: playing with others is how children gradually learn to share, collaborate, wait their turn, negotiate, put themselves in other people’s shoes, and follow rules (though this is still challenging before the age of five).

It is for all these reasons that your toddler should be given as many opportunities as possible to play with other kids. Children under the age of five still have difficulty finding the right strategies and using the solutions they are given to resolve conflicts. In other words, your child still needs your guidance. 


Pain starts in the brain

No matter where your child is hurt, the pain he feels comes from his brain. This is because the brain is connected to the body’s system of nerves and receptors.

When your child falls and scrapes his knee, for example, these nerves and receptors send a signal to his brain. Detecting that the knee has been injured, the brain produces a sensation of pain to indicate that something is wrong.

Similarly, the body’s nerves and receptors can help soothe that pain by sending calming signals to the brain. This is what happens when you console your child by rubbing his boo-boo, for instance, or singing. Your child’s perception of pain can also increase if you are very anxious and blow things out of proportion. By staying as calm as possible, you will help ease your child’s suffering.


Photos: Maxim Morin and GettyImages/alina555


Naître et grandir

SourceNaître et grandir magazine, September 2018
Research and copywriting: Nathalie Vallerand
Scientific review: Dr. Tuong-Vi Nguyen, Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Faculty of Medicine, McGill University