A Guide to Raising A Smart And Motivated Child: Research-Based Resources For Parents

The Magic of Early Childhood: Supporting children’s cognitive and social-emotional development

The development of children’s brains is influenced by their environment.  From the types of sensory experiences and unique words to which children are exposed, to the quality of their interactions and stability of their relationships with caring adults, the architecture of a child’s mind can be altered by the responsiveness of those around them. In the words of Urie Bronfenbrenner, one of the world’s leading scholars in developmental psychology,

“In order to develop normally, a child requires progressively more complex joint activity with one or more adults who have an irrational emotional relationship with the child. Somebody’s got to be crazy about that kid. That’s number one.

First, last and always. “

Early childhood experiences, relationships, and education all help to create the developmental foundation for the rest of a child’s life. Educational attainment, cognitive and language development, intrinsic motivation, self-confidence, impulse control, non-violent conflict resolution, even “knowing the difference between right and wrong, and having the capacity to develop and sustain casual friendships and intimate relationships” (Center for the Developing Child, Harvard University) depend on the quality and strength of the relationships in their environment. When parents, guardians, caretakers, or educators engage with their children in a meaningful way, when they create experiences that are personalized to the child and respond to the child’s interests with enthusiasm, positivity, and warmth, the whole child is nurtured.

The Early Childhood Research resources below provide insights into the physiological and psychological development of children and dive a little deeper into the magic of early childhood.


© UNICEF/UN032017/LeMoyne

  1. What Do Babies Think
    “Babies and young children are like the R&D division of the human species,” says psychologist Alison Gopnik. Gopnik’s research explores the sophisticated intelligence-gathering and decision-making of babies engaging in play.
  2. The Beginning of Life
    This six-part video series explores how breakthroughs in technology and neuroscience examine the ways in which environment affects infants and their development.
  3. Learning Center for Learning and Development of Toddlers
    The Cox Campus Community provides strategies for engaging children as conversational partners and providing them with the language and literacy skills needed to sustain cooperative interactions with their peers
  4. UNICEF Early Childhood Development
    This resource from UNICEF speaks to the importance of early childhood, the relationship between parents and young children, and the ways in which developmentally appropriate stimulation impacts early brain development.


  1. Milestones of Early Literacy Development
    This resource offers parents and caregivers some free tips and tricks to support early literacy as well as a general overview of children’s physical and cognitive development.
  2. Dear Mister Rogers, Does It Ever Rain in Your Neighborhood?
    In this collection of letters and replies, Mister Rogers encourages parents, grandparents, and teachers to cherish the questions and inquiries of children.
  3. Zero to Three
    This organization provides resources, services, and training to “ensure that babies and toddlers benefit from the early connections that are critical to their well-being and development.”
  4. Educating Young Children
    National Association for the Education of Young Children shares educational and parenting resources, tips, and ideas to help support and advance a more unified early childhood experience.
  5. Culture Matters
    A collection of strategies to support young children’s social and cultural development.


Reading Aloud
A podcast episode in which Pam Leo, author of Connection Parenting: Parenting Through Connection Instead of Coercion, Through Love Instead of Fear, shares her thoughts on connecting with babies and toddlers through the reading of books.

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