Becoming a Brain Builder

Child Development and Best Practices in Early Childhood Education

What is a Brain Builder?

You may or may not know this, but YOU are very important in helping young children learn and grow. Being a brain builder comes from an understanding that the environment and interactions we have each and every day build brain neural connections that allow each child to succeed. When we understand the architecture of the brain, we begin to see our role as early childhood educators in a slightly new way. 


Brain development research informs us that our brains are built over time from the bottom up. Neural connections are built every second from the moment of conception. By the time a child is 36 months old (3 years) the foundation of connections is established. 

This means the most important time of a person’s life is the building of the foundation. While we know that these connections don’t ever stop throughout a lifetime, research also shows us that the experiences children have during the developmental period provide a blueprint for future growth and development. 

This means the major ingredient in the developmental process is the adults who are each child’s brain builder. 

Learn more about being a brain builder at our training session: How to Become a Brain Builder

Becoming a brain builder is not hard work. It just requires you to be present in the life of a child.

Becoming a brain builder only requires 5 simple steps:

  1. Look – Engaging with the child allows you to see what catches their eye.
  2. Follow Their Lead – Watching how the child engages in what catches their eye allows you to follow their interest.
  3. Chat – Discuss the concept or idea the child is interested in.
  4. Take Turns – Allow for language back and forth opportunities. This is called serve and return.
  5. Stretch – Expand their knowledge of the interest to build content knowledge, language, and real life connections. 

Being a brain builder happens when we start seeing ourselves as a builder of the architecture of the brain. When we shift our perspective we start to see children in the way they see the world. This shift in focus allows us to support their brain development by supporting their exploration and understanding of the world they live in.

Learn more about being a brain builder at our training session: How to Become a Brain Builder

Kathy Banks

Kathy Banks, Educator Support Specialist for Experience Early Learning, has 35 years of early childhood education experience. She has held various positions, including teacher, director, multi-site director, Head Start director, CCR&R, and QRIS Director. She currently adjuncts at several colleges and universities and continues to support and inspire educators through training and practical strategies. Kathy is working on her dissertation to complete her Ed.D. in Early Childhood Education. Kathy is also a nationally certified Family and Consumer Science Developmental Educator.  Her experience and education make her a scholarly expert in child development and the realities and challenges of teaching and directing every day. 


Center for the Developing Child. (n.d.). Brain architecture. Harvard University. 

Cherry, K. (2023). 7 main developmental theories. Verywell.

New Amaerica. (n.d.). Child Development and Early Learning. New America.

Tierney, A., & Nelson, C. (2009). Brain development and the role of early experiences in the early 

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