During a child's development, there are a series of time periods, or "windows," during which a child can best learn a particular concept. These windows begin just after birth and then narrow as a child grows older. Neuroscience has clearly shown that learning occurs rapidly in childhood as brain neurons multiply rapidly or replicate at a high rate during childhood. The critical phase of learning is surprisingly over before the age of ten. In theory, there are a series of windows for developing motor control, vision, language, emotions, values, etc. After this time period is over it becomes much more difficult for the child to learn the very same subject or concept. A good example is language development. Language is the first subject to be learned by infants as the Broca and Wernicke’s areas responsible for decoding and encoding sounds is the first region of the brain to develop in the midbrain. Young children find it much easier than adults to acquire a second or third language spontaneously. These critical periods of brain development illustrate the importance of a creating an enriched environment and age appropriate subject teaching during the early years. When critical windows of opportunity for learning are missed it does not mean that the child will never be able to learn that specific skill, it just means that it will take comparatively much more effort and time to learn that particular skill. Emotional control at the age of four was shown by the classic ‘marshmallow experiment’ by Walter Mitchel at Stanford University, which had remarkable significance in progression of personality from childhood to adulthood. This also clearly reflects the fundamental and innate ability of children to learn best during the early years. The diagram below shows how age and subjects may be correlated, thus illustrating concept of learning windows of opportunity in childhood.
Figure: Learning Windows of Opportunity