Dr. Stuart Shanker is a Distinguished Research Professor of Philosophy and Psychology at York University and currently serving as Director of the Milton and Ethel Harris Research Initiative (MEHRI). The goal of MEHRI is to build on new knowledge of the brain’s development, and help set children (including those with developmental disorders) on the path towards emotional and intellectual health.

In this article, Dr. Stuart Shanker explains the vital role of caregivers in supporting early brain development. 


  • Brains are highly adaptable.  A baby’s brain can adapt to anything, including climate and the safety of the environment.
  • All the experiences that a baby has will mold his/her brain and will help develop important connections.
  • Most of these experiences are provided by the primary caregiver.
  • An infant relies on the primary caregiver for security, food and learning.
  • The baby learns through the caregiver’s expressions, tone of voice, gestures, and facial expressions. Babies look to their caregivers to understand new situations.

What does this means for parents?

  • Hold and cuddle your baby as much as possible.
  • Speak to your child with gestures and animation to help broaden the experience. For example, when in the grocery store with your child, talk about the foods you see, explaining colour, and how something will taste; useyour facial expressions to highlight what you are saying.
  • Remember that your infant is seeing the world through your eyes. Some of the most mundane tasks that you do daily are new and wonderful to your child.