What are the formative years and why are they important?

Formative years can be called Early Childhood. Formative years are periods of early childhood between 0-8 years of a child’s life.

It is also a period of a rapid cognitive (intellectual) , social, emotional and physical development of a child.

This development occurs based on the child’s response and the interaction between genetics, environment and experience.

Why are formative years important?

Formative years are very essential periods in a child’s life and should be given much focus and attention for a number of reasons.

  • Healthy development of the brain, requires children to have healthy childhood experiences.
  • Studies have shown that lack of good experiences in childhood results in abnormal brain development that leads to problems in physical and cognitive (intellectual) growth.
  • Children affected by bad experiences have poor school performance and other behaviour problems.

It is important to identify adverse conditions for infants and children and try to improve such adverse conditions.

In addition, formative years help children to explore their environment through plays, songs, stories, toys, and books provided by the caregiver. The child learns new things which would help in their development.

How can children catch up during their formative years?

Children at formative periods catch up easily if appropriate attention is given by caregivers through informal or formal education.

Children are made to learn the social, physical, and emotional aspects of life.

They learn informally at home, whereby parents and caregivers teach them basic things such as pronouncing letters of the alphabet correctly, using sticks, stones or toys to count and play.

The child learns how to get along with his siblings or other children of his age bracket. In this way, social and mental development is said to be achieved.

Parents should read to children because reading to a child is critical to language development in the first three years of life.

In addition to learning at home, children should be enrolled in school for detailed and structured learning that will frame their future. They learn formally when they are enrolled in learning centers or schools for advanced knowledge.

Photo by Marleena Garris on Unsplash

Key points:

Parents or guardians should take an active role in the education and welfare of the children under their care to ensure that the children attain their maximum potential in life.

Good health and nutrition as well as a loving and nurturing environment improves a child’s chance of success in life as a whole.

Written by Dr. Ngozi Onuoha with Ms. Chijioke, BSc Parasitology

Photo by Les Anderson on Unsplash



Tierney, A. L., & Nelson, C. A. (2009). Brain Development and the Role of Experience in the Early Years. Zero to three, 30(2), 9-13.




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