Last updated: 19.07.16

Virtual College course boosts understanding of importance of relationships for children’s brain development

Why is it important to understand how a babies brain develops?

How do babies’ brains develop and why are relationships so crucial in that process? For anyone caring directly for a child – parents, nursery staff, childminders, or foster carers – a greater understanding of emotional connection in children’s development is essential if we are to help young children thrive, as their surroundings have a direct effect on their overall development and on the adult they will become.

Virtual College has worked in association with Dr. Suzanne Zeedyk, an internationally acclaimed specialist in infants’ abilities to communicate, to create a series of online learning resources that will help all professionals caring for babies and young children in understanding how the attachment process works.

How and When does a babies brain develop?

A baby’s brain develops more rapidly in the first three years of life than at any other time, and early experiences become the building blocks that construct the brain. It is crucial that caregivers understand the importance of relationships in early childhood, how emotional exchanges impact on a baby’s brain development, and why those early experiences have lifelong consequences.

The Connected Baby series is a suite of three interlinked online courses. Their aim is to make scientific knowledge accessible, using everyday language and examples, and also to assist learners in applying that knowledge to real life situations.

The first course, ‘Motorways in the brain’ explores how brains develop, making clear how brain function, emotional needs and behaviour intersect. The course also explains why early experiences have such a fundamental impact on brain structure, as early childhood is when children begin developing their social and emotional skills.

The second course, ‘Sabre tooth tigers and teddy bears’, introduces a new approach to understanding attachment theory, including a historic account of how scientific thinking about attachment behaviour and relationships has changed since it first emerged in the 1940s. The final course, ‘Connection in Action’, ties the previous two courses together by using video footage taken in real-life nurseries which demonstrates the concepts in action.

The entire suite of courses will take roughly five hours to complete but these do not have to be undertaken all in one sitting. Each course will be CPD (Continuous Professional Development) certified and, upon successful completion, a certificate can be printed.

Dr.Suzanne Zeedyk and Virtual College partnership

Dr. Suzanne Zeedyk has over 25 years of experience as a research scientist working in the area of parent-infant interaction. Dr. Zeedyk currently spends her time disseminating the science of connection to the public, including parents, professionals and policymakers. Her partnership with Virtual College has provided a new platform for the information she disseminates to reach the public.

Speaking of the partnership, Suzanne said “The connected baby online course series was created to help as many people as possible understand what the science is telling us about the importance of emotional connection in infant development.

“Understanding what it is telling us helps us to really understand what is needed if we are to create environments where children can thrive. If we do not create those kinds of environments, we face consequences for academic achievement, mental health, physical health and the workplace. It’s really important we get this right.”

Abby Dacres, General Manager of the Health and Social Care Division at Virtual College, who worked alongside Suzanne Zeedyk in the development of the course, commented: “We are really excited to release these courses. It is especially pleasing that Dr Zeedyk knows that we understand the importance of high quality training resources that can make a difference on the ground tomorrow.

“You can reach thousands of people very quickly with online training and, providing the quality and engagement is right, you can start changing lives with immediate effect.”

The full suite of courses is now available.

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About Virtual College

Virtual College won the prestigious ‘E-learning development company of the year 2015’ in the independently-judged global awards. Virtual College has developed into one of the UK's leading providers of total solutions within the e-learning arena. Its key objective is to help enhance the traditional learning solution through the careful integration of technology.

Founded in 1995, today Virtual College has over 2 million registered online learners and this is growing at a rate of over 1,500 a day, across both public and private sectors.

The company has developed a comprehensive product range, including over 300 online courses, accessed via the company's own Learning Management System, as well as offering a complete content design and development service. 

Further information is available at