January 10, 2017

#EarlyMomentsMatter for children's brains

Two-year-old Abner laughs while being carried by his father, James Choc, in Belize

Photo credit: UNICEF/LeMoyne

Ewan Watt

Online Editor, Theirworld

The United Nations children's agency UNICEF is promoting the importance of the vital first few years of a child's life - and is being supported by the LEGO Foundation.

UNICEF is focusing on the importance of the first 1000 days in the development of a child to make parents and caregivers aware of the impact of early experiences on the developing brain.

On the vital first 1000 days of a child's life, the UN agency said today: "During this critical window of opportunity, brain cells can make up to 1000 new connections every second - a once-in-a-lifetime speed. 

"These connections contribute to children’s brain function and learning, and lay the foundation for their future health and happiness. 

"A lack of nurturing care - which includes adequate nutrition, stimulation, love and protection from stress and violence - can impede the development of these critical connections."

UNICEF - whose early childhood development promotion is using the hashtag #EarlyMoments Matter - added: "By engaging with families, the initiative also aims to drive demand for quality, affordable early childhood development services and to urge governments to invest in programmes targeting the most vulnerable children."

A teacher in Syria helps a young student complete an arithmetic exercise

Photo credit: UNICEF/Noorani

Ben Hewitt, Campaigns Director for Theirworld, said: "It is encouraging to see a growing movement of organisations coming together to put early childhood development on the agenda of world leaders and give every child the interventions needed for the best start in life.  

"UNICEF’s focus on the nurturing care from parents and caregivers is vital to this. 

"It is important that parents from the poorest and most marginalised communities are supported by real investment and it is shocking that currently countries spend less than 0.1% of their domestic income on early childhood care and development."

The agency's drive follows on from the success of Theirworld's #5for5 campaign, which calls on world leaders to allocate the funds needed to give every child the best start in life.

#5for5 is all about the vital early years. It’s focused on the importance of nurturing care - including health, nutrition, learning, play and protection.

Take Action

#5for5: Invest in early childhood development

By the end of 2017 world leaders must allocate the funds needed to establish quality early childhood development programmes so that every child is given the best start in life.

Sign the #5for5 petition

Over the past few months, Theirworld has turned the spotlight on the various aspects of early childhood development. Our articles include:

The brain science that shapes a child's life

Unfair start can affect a child's whole life

Why learning through play is vital

Like Theirworld, UNICEF is calling for governments to increase investments in early childhood, expand health and social services offered to young children, and strengthen support services for parents and caregivers.

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