October 05, 2016

What is early childhood development and why does it matter?

Elaine Hunter

Early childhood development writer

10805or5

The first five years of a child’s life are vital - because 90% of their brain has already developed during that time.

If a child receives the right amount of care, stimulation and sensory education, their chance of a more successful life increases dramatically.

Children from poorer and marginalised homes who are unable to access support are put at a distinct disadvantage. If they start school at five without early years’ support, they will have a limited vocabulary and ability to learn.

This is why early child development (ECD) has become a global priority in the fight to help children and families out of poverty and deprivation.

The importance of nurturing care, including healthcare, nutrition, play, learning and protection for young children has been thoroughly proven - but investment in the zero to five age group is still far too small.

Researchers have shown that investing in the early years is one of the smartest investments a country can make to break the cycle of poverty, address inequality and boost productivity later in life. That was backed up by in-depth research published by the medical journal The Lancet.

The recent influential Education Commission report highlighted that "total returns on early education are very high – in some cases up to $7 for every $1 spent— and returns on early nutrition can be many times higher. Early interventions provide the best chance to give each child an equal chance at success, no matter who they are or where they are born."

That’s why Theirworld cares passionately about early childhood development and why we have launched the #5for5 campaign.

It aims to raise awareness of ECD and put pressure on world leaders to take urgent action to make sure all children have access to the full range of nurturing care.

Sarah Brown, President of Theirworld said: "Whether or not children have access to the best start possible in life is determined by two important factors — sheer chance and political will and resources.  The political leaders and those with deep pockets need to follow up and urgently begin to establish the effort and funding to make this happen. "

Here are some more facts about ECD and the #5for5 campaign.

What is early childhood development?

ECD supports children’s development from birth to five. It includes programmes and services that every child needs to thrive and get the best start in life.

What are the important factors in ECD?

Nurturing care inckudes the following areas:

  • Nutrition support for babies and toddlers, nursing mothers and pregnant women.
  • Access to health care and clean water and sanitation - starting with ante- and postnatal visits for pregnant women, a skilled birth attendant and vaccinations,
  • A child with access to pre-primary learning has a much better chance of continuing to learn in later life.
  • Opportunities for play and early learning are just as important to healthy development as physical support.
  • Child protection for ensuring healthy early development. This starts with registration at birth, so that children have proper legal standing and are guaranteed access to services such as education.
What do we want?

Theirworld’s #5for5 campaign aims to raise awareness of early childhood development and put pressure on world leaders to take urgent action to make sure all children have access to nutrition, health, learning, play and protection.

What will it take?

Promises have been made. The Sustainable Development Goals - a set of global targets agreed by world leaders to be achieved by 2030 - include ensuring all children “have access to quality early childhood development, care and pre-primary education”.

To achieve this goal, the international community needs to commit to a dramatic increase in funding and take action to support health, nutrition, learning, play and care programmes to make sure all children - especially the poorest and most marginalised - are given the best start in life.

If you want to know more:
Theirworld has produced several reports and scorecards in the past few months.

We are a children's charity committed to ending the global education crisis and unleashing the potential of the next generation.

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