Each year on Valentine’s Day, we try to focus on truly worthwhile ways to bring more love to those around us. Whether you’re celebrating a little more sustainably, showing your loved ones how much they mean to you, or making an impact on someone you may never meet… it all adds up to more collective love and compassion in the world. So when we heard about Unicef’s #EarlyMomentsMatter campaign, we couldn’t wait to share it with you.
Early Moments Matter to Brain Development
Loving interactions between young children and their caregivers has a profound impact on brain development in early childhood, especially when experienced during the first 1,000 days, helping to shape children’s health, and cognitive, social and emotional wellbeing for life.
During the earliest years of life, brain cells can make up to 1,000 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.
According to a recent series in The Lancet, nearly 250 million children in developing countries are at risk of poor development due to stunting and poverty. But the need for greater investment and action in early childhood development is not limited to low-income countries.
Disadvantaged children living in middle- and high-income countries are also at risk. UNICEF estimates that millions more children are spending their formative years growing up in unstimulating and unsafe environments, putting their cognitive, social and emotional development at risk.
Early Education is Key to Ending the Cycle of Poverty
Investment in early childhood is one of the most cost effective ways of increasing the ability of all children to reach their full potential – increasing their ability to learn in school and, later, their earning capacity as adults. This is especially significant for children growing up in poverty. One 20-year study showed that disadvantaged children who participated in quality early childhood development programs as toddlers went on to earn up to 25% more as adults than their peers who did not receive the same support.
Early childhood development interventions, such as the Care for Child Development package that includes training community health workers to teach families about the importance of playing with their children in a way that stimulates healthy development can cost as little as 50 cents (USD) per capita per year, when combined with existing health services.
This video forms part of UNICEF’s #EarlyMomentsMatter campaign, which aims to drive increased understanding of how children’s early experiences can help influence brain development. Featuring the stories of parents from across Belize, we can witness the incredible impact that parental bonds and interactions have on young children and their development.
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.
Imagine a world in which all children, everywhere, achieve their developmental potential by 5 years of age. UNICEF aims to make this vision a reality by the year 2030. What better way to celebrate Valentine’s Day than to help bring this vision to life? Find out more at Unicef.org.