Early childhood matters - even during an epidemic!
Children, especially the most disadvantaged, deserve a good start in life, but now the COVID-19 pandemic is making that even harder. A nurturing environment around young children is the foundation for a healthy, creative and peaceful society, in addition to individual fulfilment, and now is the time when support is most needed. The Bernar Van Leer Foundation is dedicated to [...]
Children, especially the most disadvantaged, deserve a good start in life, but now the COVID-19 pandemic is making that even harder. A nurturing environment around young children is the foundation for a healthy, creative and peaceful society, in addition to individual fulfilment, and now is the time when support is most needed.
A Bernar Van Leer Foundation works to create a caring environment through research and practical programmes. Their articles, now translated into English, focus on the innovation and collaboration between professionals that can be achieved, and provide empowering, practical examples of good practice. Now you can hear them read by Eszter Ónodi.
How Covid-19 accelerated change: innovations in working with parents in Israel
- The Covid-19 pandemic seemed to hit the Israeli Nurse Leadership Programme at the worst possible time. They were nearing the final phase of a multi-year collaboration with the Ministry of Health to expand the capacity of the Tipat Halav service (early childhood health centres), develop parenting skills and promote positive parenting attitudes. The aim of the programme was to develop a group of champions to introduce innovations and changes in the service.
- In response to Covid-19, the Israeli Women's Leadership Programme has launched a bold innovation: it has continued its programmes online.
- While we were pushing for experimentation at the most basic level, the Covid-19 crisis unexpectedly accelerated a change that had been maturing for a long time. Meanwhile, we have learned how to manage change and innovation.
- Local experiments with online services provide important input for national plans.
The Village project: towards early learning communities
- The Village provides access to quality early childhood services in disadvantaged areas.
- Carers are directly involved in development-focused activities for children.
- Village Project Centres offer programmes that can be easily replicated in a home environment. The effectiveness of these activities on caring parenting and early learning is based on solid evidence: the evidence covers the full spectrum from general types of interventions to specific content, as described in the further summary. Using a universal, area-based approach, the Village Centres are open to all families in the communities served by the project. By involving local facilitators who help disseminate information and contribute to the implementation of activities, this system enables the creation of a network between families and services, promoting shared community values, social inclusion and sustainability.
- The results show that parents read more, play more and listen to more music at home as part of their daily routine.
How can we support children not only to grow up but to develop optimally?
- Playing together and a stimulating environment develops the brains of babies and young children. Now we can learn more about the science behind this.
- In many countries, programmes for pregnant women and children under 5 focus on nutrition and stunted growth prevention, but do not address the promotion of responsive parenting and learning opportunities. The idea is that better growth is associated with better health and improved neurodevelopment. To test this idea, we examined the impact of nutrition programmes on children's growth and development.
- However, the results of our study show that efforts focused only on nutrition are not sufficient to support growing children and their communities. Nutrition programs alone can be expected to provide little benefit to children's optimal development.
- It is also obviously wrong to equate backward growth with backward development. In the 75 programmes we studied, the effect on the age-appropriate height indicator was not associated with the effect on cognitive, language and motor indicators. This means that while the programmes had a positive impact on growth, they did not necessarily have the same positive impact on children's development, and vice versa. This contradicts the assumption that growth is associated with neurodevelopment.