Government investment in early childhood development is low.
For example, in 27 sub-Saharan African countries measured, only 0. Good news: the right interventions at the right time can bolster development, break intergenerational cycles of inequity and provide a fair start in life for every child.
For babies born into deprivation, intervening early, when the brain is rapidly developing, can reverse harm and help build resilience. We can support EarlyChildhoodDevelopment by expanding existing programmes, especially health services. It forms brain connections. In , early childhood development was included in the Sustainable Development Goals, reaffirming its growing status in the global development agenda.
We must act urgently to make investing in early childhood development a priority in every country to achieve the goals. Investing in early childhood development is a cost-effective way to boost shared prosperity, promote inclusive economic growth, expand equal opportunity, and end extreme poverty. Investing in family-friendly policies makes good sense for businesses too; giving parents flexibility creates a happier and more productive workforce, and allows them more time to build the brains of the future.
This report outlines the neuroscience of early childhood development, including the importance of nutrition, protection and stimulation in the early years. The time to invest in the future strength of our nations, our economies and our communities is in the earliest years of life. The clock is always ticking and the time to act is now. Challenge Solution Resources.
The challenge. When you pay attention to the beginning of the story, you can change the whole story.
Some key facts: Lack of nutrition in early childhood leads to stunting, which globally affects nearly one-in-four children younger than five. Risks associated with poverty — such as undernutrition and poor sanitation — can lead to developmental delays and a lack of progress in school. Violent discipline is widespread in many countries, and nearly 70 percent of children between two and four were yelled or screamed at in the past month.
For a child in a low- or middle-income country, poor early development could mean they earn around one-quarter less in income, as an adult. For a country, poor early childhood development could mean economic loss; in India, the loss is about twice the gross domestic product spent on health.
Similarly, self-regulation has both cognitive and emotional dimensions. It is sometimes categorized as a part of executive function, as a part of socioemotional competence, or as a part of learning competencies. Attention and memory could be considered a part of general cognitive processes, as embedded within executive function, or linked to learning competencies related to persistence. Mental health is closely linked to socioemotional competence, but is also inseparable from health.
Report's organizational approach for the domains of child development and early learning.
The challenge of cleanly separating these concepts highlights a key attribute of all of these domains, which is that they do not develop or operate in isolation. Each enables and mutually supports learning and development in the others. Therefore, the importance of the interactions among the domains is emphasized throughout this chapter.
For example, socioemotional competence is important for self-regulation, as are certain cognitive skills, and both emotional and cognitive self-regulation are important for children to be able to exercise learning competencies. Similarly, although certain skills and concept knowledge are distinct to developing proficiency in particular subject areas, learning in these subject areas also both requires and supports general cognitive skills such as reasoning and attention, as well as learning competencies and socioemotional competence.
In an overarching example of interactions, a child's security both physically and in relationships creates the context in which learning is most achievable across all of the domains. It is less important that all fields of research, practice, and policy adhere to the exact same categorizations, and more important that all conduct their work in a way that is cognizant and inclusive of all the elements that contribute to child development and early learning, and that all fields recognize that they are interactive and mutually reinforcing rather than hierarchical.
This point foreshadows a theme that is addressed more fully in subsequent chapters. Because different fields and sectors may not use the same categorizations and vocabulary for these domains and skills, developing practices and policies that support more consistent and continuous development and early learning across birth through age 8 will require a concerted effort to communicate clearly and come to a mutual understanding of the goals for children.
To communicate across fields and between research and practice communities requires being aware of the different categorical frameworks and terms that are used and being able to discuss the various concepts and content—and their implications—with clarity across those different frameworks. Practitioners and policy makers will be aided in achieving greater precision and clarity in their actions and decisions if those conducting and communicating future research keep this challenge in mind across domains, especially in those cases in which the taxonomy is most variable e.
With these caveats in mind, the remainder of this chapter addresses in turn the domains of child development and early learning depicted in Figure : cognitive development, including learning of specific subjects; general learning competencies; socioemotional development; and physical development and health. The final section examines a key overarching issue: the effects on child development and early learning of the stress and adversity that is also an important theme in the discussion of the interaction between biology and environment in Chapter 3.
This section highlights what is known about cognitive development in young children. It begins with key concepts from research viewpoints that have contributed to recent advances in understanding of the developing mind, and then presents the implications of this knowledge for early care and education settings. The following section addresses the learning of specific subjects, with a focus on language and mathematics.
Studies of early cognitive development have led researchers to understand the developing mind as astonishingly competent, active, and insightful from a very early age. For example, infants engage in an intuitive analysis of the statistical regularities in the speech sounds they hear en route to constructing language Saffran, Infants and toddlers derive implicit theories to explain the actions of objects and the behavior of people; these theories form the foundation for causal learning and more sophisticated understanding of the physical and social worlds.
Infants and young children also are keenly responsive to what they can learn from the actions and words directed to them by other people. This capacity for joint attention may be the foundation that enables humans to benefit from culturally transmitted knowledge Tomasello et al. Infants respond to cues conveying the communicative intentions of an adult such as eye contact and infant-directed speech and tune in to what the adult is referring to and what can be learned about it.
Young children rely so much on what they learn from others that they become astute, by the preschool years, in distinguishing adult speakers who are likely to provide them with reliable information from those who are not Harris, ; Jaswal, ; Koenig and Doebel, This connection of relationships and social interactions to cognitive development is consistent with how the brain develops and how the mind grows, and is a theme throughout this chapter. Much of what current research shows is going on in young children's minds is not transparent in their behavior. Infants and young children may not show what they know because of competing demands on their attention, limitations in what they can do, and immature self-regulation.
This is one of the reasons why developmental scientists use carefully designed experiments for elucidating what young children know and understand about the world. By designing research procedures that eliminate competing distractions and rely on simple responses such as looking time and expressions of surprise , researchers seek to uncover cognitive processes that might otherwise be more difficult to see.
Evidence derived in this experimental manner, such as the examples in the sections that follow, can be helpful in explaining young children's rapid growth in language learning, imitation, problem solving, and other skills. One of the most important discoveries about the developing mind is how early and significantly very young children, even starting in infancy, are uniting disparate observations or discrete facts into coherent conceptual systems Carey, ; Gopnik and Wellman, ; Spelke and Kinzler, From very early on, children are not simply passive observers, registering the superficial appearance of things.
Rather, they are building explanatory systems—implicit theories—that organize their knowledge. Such implicit theories contain causal principles and causal relations; these theories enable children to predict, explain, and reason about relevant phenomena and, in some cases, intervene to change them.
As early as the first year of life, babies are developing incipient theories about how the world of people, other living things, objects, and numbers operates. It is important to point out that these foundational theories are not simply isolated forms of knowledge, but play a profound role in children's everyday lives and subsequent education.
This example is discussed in detail below. Some additional illustrative examples of the development of implicit theories are provided in Box Examples of the Development of Implicit Theories. Even babies hold some fundamental principles about how objects move about in space and time Baillargeon et al. For example, babies are surprised as measured by their increased looking time if more People intuitively understand others' actions as motivated by desires, goals, feelings, intentions, thoughts, and other mental states, and we understand how these mental states affect one another for example, an unfulfilled desire can evoke negative feelings and a motivation to continue trying to achieve the goal.
Children's developing theory of mind transforms how they respond to people and what they learn from them. Infants and young children are beginning to understand what goes on in people's minds, and how others' feelings and thoughts are similar to and different from their own. Infants first have a relatively simple theory of mind. They are aware of some basic characteristics: what people are looking at is a sign of what they are paying attention to; people act intentionally and are goal directed; people have positive and negative feelings in response to things around them; and people have different perceptions, goals, and feelings.
Children add to this mental map as their awareness grows. From infancy on, developing theory of mind permeates everyday social interactions—affecting what and how children learn, how they react to and interact with other people, how they assess the fairness of an action, and how they evaluate themselves. Infants also detect when an adult makes eye contact, speaks in an infant-directed manner such as using higher pitch and melodic intonations , and responds contingently to the infant's behavior.
Under these circumstances, infants are especially attentive to what the adult says and does, thus devoting special attention to social situations in which the adult's intentions are likely to represent learning opportunities. Other examples also illustrate how a developing theory of mind underlies children's emerging understanding of the intentions of others. Take imitation, for example.
It is well established that babies and young children imitate the actions of others. Children as young as 14 to 18 months are often imitating not the literal observed action but the action they thought the actor intended—the goal or the rationale behind the action Gergely et al.
Keep lots of fruits, vegetables, and healthy snacks in the house. Working memory tasks have also been shown to predict mathematics learning disabilities, even more so than early mathematical abilities Toll et al. I enjoy playing with my friends. Read preview. But many objects that adults view as members of more
Word learning is another example in which babies' reasoning based on theory of mind plays a crucial role. By at least 15 months old, when babies hear an adult label an object, they take the speaker's intent into account by checking the speaker's focus of attention and deciding whether they think the adult indicated the object intentionally.
Only when babies have evidence that the speaker intended to refer to a particular object with a label will they learn that word Baldwin, ; Baldwin and Moses, ; Baldwin and Tomasello, By the time they are 18 months old, shared intentionality enables toddlers to act helpfully in a variety of situations; for example, they pick up dropped objects for adults who indicate that they need assistance but not for adults who dropped the object intentionally Warneken and Tomasello, Developing an understanding of others' goals and preferences and how to facilitate them affects how young children interpret the behavior of people they observe and provides a basis for developing a sense of helpful versus undesirable human activity that is a foundation for later development of moral understanding cf.
Bloom, ; Hamlin et al.
The research on the development of implicit theories in children has important implications for how adults work with and educate young children. Failure to recognize the extent to which they are construing information in terms of their lay theories can result in educational strategies that oversimplify material for children.
Designing effective materials in a given domain or subject matter requires knowing what implicit theories children hold, what core causal principles they use, and what misconceptions and gaps in knowledge they have, and then using empirically validated steps to help lead them to a more accurate, more advanced conceptual framework. Statistical learning refers to the range of ways in which children, even babies, are implicitly sensitive to the statistical regularities in their environment, although they are not explicitly learning or applying statistics.
Like the development of implicit theories, this concept of statistical learning counters the possible misconception of babies as passive learners and bears on the vital importance of their having opportunities to observe and interact with the environment. Several examples of statistical learning are provided in Box Examples of Statistical Learning.
Infants can use information about the statistics of syllables in the speech they hear to help them parse words. How do we know from hearing prettybaby that baby is more likely to be a word than tyba? One way is that the more Children's intuitive understanding of causal inference has long been recognized as a fundamental component of conceptual development. Young children, although not explicitly or consciously experimenting with causality, can experience observations and learning that allow them to conclude that a particular variable X causes or prevents an effect Y.
Recent advances in the field have documented the ways young children can implicitly use the statistics of how events covary to infer causal relations, make predictions, generate explanations, guide their exploration, and enable them to intervene in the environment.
The understanding of causal inference also provides an example of how different cognitive abilities—such as a sensitivity to statistical regularities and the development of implicit theories based on observation and learning discussed in the two preceding sections and Box —interact with and can mutually support each other.
There is now a substantial literature on young children's implicit ability to use what they observe in different conditions to understand the relations between variables. Several examples of young children developing the ability to understand causal inference are provided in Box Examples of Understanding Causal Inference. One of the first studies of children's understanding of causal inference showed that children can rule out one variable and isolate another Gopnik et al. Preschool children were presented with a machine more Csibra and Gergely argue that humans are equipped with a capacity to realize when someone is communicating something for their benefit and that they construe that information differently than when they merely witness it.
As noted previously in the discussion of developing theory of mind, children as early as infancy devote special attention to social situations that are likely to represent learning opportunities because adults communicate that intention. Information learned in such communicative contexts is treated as more generalizable and robust than that learned in a noncommunicative context.