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Early moments matter: the other side of playing
“What’s the most important thing a child has? It’s her brain. And yet, we’re not caring for children’s brains the way we care for their bodies,” – said Anthony Lake, UNICEF Executive Director. He continues, “A child whose brain does not develop properly may not learn as well or earn as much – which translates into a diminished future for her and less sustainable growth for her society.”
According to Lancet, 250,000,000 children in low and middle income countries are at risk of not meeting their developmental potential because of extreme poverty and stunting. Along with undernutrition, negative influences of infectious disease, environmental hazards, and societal and household violence, all contribute to this loss of potential. Unlike many other influences that are immutable or tremendously difficult to change, nutrition and interaction is something we can control.
UNICEF works to communicate to as wide range of parents and caregivers as possible on the importance of Early Childhood Development and nurturing care, which involves healthy nutrition, care, bonding and playing with a child.
As stated in The Beginning of Life, a documentary, which comprises the observations and recommendations of psychologists and education specialists in the sphere of Early Childhood Development from all over the world ‘playing is the essence of children; they play from the moment they can move; they live through play’.
Some parents are worried about not being able to afford a toy or a book for their kids. What everyone needs to remember is: it is not the toy that the child needs to play with, it is you. Whatever is useful for children’s brain development – singing, joint reading, playing peek-a-boo or hide-and-seek – does not need anything costly… except maybe your time.
And the time to act is now. Investing in young children is a not only moral or social priority. It makes economic sense, too. Lancet Early Child development series states that ‘suboptimal development of young children is estimated to lead to the loss of roughly a quarter of average adult earning potential’, which means that children who have received good parenting practices, have more chances of making a better living.
It is critical to remember that early childhood development benefits are not limited for children of today, but will directly impact the stability and prosperity of future generations. So when you are playing with your children, hugging them and reading to them, you are caring for the better future of your grandchildren and the world.