More than half of young children deprived of play and early learning activities with their fathers


More than half of young children deprived of play and early learning activities with their fathers

Karen, age 3, holds hands with her father Iddi Badi, age 34, outside of the school building at the Little Rock Early Childhood Development Centre in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, May 16, 2017.  

"This is Karen's second year. I love this school, the way they nurture and bring the children up, and the way that she learns to interact and express herself. They don't discriminate against any children here." said Iddi Badi.

The first five years of life have a profound effect on a child future ?on her health, education, wellbeing and financial success as an adult.  When parented with love, nourished and cared for in safe and stimulating environments, children develop the cognitive, emotional and behavioural skills they need to embrace opportunity and bounce back from adversity. They start life with a fair chance to grow, thrive and contribute to their communities and the world. 

But far too many children are denied the right to adequate nutrition, protection and the stimulation that comes from talk, play and responsive attention from caregivers.  These deprivations not only hold back individual children, they launch a cycle of disadvantage and inequity that can continue for generations. 

Recent advances in neuroscience pinpoint the environmental factors that can disrupt development. This neuroscience points to exciting new ways to protect vulnerable children and help them build resilience so they can survive, grow and reach their full potential. Early in life, a child develops cognitive, language and psychosocial skills, a process known as early childhood development (ECD).

Recent discoveries in neuroscience have provided a growing list of details about how a baby brain develops during this time of life. As a result, we know that a baby brain is constructed by a complex interplay of rapid neural connections that begin before birth. In a child first years, these connections occur at a once-in-a lifetime speed of 700 to 1,000 a second.  As the brain-build

© UNICEF/UN066575/Ohanesian

Karen, age 3, holds hands with her father Iddi Badi, age 34, outside of the school building at the Little Rock Early Childhood Development Centre in Kibera, Nairobi, Kenya, May 16, 2017

Launching as Father’s Day is celebrated on Sunday in 80 countries, the new analysis is drawn from UNICEF’s Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey programme – the largest comparable data source mapping parental behavior in the world

NEW YORK/HONG KONG, 16 June 2017 – More than half – or 55 per cent – of children aged between 3 and 4 years-old in 74 countries – approximately 40 million – have fathers who do not play or engage in early learning activities with them, according to a new UNICEF analysis.

“What these numbers show us is that fathers are struggling to play an active role in their children’s early years” said Laurence Chandy, UNICEF Director of Data, Research and Policy. “We must break down the barriers that prevent fathers from providing their babies and young children a conducive environment for them to thrive, including love, play, protection and nutritious food. We must ensure that all parents have the time, resources and knowledge they need to fully support their children’s early development.”

The UNICEF analysis, which uses Multiple Indicator Cluster Surveys (MICS) data on parenting behaviours, looked at whether children aged 3 and 4 engaged in any play and early learning activities with their fathers. The activities include having their father read to the children, tell them stories or sing with them; taking them outside, playing with them; and naming, counting or drawing with them. The MICS is the largest collection of comparable data on parental behaviours in the world.

To encourage more fathers to play an active role in their young children’s development and highlight the importance of love, play, protection and good nutrition for the healthy development of young children’s brains, this month UNICEF is inviting families to post photos and videos of what it takes to be ‘super dads,’ using the hashtag #EarlyMomentsMatter on their Instagram and Twitter accounts.

Photos and videos of UNICEF ambassadors and supporters who have got behind the campaign are being posted on UNICEF’s Instagram and Twitter, and featured on the campaign’s gallery, to inspire families across the world to share their ‘super dads’ moments.

UNICEF urges governments and the private sector to increase spending and influence policies to support early childhood development programmes that focus on providing parents with the resources and information they need to provide nurturing care to their children. Advances in neuroscience have proven that when children spend their earliest years in a nurturing, stimulating environment, new neural connections can form at a once-in-a-lifetime speed of 1,000 per second. These connections help determine their health, ability to learn and deal with stress, and even influence their earning capacity as adults.

Research also suggests that exposure to violence and a lack of stimulation and care can prevent neural connections from occurring; and when children positively interact with their fathers, they have better psychological health, self-esteem and life-satisfaction in the long-term.

The Lancet’s Series, Advancing Early Childhood Development: from Science to Scale, launched in October 2016, revealed nearly 250 million children under 5 were at risk of poor development due to stunting and extreme poverty. The Series also revealed that programmes promoting nurturing care — health, nutrition, responsive caregiving, security and safety, and early learning — can cost as little as 50 cents per capita per year when combined with existing health services.

UNICEF works with governments, civil society, health care professionals and the private sector to support families and communities and increase access to quality early childhood care and education.