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Early Childhood

Parents, Families, and Home-based Early Child Development

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child recognizes that for the full and harmonious development of a child’s personality, he or she should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love and understanding.

Children must be empowered from an early age to become the authors of their own lives. They must be prepared to make their own decisions and to grow into powerful and competent participants in society. The process of nurturing young children to achieve this begins in the earliest stages of life and heavily depends on the environment in which a child is raised.

Optimal conditions at home, responsive and adequate feeding, interactions with parents and caregivers and non-violent disciplining practices, all greatly affect a child’s wellbeing. Responsible parenting includes the provision of a safe physical environment, close monitoring of children’s activities, supervision of their behavior, fostering their socio-emotional and cognitive competencies and providing directions and guidance in daily life. Providing a safe and stimulating home environment, which allows children to play, explore and discover, is a critical piece of this process and can exponentially increase a child’s chances of flourishing, attaining an optimal level of development and later becoming a responsible and productive adult.

Caregivers’ effective and responsive care in the first five years of life, includes daily parental guidance, responsive and adequate feeding practices, appropriate caregiver-child interactions (positive emotionality, sensitivity, and responsiveness towards the child, avoidance of harsh verbal or physical punishment). All these practices represent forms of family investments into children’ long term well-being.

UNICEF works with its partners in empowering families and communities to help every child get the best start in life. These efforts promote growth and development in the critical early childhood years by influencing key household and community practices and addressing the deep-rooted and complex social and economic factors that influence child-rearing practices.

The joint UNICEF/WHO flagship parenting programme Care for Child Development is one example of how UNICEF works with its partners to support parents and families to care for their children effectively. The Care for Child Development Intervention has been proven to have high impact results for both families with young children and children themselves.



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