Strengthening local governments’ capacity to ensure quality, equitable and comprehensive services

Early childhood development toolbox for local governments to support young children and their families

Children playing in "Zemunski biser" preschool in Belgrade, Serbia


The healthy and rounded development of children in their early years lays the critical foundations for their well-being and success later in life. It requires concerted and competent support in all the environments in which they grow and develop – the home, the community, and as the focus of early childhood services. Across countries, the responsibility for ensuring that children are provided with the necessary support where they live lies with their parents/caregivers. Equally, local and national authorities have a responsibility through the policies, funding, and services they provide in order to meet the needs of children and families. 

There are many services which target young children and their families: health, education and care, early intervention, social protection, and so on. There are also public spaces such as playgrounds, libraries, and other cultural services. All these play an important role in ensuring that the different and complex developmental needs of each child during their early childhood are met so that they can thrive. However, within each country, access to and the availability of quality services across communities/cities and regions is uneven. Therefore, many children lack opportunities they need to develop healthy and safely, or to reach their full, unique potential.

Purpose of the Toolbox 

The Early Childhood Development (ECD) Toolbox is aimed at supporting local governments in their efforts to improve the coordination, efficiency and effectiveness of the local early childhood system in their cities/municipalities. 

Through its structure and content, the Toolbox intends to contribute to the shared understanding of the important role that local governments can play in ensuring a strategic vision, a well-informed and highly coordinated strategy to address the needs that young children and families have and the challenges they encounter. 

The main purpose of the Toolbox is to strengthen local governments’ capacity to mobilize and convene local expertise and resources, and to take informed decisions for providing access to quality environments for all young children and their families. 

Structure and content of the Toolbox 

The Toolbox brings together and builds on knowledge from previous publications by various international organizations. The publications focus on supporting strategic and impactful work at the local and national levels which is aimed at better outcomes for young children and their families/caregivers. 

To increase their effectiveness, the content of the Toolbox is organized around four building blocks which serve specific purposes. 

Building Block 1: Guiding tools for strengthening local governments’ capacity and infrastructure for coordinated plans and measures regarding young children. 

Building Block 2: Guiding tools for improving access to and the quality of health/home visiting, parenting support, ECEC, social protection services for young children.

Building Block 3: Guiding tools for addressing issues related to vulnerable or groups at risk of exclusion (children in extreme poverty, children with disabilities, children on the move, children from ethnic minorities, refugee children, etc.). 

Building Block 4: Guiding tools for developing a comprehensive local early childhood strategy.

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