Did you know that 90% of brain growth occurs by age 6?
The first 2000 days of life strongly influence success in school and work, mental and physical health, behaviour, relationships, and overall well-being. Conception to age 6 is the most critical period of development over the human life span - when the developing brain is highly sensitive to its surroundings, and grows and adapts in response to its environment.
The Alberta Government launched the Early Childhood Development Mapping Project (ECMap) four years ago. Today, after a lot of excellent work by kindergarten teachers and volunteers, we have, in effect, a census of child development in Edmonton. Kindergarten teachers, using standardized measures, have estimated the physical, social, emotional, intellectual and communication development of more than 7,000 children.
Regrettably, we have learned that, while most children are developing well, too many children are falling short of the appropriate benchmarks for their age:
•In Edmonton 31.2 per cent of children are experiencing “great difficulties” in at least one area of development – compared to 26.9 per cent of children across Alberta, and 25.4 per cent across Canada
•That means more than one out of every four kindergarten-age children struggles with basic tasks such as using a crayon, following instructions and getting along with others
Early development results vary greatly within Edmonton. To effectively use these results to strategically support early childhood development, seven early childhood development coalitions have emerged across the city. Each coalition is made up of volunteers, including parents, grandparents, educators, health providers, librarians, child care providers, and others who are passionate and committed to nurturing young children in their community.
These coalitions are turning the old proverb “It takes a village to raise a child” around to arrive at an equally important truth. “It takes a child to raise a village.” They recognize there is a deeply reciprocal relationship between raising healthy children and building healthy communities and societies.
You don’t have to be an expert in child development or an economist to understand that healthy children become productive members of society. They contribute to a balanced, humane social environment and a sustainable, prosperous economy. Early childhood development is an indicator of, and the best hedge for, a society’s and a community’s future success.