A new documentary streaming on Netflix called The Beginning of Life focuses on the complex lives of babies and seeks to dispel the myth that babies are “empty vessels waiting to be filled with knowledge of the world around them.”
In fact, three decades of research by leading scientists suggests this is “patently untrue,” according to an article about the documentary in The Atlantic. “If more people recognized that fact, the way communities and policymakers think about and invest in the early years of life might be different,” the article says.
The documentary interviews several experts in the field of early childhood development, and the findings echo what many in the early childhood community – including some of Advocacy & Communication Solutions’ clients – have been saying for years. Key takeaways from the article include:
- The first five years matter. Kids who spend the early years in loving and enriching environments are more likely to stay in school and become productive adults. They are likely to be healthier. But when babies don’t have adults who engage with them, pathways in the brain that form a child’s foundation can disintegrate.
- Learning happens through play. Helping children thrive doesn’t mean providing the best toys or the most expensive gadgets. Learning happens when children create their own play worlds. A child who sees a ruler and a pen and turns them into an airplane is often using more of her imagination and stimulating more of her brain than a child who is handed an already-put-together toy, according to Jack Shonkoff, the director of the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University.
- Self-esteem is important. Children with high self-esteem who feel loved and supported are willing to try new things and to fail a lot in the process, said Andrew Meltzoff, co-director at the Institute for Learning and Brain Sciences, because they know they’ll be safe. Even preschoolers who shout “no” at tired parents are testing the supportive boundaries of their environments.
- Strong parent-child relationships are critical. The documentary points out that parents who are able to cultivate strong relationships with their children are ultimately helping shape more productive adults. “That love is an important part of the economy,” said the economist James Heckman.
For more than a decade, Advocacy & Communication Solutions, LLC (ACS) has been enmeshed in the creation of early childhood learning systems in states, such as First Things First in Arizona, and in cities, such as Cleveland’s nationally recognized PRE4CLE and many other early childhood efforts across the country. ACS continues to work in local communities, with state government, national non-profits, and thoughts leaders across the country to encourage a holistic approach to helping our nation’s young children get the best start in life through early childhood programs and policies which address health, nutrition, parent support, social services, as well as high-quality preschool. Learn more about ACS’s successes with First Things First and PRE4CLE here: https://www.advocacyandcommunication.org/successes/