The First Thousand Days
The first thousand days, life altering in so many ways. One would be hard-pressed to find a human experience more profound than parenthood; so deeply enriching to our lives yet so all-consuming in the way it keeps us tied in a constant cycle of joy and worry.
Joy, as our tiny infants give us their first smile and giggle. Laughter, as they discover the taste and feeling of first foods, delight at rolling over, crawling, sitting and finally their first steps. But the joy is so often mixed up with worry: about how much or how little our children are eating, sleeping, moving, resting, and so much more. And it’s not without cause; shaping a young life is about as demanding and challenging as it sounds.
While this shaping of a life is a continual responsibility and nurturing a child is a commitment that lasts a lifetime, there is perhaps no period in a child’s life more consequential than the first 1,000 days.
Studies from across the globe and countless paediatric institutions have highlighted that it is during the first thousand days of a child’s life that they experience the fastest pace of cognitive growth. Their tiny yet gloriously imaginative brains grow by up to 90 per cent the size of an adults’ brain during this period alone, indicating just how important it is.
It’s difficult to overstate the importance of the experiences children have during the first thousand days of their lives.
Nearly every aspect of their lives during this period, from diet to sleep to the establishment of human connection to daily simple interactions, has a profound impact on their overall well-being and development. It is precisely because of the vitality of this period in children’s lives that providing them with the most nurturing and developmentally conducive environment is not just important, it’s absolutely vital.
Access to adequate nutrition, physical activity, age-appropriate play and learning opportunities, friendly interactions and safe external environments in the first thousand days can set children up for lifelong success. And sadly enough, a lack of these vital factors can also impede in their developmental prospects.
The Importance and irreplaceable significance of the first thousand days also, therefore, extends beyond the childhood years. In more than one way, the way we as a nation prioritise (or worryingly at times choose not to prioritise) the first thousand days, can chart out the future of our country.
That’s why the calls for making high-quality and culturally appropriate early learning and care truly accessible and affordable for all Australian families are so important. They are an urging to invest in the future of our country’s children and in our nation’s future prosperity.
This starts with recognising the importance of the first thousand days and ensuring that we take the bold steps necessary to make this important period as fruitful and beneficial as possible for every Australian child.
Our political decision-makers must prioritise the futures of our children and deliver the reforms necessary to make universal high-quality early learning and care, staffed by an appropriately valued and paid workforce accessible and affordable for all.
Thrive by Five is a national campaign calling for just this, and you can be part of it.
Sign Thrive by Five’s petition and join the thousands of parents, carers, educators and supporters across Australia demanding bold and urgent reforms to our nation’s early childhood education and care sector.
Originally published in Connected Caregiving Autumn 2023