children are growing up. Thus they need to create the conditions to ensure the young child’s overall
development to his or her fullest potential. There is no single blueprint for such programmes but there are
some guidelines. Programmes should build on the strengths that already exist within the family,
community and society. At the same time, they should work to build up the strengths of the children.
such as prenatal care and nutrition for mothers; appropriate nutrition for children; immunisation;
appropriate shelter; clean water, good sanitation and hygiene; opportunities and encouragement to
develop gross and fine motor skills.
such as language acquisition and exposure to stories; activities that encourage a child to explore,
be curious and to find things out for him or herself; understanding basic concepts such as
numbers, colours, dimensions and so on; encouraging creativity and critical thinking.
such as learning about one’s own identity; understanding relationships in the family and
neighbourhood; interacting with peers and others in accordance with accepted norms of the
society; acquiring good communication skills; being able to cooperate.
Moral and emotional strengths:
such as having stable relationships, love, affection and a sense of security; understanding the
belief system of family and society; learning what is wise and what is not wise; being a critical
thinker; instilling and strengthening the ability to protect oneself.
The Convention presents development as a continuing process of interaction between the individual child,
with his or her inherent characteristics, and the immediate and larger environment, resulting in evolving
capacities and maturity.33 Thus the child is an active participant, not a blank slate to be manipulated.
Even the very youngest children can communicate and it is our task, as adults, to encourage and assist
them to develop their strengths and their skills.
Obviously, not all the above can be achieved in a single multi-purpose programme. The table34 below
shows just a few of the many programme strategies and approaches that are aimed at different groups.
A selection of options for early childhood development programmes
Approaches aimed at: possible strategies
parents; family; siblings;
elders; educators; teachers;
pre- and in-service training; monitoring and
supervision; home visiting; parent education; child-tochild
Deliver a service the child: newborn, infant,
toddler, preschooler; first/
home day care; health clinics; integrated centres; ‘Addon’
centres; preschools; religious schools; ECD part of
curriculum; birth registration
training; experimental/demonstration projects;
strengthening structures; action research; partnerships
Strengthen demand and
policy makers; media;
professionals; general public
social marketing; multimedia dissemination of
Develop supportive legal
policy makers; legislators;
young children, their
families and caregivers;
partnerships government/civil society; family
legislation; alliances such as women’s groups,
community groups; tax incentives; parental leave and
benefits; support for breastfeeding
As can be seen, there are many options and many approaches. Some aspects need to be emphasised such
as the importance of programmes that support parents and families rather than replace them. Such as
training people from the local community to implement early childhood activities rather than insisting
that all personnel be professionally qualified. Such as communities and parents and children participating
in decision making about their programmes and the activities.
But who decides what is in the best interests of the children? Who will implement early childhood
programmes? How can a country decide its overall policy for young children and their families?