Her Royal Highness The Princess of Wales has launched a major new campaign as part of her “early years foundation”, to increase public understanding and raise awareness to the crucial importance of the first five years of a child’s life.
The initiative called “Shaping Us” was officially introduced at an event hosted by the princess and backed by showbiz celebrities and supported by a specially commissioned short 90-second animation film, promoting a positive message, which was shared across the social media spectrum.
The “claymation” film which features a track by Lokki entitled: “Breathe a breath of me”, shows how a little girl named Layla develops from pregnancy up to the age of five, and how she is shaped by her early interactions with people and the environment that is all around her. It will be screened in cinemas right across the UK from Friday 3 February.
It is the next step in a long-term project of the princess which she has spoken passionately about on many occasions previously, and is a courageous move in a more public direction for her Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood, which she set up in June of 2021, when she was the then Duchess of Cambridge. It is due to run for at least another five years and a Kensington Palace spokesperson described it as the princess’ “life’s work”.
Her desire is clearly stronger than ever to make people appreciate the fundamental importance of those formative years in children’s development, which she stresses affects everything from the ability to form relationships as they grow, to individual’s physical and mental well-being moving up into adult life, and essentially how people parent their own children.
Campaign to receive strong advertising
The UK public can expect to see a lot of the “Shaping Us” promotion with advertising due to be rolled out extensively on billboards across the country, to compliment the screening throughout the nation’s cinemas. Kate has been a long-standing believer in the message behind this project stretching back even before she became a mother herself, and it only intensified when she became aware of reports that were produced, revealing that the human brain grows faster than at any other time, during the period leading up to the age of five.
She decided it was vital that the population needed to be given this information and this campaign she believes, is the vehicle to do just that.
Film highlights the impact of early interaction
In the film that is a major part of the “Shaping Us” drive, the little girl, Layla, navigates her way through various experiences as a new born, then on to being a toddler, and finally a young child, with help coming from various quarters. She interacts with people and places, highlighting specifically the cuddles from her parents, a reassuring arm on her shoulder from a nursery teacher, and a supportive cheer from a swimming instructor, stimulating her brain and enhancing her development.
At the short film’s conclusion, Layla is seen celebrating her fifth birthday, surrounded by a large group of family, friends, and others, all who have had a significant role in shaping her young life.
Kate’s determination to highlight importance of campaign to the rest of the country
The Princess of Wales confidently implied that it is during a child’s very early years that the building blocks for life are laid. She said she was determined to show the country the importance of appreciating just how informative early childhood is, and made reference to the group of experts who were joining her on her crusade, spanning science, research, policy making, and front-line practice.
Urging everyone to take the opportunity to think back to their own childhood and how it shaped them, she asked parents to contemplate what they might be able to do to make the environment their children are living in, a more supportive and loving place, pointing out that “healthy, happy children shape a healthy, happy future.”
She went on to say that by focusing on collective time, energy, and resources, a more nurturing world around the youngest members of society could be created, and as a consequence, make a huge difference to the health and happiness of generations to come.
The princess was keen to include those who may not directly be involved in a child’s life, because as she said: “We are all responsible for building a more compassionate world in which our children can grow, learn and live.” She acknowledged the difficult and challenging times in which the country finds itself right now, but stressed that it was more important than ever to help support parents and care-givers to provide loving, safe, and secure homes in which their babies and young children could thrive.
Showbiz gets involved
Some celebrities were happy to lend a hand including well-known faces from the world of media, music, science and sports; with the likes of rapper Professor Green, DJ Jax Jones, presenter Rochelle Humes, podcaster Giovanni Fletcher, reality TV star Zara McDermott and England footballer Leah Williamson, all in attendance at the launch. Ms Williamson said: “In those early years they need us, so I think it is an amazing thing to start raising awareness.”
Little knowledge amongst general public
The launch coincides with the release of new data from the Centre for Early Childhood relating to public understand of child development, which indicates that 36% of adults, roughly one in three, admit to knowing only a very little, or indeed nothing at all about how children develop in their early childhood.
This was a follow up to comprehensive research undertaken 12 months earlier which concluded that very few people recognise the unique importance of the 0 -5 period, in comparison to other stages of life. Those statistics are fundamental to the long-term aim of the Princess of Wales’ “Shaping Us” movement, which is to transform public awareness of the issue, over the coming months and years.
Science behind campaign explained
Explaining the science a little more succinctly, Eamon McCrory, a Professor of Developmental Neuroscience and Psychopathology at University College London and also a member of The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood’s Advisory Group, described how during a persons earliest years, in the bracket that has been mentioned, more than a million connections between the nerve cells in the brain are formed every second, which he pointed out, is faster than at any other time in somebody’s lifetime. He continued to disclose that these connections drive development, and build the foundations for all future learning, behaviour, and health.
He further resolved that in his words: “We can help children build the capacities and confidence which they need to effectively manage any challenges and adversity in later life.” He also felt that acting in a preventative way, everybody could help to close the school attainment gap, and as a consequence, give children “a fair chance to fulfil their educational potential.”
Needs to be taken more seriously
The princess has previously spoken about not enough being done and has vowed to use her position to “shine a light on this issue”. She was quoted as remarking that early childhood was the “social equivalent to climate change”, but that it was not discussed with the same seriousness. She sees this campaign as an incredible opportunity, armed with all the results carried out by dedicated scientists, researchers and practitioners, to make a huge difference, both in the short and long term.
Grateful to the princess for her dedicated involvement
Neil Leitch, who is the chief executive of the “Early Years Alliance”, spoke glowingly at his admiration for what Catherine is doing and said he “wholeheartedly welcomed” her engagement with this issue.
He reiterated what others were highlighting, which is that the first five years of a child’s life are absolutely critical in shaping their learning and development moving forward. He said: “We hope that the princess’ dedication to highlighting the importance of early childhood will prompt the government to sit up, take action and realise that education does not just begin when a child reaches the school gates.”