The first six years of a child’s life are uniquely important to their entire future. We know a lot more today about the way a young mind develops, learns and adapts. In fact, we know that 90 per cent of brain development occurs during the first six years of a child’s life and this development is integral to their personality, brain function and future prospects.
It is during the first few years that important synapse connections are made in the brain and that they form the basic infrastructure upon which the subsequent brain development relies. Each stage builds upon earlier learning and brain development. By the time they reach kindergarten age, this foundation should be as strong and well-constructed as possible. A child who enters kindergarten without a foundation of healthy development will likely struggle to keep up throughout their school years and beyond.
That means the early years offer a window of opportunity to invest in a child’s future. Giving a child a good start means they can continue to grow and thrive. In this way, the early investment pays off not only for the child but for society and the economy in general. A healthy child is more likely to become a healthy adult.
British Columbia has an office specifically tasked to oversee the successful implementation of BC’s Early Years Strategy. It’s called the Provincial Office for the Early Years (EYO) and is hosted within the Ministry of Children and Family Development. The EYO was created in 2014 in recognition of the need for coordination among multiple partners and ministries.
Online, the EYO provides information and links to help you learn more about the services and the importance of a child’s early development.
The mandate of the EYO is to maximise benefits for children and families in BC and to encourage an integrated and collaborative system of programs and activities among partners across the early years sector. As part of its work, the EYO has developed a network of Early Years Centres (EYC) across the province. Numbering a dozen in 2014 when created, there are now 26 EYCs in BC.
Early Years Centres exist in many types of places: schools, child development centres, recreation centers, storefronts, local not-for-profit service provider locations and even as mobile ‘satellite centres’. EYCs provide families with access to a range of early years services and supports, information and referrals in a convenient, one-stop location.
Advocacy for early years support is a role for us all, because the more people know and the more they understand the importance of those first six years, the better will be the path of every child as they grow to adulthood. It would benefit us all to understand that an investment — that is what it is — in that person’s well-being and unique contribution to society results in subsequent long term savings to the healthcare, social and justice systems.
Written by Dr. Paul Martiquet, Medical Health Officer for Rural Vancouver Coastal Health including Powell River, the Sunshine Coast, Sea-to-Sky, Bella Bella and Bella Coola.