©Unicef/Mozambique/2014/Schermbrucker

©Unicef/Mozambique/2014/Schermbrucker

We are born with billions of brain cells that need to be connected. In the first three years of life, trillions of these networks take shape. The connections that are used the most often take hold and remain for a lifetime. Luckily, fostering these connections can be easy and fun.

These activities do not always come naturally to caregivers. Furthermore, children born into challenging circumstances fall behind other children. For this reason, it is particularly important to share what we know about early childhood development with families facing extreme circumstances.

Some of the children and families featured below have been affected by HIV.

Holding, cuddling and eye contact foster a loving connection. These feelings of connection and safety give babies early confidence to explore the world around them.

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Building motor skills starts before birth, and as a child ages. Performing simple, but precise manual tasks, help primary circuits in the brain to develop.

©Unicef/Tajikistan/2014/Noorani

 

Sensory motor experiences that combine visual cues with music help babies develop their motor skills from a young age. Babies need daily interaction with caregivers that promotes physical activity and exploration of their environment.

©Unicef/South Africa/2014/Schermbrucker

 

Mental stimulation at a young age is directly linked to brain development well into the teenage years.

©Unicef/Uzbekistan/2014/Noorani

 

Brain development comes in many forms, including sensory and creative experiences. Simple activities at an early age yield complex results.

©Unicef/Uzbekistan/2014/Noorani

 

Learning begins well before a child can read. Providing a child with a balance of structure and freedom is an important element in gaining the confidence needed as we grow.

©Unicef/Tajikistan/2014/Noorani

 

Physical activity is key to healthy growth and development. Toddlers should accumulate at least 30 minutes daily of structured physical activity.

©Unicef/Uzbekistan/2014/Noorani

 

Socializing is important early on. Learning how to play nicely when we are young helps children form bonds and relationships throughout life.

©Unicef/Uzbekistan/2014/Noorani

 

Personal teacher attention in early schooling benefits children greatly.

©Unicef/Uzbekistan/2014/Noorani

 

Children need an increase of structured physical activity to at least 60 minutes a day when they reach preschool.

©Unicef/Uzbekistan/2014/Noorani

 

Food feeds the brain. Nutrition is an essential component is developing healthy brains and bodies. Activities that help foster good habits are a building block to a healthy life.

©Unicef/Uzbekistan/2014/Noorani

 

Unstructured activity is another essential element as children grow. Preschoolers need at least 60 minutes and up to several hours of daily, unstructured physical activity. Sitting still for more than an hour is too much.

©Unicef/Kyrgystan/2014/Noorani

 

Learn more about our work on Early Childhood Development for Children Affected by HIV.

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