Policy briefs – The Early Years

Want to get up to speed on early childhood issues? Whether a seasoned practitioner or new to the field, these policy briefs explain some of the biggest challenges facing young children globally. Each includes key information and powerful data, along with promising policy suggestions and case studies from around the world.

The Early Years: an introduction

What is early childhood development and why should we care about it? Designed for policymakers and practitioners, this two-page guide is a useful introduction to the field. Did you know that more than 1 million connections are formed every second in a child’s brain?

Behavioural Science and The Early Years

The behaviours of caregivers and service providers when they’re with young children, such as play, affection and choosing healthy nutrition, are vital to early childhood development. That means behavioural science has the potential to significantly improve the impact of early years programmes. This guide sets out the key steps for designing and implementing an intervention which rigorously applies behavioural science methods.


If breastfeeding were practiced as recommended around the world, 820,000 lives of children under five could be saved each year. It would have a monumental economic impact too, saving the global economy $1 billion every day. In this guide, we explain why breastfeeding is so important, which barriers stand in the way for mothers, and what policymakers can do to help.

Malnutrition in the Early Years

One in three children under five are undernourished or overweight globally. This has a dramatic impact on their brain development, long-term health and future eating habits  In this brief, we explain how early malnutrition leads to lifelong problems, both for children and for national economies, and what policymakers need to do.

Maternal mental health

Millions of parents and caregivers around the world suffer with mental health issues, which has a severe impact on children’s health and development. In fact, in developing countries as many as one in five mothers experience depression after childbirth. In this guide, we explore some of the solutions needed to help mothers and their young children onto a healthy track.

Mental health in humanitarian crises

When parents and their young children suffer from extreme stress, it can have a dramatic impact on their long-term development. This is a huge issue in humanitarian situations around the world, yet just 1% of development assistance for health is spent on mental health. As we explain in this guide, there are several interventions which could make a real difference for parents and their children.

Parental leave

Paid leave helps new parents to form a closer bond with their baby, but many workers either do not have the right to paid leave or do not take it up. In this brief we explore the evidence for the benefits of paid parental leave – such as boosting children’s physical, cognitive and emotional development – and policy solutions to promote it.