The Princess of Wales' work on the Early Years

Over the past decade, The Princess of Wales has spent time looking into how experiences in early childhood are often the root cause of today’s hardest social challenges such as addiction, family breakdown, poor mental health, suicide and homelessness.

Shaping Us

Having met many people who are dealing with a range of issues, The Princess of Wales has seen over and over again how often these problems can be traced back to the earliest years of someone’s life. What we experience in the early years, from conception to the age of five, shapes the developing brain, which is why positive physical, emotional and cognitive development during this period is so crucial. It is a time when the building blocks are established, laying foundations that help provide greater resilience to deal with future adversity.

In Spring 2023, Her Royal Highness launched the launched the 'Shaping Us' Campaign, with the aim of increasing public understanding of the crucial importance of the first five years of a child’s life. Shaping Us is a new long-term campaign from The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood. In November 2023, The Princess hosted a National Symposium, bringing together cross-disciplinary leaders, child and adult specialists, and global thinkers for the first time to consider how we grow, think, and behave throughout life, in order to build resilience for the future.

Equally important was hearing from parents themselves and in January 2020, The Princess launched a landmark survey and travelled around the four nations to meet with parents and listen to their views on raising the next generation.

Her Royal Highness is committed to this crucial cause, but only by working together can we bring about positive, lasting change for generations to come.

Early Years Steering Group

A steering group was established in May 2018 to look at how we could work collaboratively to bring about positive lasting change.

The Princess has heard first-hand from this group about the lasting effects of adverse childhood experiences, but also how positive, protective factors in the early years can play a crucial role in long-term outcomes for our children.

The knowledge we now have about the importance of the early years – and the long-term impact of our earliest experiences – provides us with both an obligation and an opportunity.

The 5 Big Questions

Parents, carers and families are at the heart of our work on the early years. Every day, up and down the country, they are shaping the minds of the next generation. In January 2020, The Duchess launched a landmark public survey about the under-fives, sparking the biggest ever conversation on early childhood.

Open to everyone, it sought society’s views on raising the next generation, so that we can all work together on the key issues affecting our communities and provide help where it is needed most.

Further research

The 5 Big Questions survey formed part of a wider piece of nationally representative research carried out by The Royal Foundation and IPSOS Mori.

The findings should provide a vital source of information for the early years sector, helping it to better understand public perceptions of the importance of the early years, and the first-hand experiences of parents, families and carers.

The findings of this research, and that of the 5 Big Questions will be shared later in 2020.

Tiny Happy People

Her Royal Highness has been supporting the development of BBC Education’s Tiny Happy People – an initiative providing a range of free digital resources designed to support parents and carers in developing children’s language from pregnancy to the age of four.

Recognising the significance of the project to supporting parents as they guide their children through the earliest years of life, Her Royal Highness supported the launch of the project in July 2020, and The Royal Foundation will continue to collaborate with the BBC as they develop and roll it out.

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