Health Care for ECD
Thematic Area :
Health Systems For Early Child Development

When experts across the sectors of Health and Early Childhood Development (ECD) join forces to support the development of young children's full potential, unique, comprehensive tools can be designed to support parents and alter the journey of ECD. 'Zamislice' (CHILDEAS – Tiny Little Thoughts) were developed in Slovenia, through a collaboration between ISSA Members Association Mala ulica - Center for children and families, Pedagogical Institute – Step by Step Center for Quality in Education and the Community Health Centre Ljubljana,  with the financial support of the Municipality of Ljubljana (Slovenia).

''Zamislice' (CHILDEAS – Tiny Little Thoughts) are a set of 30 compact cards attached as a keychain or as part of a pram mobile. Each card details simple, enjoyable activities for infants, designed to be practical and applicable at any moment. The cards provide not just fun and engaging activities, but also vital stimulation for brain development and holistic child growth, with each card explaining the relevance of the activity to developmental areas.

The crucial role of parents 

Research findings from neuroscience, developmental psychology, education, and other disciplines show that children's experiences up to the age of three have a profound impact on realising their social, physical and mental potential. During this period, when the foundations for future learning are being laid, warm and responsive relationships and early childhood experiences matters the most. Parents are their child's first and most important teachers and educators, so they have an extremely important role during their child's first years. A child does not need lessons, but rather time to build precious attachments with loving adults. 

The early years are a vital time  for a child’s brain to develop the neural pathways that will help them to be healthy, capable, successful adults. The connections needed for many important, higher-level abilities like motivation, self-regulation, problem solving, and communication are formed — or not formed — in these early years. These connections are built through positive interactions with their parents and caregivers and by using their senses to interact with the world. 

The amount and quality of care, stimulation, and interaction children receive in their early years makes all the difference. Parents and caregivers who give attention, respond, and interact with their child are literally building the child's brain. That is why it is so important to talk, sing, read and play with young children from the day they are born, giving  them opportunities to explore their physical world, and to provide safe, stable and nurturing environments.

The origins of Tiny Little Thoughts 

Below, Eva Strmljan Kreslin, director of Mala Ulica Public Institute – Center for children and families in Ljubljana explains how the Tiny Little Thoughts programme was born.

“At Parent School, parents-to-be get information about childbirth and how to care for and feed their new born. Patronage nurses are also an extremely useful source of information during home visits. But what about a child's social, emotional, intellectual, and physical development? How can we optimally support this development and lay foundations for future learning? During the first years of a child's life, the presence of loving adults is the most important thing for optimal brain development. The future of the child in the first year is therefore almost exclusively in the hands of parents and their education, their past experiences, their desire, and their will to learn and explore.

This is how we came up with the idea of Tiny Little Thoughts. To make parents aware of the importance of even the smallest and sometimes most mundane activities such as singing, dancing or counting fingers — these are not just fun games, but activities which intensely stimulate children's brain development and shape their future in the long term. We also wanted to design something that is fun, playful, and always close at hand, that can be hung on the pram or somewhere else, because we know that the first year with a baby can be exhausting and that parents often don't have time to read thick books and go to lectures on top of all their other caring responsibilities,” 

Communicating the importance of interactive play

In a noteworthy shift from the traditional health-focused approach, 'Zamislice' cards are presented to parents during the first paediatric health check. This is a useful tool to help paediatricians communicate the importance of interactive play and cognitive, emotional, and social development to parents. In essence, every interaction — be it a game, a song, or a dance — can greatly shape a child's development.

This initiative merges health services with elements of ECD, demonstrating an innovative way to cultivate informed parenting. It enables healthcare professionals to begin conversations about early child development, emphasising  the crucial role parents play. Moreover, it provides parents with support and motivation to engage with their infants in a responsive and enriching manner.

Moreover, the 'Zamislice' project underlines the indispensability and benefits of cross-sectoral collaboration in crafting resources and strategies to bolster child development. The project seamlessly merges the traditionally separate sectors, promoting a coherent understanding and aligned approaches to ECD. It leverages the unique capabilities of each sector, creating an efficient system through shared resources.

The 'Zamislice' initiative represents an inspiring example of how a cross-sectoral, integrated effort can bolster support for children and their families during the pivotal early years. It showcases the potential in bridging the gaps between different sectors to work towards the common goal of promoting holistic child development.




Next Read