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Helping our children to thrive

09 November 2023

Childrens health Maternity
It’s no secret parents want the best for their children from the day they are born. Clinical Nurse Specialist Parent Education Felicity Anderson explains the simple things parents can do to help their children reach their full potential.

Research tells us the early childhood years are critical for healthy brain development and lifelong learning, with the volume of a child’s brain reaching 90 per cent of an adult’s by the age of five.

So what can parents do to support that healthy brain development and enable their children to thrive?

Thrive by Five

Combining the latest parenting research, Minderoo Foundation’s Thrive by Five campaign looks at the everyday activities adults can do with children in their early childhood to help shape their lives and benefit their lifelong learning, behaviour and wellbeing.

In the TED Talk video below, produced in collaboration with Minderoo Foundation and supported by UNICEF, seven-year-old Molly Wright explains why interactions early and often matter during the first five years in a child’s life.

Molly’s Thrive by Five TED Talk was the 'Most Popular TED Talk in the World’ in the year it was launched. It has been translated into 35+ languages and has now been viewed by almost 100 million people, which is a testament to how Molly’s message has resonated with parents and caregivers.

In the video, Molly talks about two important concepts:

Serve and return

This relates to the five things adults can do every day to help their children build trust, develop positive relationships and learn important life skills, including:

  • Connect – building relationships and strong emotional bonds
  • Talk – creating moments through language and communication
  • Play – supporting your child’s brain development through fun activities
  • A healthy home – keeping your home happy and healthy
  • Community – nurturing a connection to culture and creating a sense of belonging

Consider Molly’s examples:

  • Copycat games to build imagination and empathy
  • Naming games to build vocabulary and attention
  • Peekaboo to build memory and trust

Even simple things such as reading or singing are important in shaping thinking and emotional patterns for life and influencing learning, relationships and resilience.

Early and often

This concept speaks to practicing serve and return from the day a child is born, and doing it often.

Children are hardwired to seek out meaningful connections and not receiving them can cause stress.

With our brains developing faster in the early years than at any other time in our lives, every moment with our children is an opportunity to connect, talk and play. As Molly says in her talk, the simple and fun things you do with your child are “more than just a game”, they help shape the adults they become in the future.

I recommend taking a look at the Bright Tomorrows app which provides fun activities for you to try and insight into why they are so good for you and your child both now and into the future.

References and more information:

Minderoo Foundation’s Thrive by Five: https://thrivebyfive.org.au

TED – Molly Wright: How every child can thrive by five: https://vimeo.com/880771234

Photo of blog author Felicity Anderson
Felicity Anderson - Clinical Nurse Specialist Parent Education

Felicity is a wife and mother of two busy boys. She has been a midwife for 20 years and has recently recertified as a lactation consultant. 

Felicity is passionate about antenatal education and postnatal support for all new parents. 

She thrives in her role at St John of God Subiaco Hospital as Clinical Nurse Specialist of Parent Education as it encompasses her favourite aspects of midwifery.