Man and pregnant women with toddler laying on her stomach

Make the Case

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A child’s early experiences during the prenatal period and first three years after birth shape brain development and the healthy development of all other systems in the body. What happens during this early period can have substantial effects on both short- and long-term outcomes in learning, behavior, and physical and mental health. 

Parents play the lead role in their child’s healthy development, but all parents are stretched in the earliest months and years of their child’s life.

Whether providing direct support or working through a community-based network of organizations and programs, there is no doubt that government has a role to play in helping parents access needed services, especially at this critical and stressful time from prenatal-to-three.

When we support them in their earliest years, infants grow into healthy kids who are confident, empathetic, and ready for school and life—and our communities, workforce, and economy become stronger and more productive. That's why it is so important to start early and advance programs and policies that promote healthy development.

Prenatal-to-Three is Critical for Lifelong Health and Development

A child’s early experiences during the prenatal period and first three years after birth shape brain development and the healthy development of all other systems in the body. What happens during this early period can have substantial effects on both short- and long-term outcomes in learning, behavior, and physical and mental health.

Research from the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University shows that supportive relationships, consistent routines, and positive experiences early in life are just as important for healthy brain and body development as good nutrition and protection from environmental toxins. These experiences build sturdy brain architecture, which becomes the foundation for core social-emotional skills, early executive functioning and self-regulatory skills, literacy skills, and the body’s ability to cope with stress, battle illness, and overcome hardship.

Supportive relationships and positive learning experiences begin at home and can also be supported and provided through a range of effective programs and policies that help children succeed and prevent the need for more costly interventions later on.   

Early Investment Works

It’s not just infants, toddlers, and their families who benefit when we start early—it’s the entire community. When we invest in the first three years of a child’s life, the returns for communities are the highest, and we can reduce the need for more expensive interventions later.

Research from Professor James Heckman at the University of Chicago found that investments in high-quality programs that support young children starting at birth deliver a 13 percent annual return—significantly higher than the 7-10 percent return delivered by preschool alone.

Can't Find What You Need?

Looking for additional resources to make the case for programs and policies that support infants and toddlers? Be sure to check out the Resources for Action page. If you still can't find what you need, contact us and we'll help you find the right materials for your state or community.