Parents play a key role in ensuring children get good nutrition, stimulation and protection, known as ‘eat play and love’, yet they need more support to ensure their children reach their full potential.
Providing good nutrition fuels brain growth, with inadequate nutrition in the first 5 years affecting the structure and function of the brain in ways that are difficult to reverse later. Despite this, in Sri Lanka 38% of children aged 6-23 months do not receive a ‘minimal acceptable diet’ in terms of food diversity and meal frequency*, 17% of under-fives are ‘stunted’ and 15.1% are ‘wasted’, all resulting from poor nutrition. Between 2006 and 2016, no significant improvement was noted*.
Providing play and stimulation through interaction between young children and parents positively and permanently strengthens a child’s ability to learn. Yet in Sri Lanka, 19.4% of children reported that there are no ‘child-centred’ books at home*, meaning they risk missing out on one of the most important forms of early stimulation.
By providing love and protection, parents can limit ‘toxic stress’ which disrupts the process of brain development and damages health, learning and behavior. However, 73.4% of children aged 1-14 years have experienced corporal punishment at home by parents**.
To help parents give the best start to their children, in 2019 UNICEF launched www.BetterParenting.lk, a Sinhala, Tamil and English website that brings together comprehensive expert information, from leader authroties in four areas; child care, child development, food and nutrition and health, through a mix of articles, video and animation.
Parents have free access to a regularly updated resource bank of articles, videos and animation from global and local experts, available in English, Sinhala and Tamil.
“The most important people in a young child’s life are parents and caregivers. A child’s development depends on good health and nutrition, love and care, safety and security and quality early learning. Every parent wants to do the best for their child. By supporting parents in their children’s early year, we can enable all children to fulfill their right to develop fully, and to thrive for themselves, their communities and their country.” said Tim Sutton, Representative, UNICEF Sri Lanka.