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National parenting drive
Young children whose parents regularly speak to them have hundreds more words in their vocabulary by the age of just two, Education Secretary Fiona Hyslop said as she kick-started a nationwide parenting campaign.
The new Play, Talk, Read campaign - part of the Scottish Government's unprecedented focus on the first years of children's lives - will help parents stimulate young children and put in place the building blocks for future life chances.
The national drive - which includes TV and radio adverts and a new one-stop website for parents of young children - is aimed at helping parents stimulate their children from day one through easy, fun activities.
Ms Hyslop said the campaign was crucial as research has shown:
- During the first three years, 75 per cent of brain growth is completed
- Two-year-olds who are often read to and do lots of activities like painting and singing have better language development and problem solving skills
- Children whose parents talk to them frequently have better language skills than those who seldom talk to them: at 20 months babies of talkative parents knew 131 more words than infants of less talkative parents, while at 24 months the difference was 295
Ms Hyslop said:
"The early years of child's life represent a golden moment of opportunity, where positive action will have the biggest influence on their chances throughout their lifetime.
"This is backed up by a wealth of evidence which is why the Scottish Government is driving forward with an unprecedented focus in this area, helping to get children off to the best start so they are equipped to fulfil their potential and play a full role in a more successful Scotland.
"Supporting parents is at the heart of that drive. By engaging with children and stimulating them from birth parents will set down the building blocks for their child's chances. Yet children don't come with an instruction manual and we want to do all we can to empower parents.
"It doesn't need expensive toys or costly visits - it's simple time and attention that make all the difference. For instance, two-year-olds whose parents have regularly spoken with them have around 300 more words in their vocabulary than those that aren't nurtured in this way."
Children's Minister Adam Ingram added:
"By intervening early to strengthen families we can also reduce cases of child neglect or abuse, ending the culture where risks are left to fester and mitigating the need for crisis interventions.
"This campaign will make a real difference to the lives of Scotland's children, while helping parents to have fun from day one."
The campaign - part of Scotland's Early Years Framework - will see TV, radio and billboard adverts running across Scotland throughout September and October. A new website providing parenting hints, tips and ideas - cost-effective and tailored to local areas - and creating an online community where parents can engage with each other, is also being launched.
Scotland's Chief Medical Officer, Dr Harry Burns, said:
"The first few years of a child's life provide the foundation for their future life chances. Those who are given the strongest foundation will perform better at school, develop better social skills and will grow into healthier adults.
"By encouraging and supporting parents to lay the strongest foundation possible through fun activities and by talking to their children more, we will help give our children the best start we can and build on the on-going efforts to create a better life for Scotland's future generation."
Scottish Play Commission Chair Sue Palmer said:
"It's easy to assume that playing with your child comes instinctively. But nowadays many mums and dads have little experience of babies before they bring their own home from the hospital. And busy lifestyles leave adults feeling overstretched and exhausted, so playtime is often left to children's TV. This campaign provides parents with vital tools, equipping them with the confidence and knowledge to engage in meaningful play with their little ones"