Lighting up young brains: Supporting early years learning

Publication date

6 April 2016


Jerome Finnegan, with support from Kayte Lawton

The Publication

Lighting up Young Brains, a report published by Save the Children, argues that more should be invested in supporting children’s learning in the early years both in the nursery and at home.

Drawing on scientific evidence that the brain develops rapidly in the first 5 years of life, the report claims this rapid development impacts a child’s ability to develop language skills. The report calls on government to ensure that every nursery has an early years teacher by 2020.  It also calls for more support for parents to encourage them to nurture language skills in the under-5s.

Our Response

Commenting on the report, Professor Tom Brenna of Cornell University, a member of our Science Advisory Council, said:

"Missing from the report is what parents have known forever:  developing brains need brain food. Skeletal development in young children requires exercise and activity to build healthy bones and draw attention to the importance of calcium, bone food, as an irreplaceable building block. Similarly, a normal brain cannot be made without adequate nutrition, and there may be no later opportunity to repair the effects of a deficiency once the nervous system is formed."

Dr Jonathan Tammam of the University of Hertford and lead researcher on our Robert Clack School Study added:

"Supporting children’s brain development requires a multi-disciplinary approach.  An important, but often ignored, factor is adequate and appropriate nutrition.  Diet provides the fundamental building blocks to the structure and function of the brain....overlooking the importance of diet may hinder the optimal development of a growing brain and the educational potential of that child."