The BBC has launched Tiny Happy People, a five-year initiative backed by Her Royal Highness The Duchess of Cambridge, to support parents and carers in developing the language and communication skills of 0-4-year-old children.
At the heart of the initiative is a simple message – talk to children from as early an age as possible.
Tiny Happy People offers a wide range of free films, articles, quizzes and parenting tips that have been specially designed with experts to help to nurture children’s language right from pregnancy.
To help launch the initiative, Her Royal Highness recently met with families involved to hear about their experiences of parenting, their contribution to the campaign and how the Tiny Happy People resources and activities have been helping them.
One of the parents she spoke with, Ryan, and his 8 month old daughter Mia, explained how Tiny Happy People had helped him to identify that Mia has five different cries.
Speaking to BBC Breakfast’s Louise Minchin, The Duchess said: “He’s learnt a huge amount from Tiny Happy People …. It’s information like that I wish I had had as a first time mum, it’s gold dust really for families to be given those tips and tools to be able to use, particularly in those first five years.”
The Duchess also spoke of the help that parents receive following their baby’s birth from midwives and health visitors, but that there is a then a gap before they start school which is where they really need the support from initiatives such as Tiny Happy People.
The full film of The Duchess meeting with the families can be seen on BBC Breakfast from 6am tomorrow morning (14th July).
Her Royal Highness has been involved with Tiny Happy People for a number of months, having visited the Tiny Happy People team last November to take part in development sessions and to learn more about the production process. The Duchess helped in the character and background development for two animations on parenting, which are now available on the Tiny Happy People website about making eye contact with babies and singing to babies.
Recognising the significance of the project to supporting parents as they guide their children through the earliest years of life, The Royal Foundation of The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will collaborate with the BBC as they develop and roll out Tiny Happy People.
Also supporting the initiative are a number of celebrities who are using the activities to build their own infants’ communication skills. The celebrity parents involved are soap stars Jennie McAlpine and Kieron Richardson; singer and farmer JB Gill; former Love Islanders, Jess and Dom Lever; BBC Three presenter Annie Price; and Louise Pentland, who was voted the UK’s favourite mum influencer last year.
The free digital resources being offered by Tiny Happy People are easy to use and incorporate into everyday routines.
The short films, articles and quizzes cover, in a bitesize way, the science behind baby brain development. There are lots of fun activities to do with both babies and toddlers to support language development and parent well-being along with great tips for new and soon-to-be parents.
Tony Hall, BBC Director-General, says: “We couldn’t be more proud of the part we’re playing in this amazing partnership. Growing up happy and healthy is the greatest gift we can give to any child. This campaign embodies our mission to inform, educate and entertain. The BBC has created hundreds of videos and written content that we hope will make a real difference.”
James Purnell, BBC Director, Radio & Education, says: “Early years language provides the foundation for all aspects of a child’s life – right into adulthood. Tiny Happy People is a major, long term education commitment from the BBC to help close the under-fives language and communication gap and help give kids the best chance in life. We’re all so proud of it and look forward to seeing parents and carers from across the UK using the materials.”
Evidence shows that more than 1 in 4 children (27%) in England do not reach the necessary level of literacy development (language, communication and literacy skills) by the time they start primary school, rising to more than 1 in 3 (42%) in deprived areas.* The picture is similar across all nations of the UK.**
Research also shows that once children start behind, they stay behind, affecting performance in school, job prospects and even life expectancy.*** However, evidence also shows that parents and carers can make a big difference if they’re supported in the crucial early years – and if children develop language and communication skills before they start school, they have every opportunity to thrive.****
Working with a coalition of partners, BBC Education through Tiny Happy People has the ambition to make a significant contribution to halving the number of children in the UK who do not reach the required developmental outcomes in literacy by the end of their reception year.
Those partners include academics, healthcare professional bodies, The Royal Foundation, Public Health England, The National Literacy Trust, The Education Endowment Foundation, The National Lottery Community Fund and KPMG.
All of Tiny Happy People’s resources are rooted in evidence and have been developed with the help of leading experts in the fields of child and language development to ensure parents and carers are being offered the best advice. They include The Royal College of Speech and Language Therapists, The Institute of Health Visiting, The Royal College of Midwives, I CAN, early years practitioners through the Greater Manchester Combined Authority, and speech and language academics at The University of Liverpool, University of Sheffield, and LuCiD.
For more information about Tiny Happy People, please visit the website at: https://www.bbc.co.uk/tiny-happy-people and follow on Instagram at: https://www.instagram.com/bbctinyhappypeople/?hl=en
As part of Tiny Happy People’s launch, CBeebies Bedtime Stories will be broadcast Bedtime Stories read by celebrity supporters, Jennie McAlpine (July 14), Annie Price (July 15) and JB Gill (July 16).
In October 2019, Tiny Happy People was rolled out across Greater Manchester in partnership with the Greater Manchester Combined Authority. Together we created hubs across the authority where we introduced Tiny Happy People champions to work with frontline professionals and parents to embed Tiny Happy People activities into communities. This has provided a blueprint for a total of five new hubs that will be created in communities across the UK every year for the lifetime of the initiative.
Evidence and Research:
* Department for Education and The National Literacy Trust (2018 – 2019)
** In Scotland, by age 5, there is a 13-month gap in vocabulary development between children from low-income and high-income households. Ref: https://www.jrf.org.uk/report/closing-attainment-gap-scottish-education (May 2014)
In Wales, 4 in 10 children are not at the expected level of development in maths, language, literacy and communication at age 4. Ref: https://gov.wales/sites/default/files/statistics-and-research/2019-11/well-being-of-wales-2019.pdf (Sept 2019)
Also in Wales, poor children who are performing well at age three are more likely than their peers to lose that advantage and fall behind by the age of five. Ref: https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/content/dam/global/reports/education-and-child-protection/ready-to-read-wales.pdf (Sept 2015)
In Northern Ireland, 38% of five-year-olds have below average vocabulary skills. This rises to 65% of children who experience persistent poverty.
Ref: https://www.savethechildren.org.uk/content/dam/global/reports/education-and-child-protection/ready-to-read-northern-ireland.pdf (Sept 2015)
*** Education Policy Institute: Closing the Gap (August 2017) and Ready to Read Northern Ireland (September 2015) and National Literacy Trust: Literacy and Life Expectancy (Feb 2018)
****University of Washington (Feb 2020).
Photos copyright of Kensington Palace.