Littlest Learners

Building the foundation for school and life success

The Challenge:

The early years, and especially the first thousand days, are widely recognized as one of the most important periods for brain development and one of the most influential phases of life. They determine the basis for every child’s overall future well-being, including health and learning outcomes, and drive earnings and societal pathways. They lay the foundation for young children’s emotional security, cultural and personal identity, and for skills, competencies, resilience and adaptability.

Yet, 43%, or 250 million of children, under five years of age in low and middle-income countries are at risk of not reaching their full developmental potential. In the US, more than a third or 7 million children under five years old are also estimated to not be fully ready when they enter kindergarten.

What If:

At this early, critical time in a learner’s lifespan, we could nurture them to learn in safe, loving and playful environments? And, what if we could support parents on strategies that might best support their children? What if we could provide appropriate recognition and professional development opportunities for our early childhood educators? More broadly, what if early childhood education was a right of birth for each and every child?

Where We Focus:

Developing the Whole Child and Family

It’s clear that a whole-child approach is key to creating the right foundation for learning solutions. Early childhood education has demonstrated the value of supporting and nurturing different facets of a child’s development. This means addressing a comprehensive range of themes: early literacy, numeracy and science, social emotional competencies, executive functions, physical and mental well-being, the integration of parental engagement and joy of learning through play. We recognize and value work done in the early childhood field that illustrates a whole-child approach.

Littlest Learners Focus Strategies:

Supporting Innovative Models

Our goal is simple: identify innovative approaches that dramatically improve social-emotional and cognitive outcomes important for school readiness and life success. Given that most children under age five are cared for in multiple settings (e.g., home, childcare, preschool), we seamlessly operate across these different environments.

While we ultimately seek impact on the Littlest Learners, we also support models of responsible and nurturing caregiving for adults in young children’s lives.

Enabling the Early Childhood Ecosystem

We champion field-building efforts to support the ecosystem of early development, moving from scarcity to possibility. In this area, we focus on two particular areas: igniting innovation ecosystems; and connecting innovation to science, academic research and government policy.

Researching Readiness

We champion research efforts that measure and track progress toward school readiness and deepen our collective understanding of what works, for whom, under what conditions in early development and learning. This also includes evidence generation to support decision making – using data to parse what is important, how best to support children and families and the best path to implementation and scale.