The Princess of Wales has said “it is more important than ever” to support the development of young children as she launches her early years campaign.
The Shaping Us campaign aims to improve society’s understanding of the importance of early childhood in shaping adulthood and society as a whole.
The long-term project, launched on Tuesday by the Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood, is said to be Catherine’s “life’s work”, which she hopes will influence attitudes towards children in the early-years period of their lives.
The princess said: “The way we develop, through our experiences, relationships and surroundings during our early childhood, fundamentally shapes our whole lives.
“It affects everything from our ability to form relationships and thrive at work, to our mental and physical wellbeing as adults and the way we parent our own children.
“These are the most preventive years. By focusing our collective time, energy and resources to build a supportive, nurturing world around the youngest members of our society and those caring for them, we can make a huge difference to the health and happiness of generations to come.
“All of society has a role to play in this, even if you are not directly involved in a child’s life, because we are all responsible for building a more compassionate world in which our children can grow, learn and live.
“In these difficult times, it is more important than ever to help support parents and caregivers provide loving safe and secure homes for their babies and young children to survive.”
A 90-second claymation film depicting how a girl’s development from birth to five is shaped by interactions and her environment will be shown in cinemas from Friday as part of the campaign.
Shaping Us has the support of a number of notable faces, including the rapper Professor Green, the broadcaster Fearne Cotton and the footballer Leah Williamson.
A Kensington Palace spokesperson said the importance of early years development would be key focus for the princess for the rest of her life.
Amanda Berry, who leads the foundation, which is funding the project, said: “We’ve been raising awareness of the extraordinary impact of the early years and highlighting the need to increase societal understanding of the transformative impact of early childhood.
“Our first public perception survey in 2022 found that less than one in five people understood the unique importance of the first five years of our lives, and within that the figures for young people and men were even lower.
“As part of this campaign, we are publishing more in-depth research, which shows that around one in three, 36% of adults, report knowing just a little or nothing about how children develop in their early childhood.
“So, in response, we will be aiming to increase in those awareness figures significantly.”
Eamon McCrory, a professor of developmental neuroscience and psychopathology at University College London, said: “By ensuring children and parents are supported during this critical period we – as individuals and a society – can positively influence the lives of the next generation for decades to come.”