Hello there and welcome to our recently launched blog ‘Contemplating Childhoods’. You may be reading this because you are either a student studying children, someone with experience of working with children or someone who has taken an interest in studying or reading about children and their lives for several years. All are welcome! We wanted to start this blog for several reasons including supporting students to feel part of an important community – those who care about what happens to children. We hope to be able to help those who want to develop their subject knowledge, those who want to develop their academic work and those who want to do both.
You can see at the top of the post photos of us as children; one thing for sure is we were all children once. However we may have had very different childhoods depending on the part of the country (or world) we grew up in, our family background and the education we had access to. For every child, beginnings are so important. If children, and their parents, are supported right at the very beginning of a child’s life then this can have a positive impact thoughout the child’s life. This was the whole idea behind the Sure Start initiative for example or the EYFS or many other polices in the English and UK context. Yet what we think is important for a child at the beginning their life will depend on our individual or group cultural values.
The video Babies shows the ‘Once upon a time’ part of young babies’ lives around the world. Thomas Balmes filmed four babies, from four diverse areas of the globe, from their birth to the end of their first year. It can be challenging to consider the very beginnings of a baby’s life through a cultural lens very different from our own and can leave us with lots of questions and at times feeling a little uncomfortable. It is very easy to continue with culturally prescribed ways of bringing up babies without questioning or reflecting on why we do what we do.
Gopnik, Meltzoff and Kuhl in their book ‘The Scientist in the Crib: Minds, Brains, And How Children Learn’ (1999) refer to babies as ‘the most powerful learning machine in the universe’ (p. 1) but what do babies need to ensure that this power is fully developed as they get older? The Scottish government recently rolled out an initiative, based on a Finnish scheme, that provides new parents and their babies with a box, which can double as a first crib. The box is packed with things a baby might need at the beginning of their life such as clothes, nappies and bedding. But what if you could pack a box with the more abstract things a baby might need; what would you put in? It’s easy to think of things like love or care but what else does a baby need to help the beginning of their story, their once upon a time, become a happy ever after? Let us know your thoughts in the comments box below…