Hammersmith & Fulham has become the first London borough to launch a new campaign which aims to help with the development of babies’ brains.
Family Support’s six children’s centres are now offering NSPCC Look, Say, Sing, Play activity sessions which provide parents and carers with the tools and confidence to help develop their child’s language, cognitive and social skills by talking, singing and playing with them.
Launched on Thursday 2 May at Fulham Central Children’s Centre, it coincided with the Leader of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, Councillor Stephen Cowan, officially opening the centre as a ‘brain building’ hub. The hub will offer the same services as before but with a greater focus on the effects trauma and toxic stress, such as physical or emotional abuse, neglect, caregiver substance abuse or mental illness, can have on the development of a child’s brain.
NSPCC CEO Peter Wanless was among the 50 key local stakeholders who attended the ceremony. Following an information and networking session, the guests were invited to see the first Look, Say, Sing, Play activity session being delivered by staff at the centre.
Research has shown that when an infant babbles, gestures or cries and an adult responds positively with eye contact, words or a hug, neural connections are built and strengthened in the child’s brain.1
But NSPCC research found some parents struggle with ideas about how to interact with their young child beyond eye contact and cuddling, especially in the early months when they do not receive obvious feedback from their babies.
Look, Say, Sing, Play seeks to build on the interaction parents are already having with their child, bringing everyday moments into focus and showing how they offer the chance to engage with their baby.
Parents are encouraged to take a look at what their baby is focusing on and how they react, say what they are doing and copy the sounds their baby makes, sing along to their favourite tune or play simple games and see what their baby enjoys.
Supporting parents to have these really attentive interactions with their babies can also help to prevent abuse and neglect happening as the child grows older. 2
The NSPCC campaign complements Family Support’s work with Hammersmith & Fulham Council to become a ‘trauma-aware’ council – an approach Family Support is extending across the borough to neighbouring professional and charity partners.
Speaking at the launch Councillor Stephen Cowan, Leader of the London Borough of Hammersmith & Fulham, said: “We are absolutely determined to give every single child in Hammersmith & Fulham the best possible start in life no matter what their background or challenges.
“We know that the foundations for a successful and confident adulthood are built during a child’s earliest years. So, we’re very grateful to the NSPCC and the wonderful team at our six Family Support children’s centres for pioneering this ground-breaking work which will significantly improve children’s life chances and help tackle childhood trauma.
“While other boroughs are closing children’s centres, we are committed to expanding and improving all of our 16 children’s centres. I am grateful to our residents for giving us the opportunity to do that.”
Wendy Dormer, Locality Manager for Family Support, said: “We are extremely lucky to deliver services within a local authority that values early years support, care and education for our children.
“Hammersmith & Fulham is an innovative council committed to addressing early life trauma which impacts on all aspects of children’s health, emotional, social wellbeing and life chances.”
She added: “I truly believe that in a few years’ time we in Hammersmith and Fulham will be saying that this approach has helped us reduce crime rates, school exclusions, mental health admissions and obesity, all because we addressed early life trauma in our children’s centres.”
Peter Wanless, NSPCC CEO, said: “We know parents interact with their children all the time, but there’s a real opportunity for them to do it more consciously and give them the best start in life.
“You don’t have to change your routine to have brain-building moments with your baby. Whether it’s bath-time, bed-time or you’re popping to the shops, there are always moments when you can look, talk, sing and play with your baby.
“We hope the Look, Say, Sing, Play campaign will resonate with carers, parents and expectant parents in the Hammersmith & Fulham area and provide some new and simple ideas to help them with vital early year engagement.”
This year Hammersmith & Fulham will be investing an additional £3.3m in services for local children. It maintains 16 children’s centres in total and is building two new extra youth centres – one in the north and one south of the borough.
The NSPCC has created a campaign video with tips for parents.
More details about Look, Say, Sing, Play campaign can also be found on the NSPCC’s website www.nspcc.org.uk