Our story

We believe that our first five years fundamentally shape the adults we become. At the Centre for Early Childhood, our vision is for a happier, healthier, more nurturing world.

Our mission

Our mission is to drive awareness of, and action on, the extraordinary impact of the early years, changing what we think and do on early childhood, in order to transform society for generations to come. We research, campaign and collaborate to achieve this mission.

Driven by data, we believe in the positive potential of nurturing relationships, experiences and environments in delivering better life outcomes.

A note from the Princess of Wales

When first undertaking royal duties a decade ago, I started meeting inspiring people who were rebuilding their lives from challenges such as addiction, homelessness, violence — and the mental ill health that often underpins these experiences. Spending time together and hearing more about their lives, I was struck by how often poor mental health but also early childhood was the focus of our conversation.

It was the recurrence of these conversations that drove me to want to learn more. And I am indebted to the academics, practitioners and, of course, parents who shared their knowledge so generously with me. Because by understanding the data, observing the practice and listening to lived experience, it became clear that if we want to build a happier and mentally healthier society then one of the best investments we can make is in the relationships, environments and experiences that make up our early childhoods.

Our first five years lay important foundations for our future selves. This period is when we first learn to manage our emotions and impulses, to care and to empathise, and thus ultimately to establish healthy relationships with ourselves and others. It is a time when our experience of the world around us, and the way that this moulds our development, can have a lifelong impact on our future mental and physical wellbeing. Indeed, what shapes our childhood shapes the adults and the parents we become. But — and this is crucial to understand — even if we ourselves didn’t get the best start in life we can still break the cycle and develop the skills needed to raise the next generation better.

What this means is that we need to go beyond physical needs and give focus to social and emotional needs too. Nurtured children are the consequence of nurturing adults. So to invest in children means also investing in the people around them — the parents, carers, grandparents, early years workforce and more. And therefore, transforming early childhood comes back to each and every one of us. There are so many ways in which we can all support, whether as private, public and voluntary sectors, as individuals or as communities.

Investing in a child is ultimately an investment in our future societal health and happiness, but to achieve this vision we need the whole of society to play its part.

In establishing The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood, our mission is to drive awareness of, and action on, the transformative impact of the early years. We aim to change the way people think about early childhood through fresh research to identify opportunities, collaborations to scale solutions and creative campaigns to bring this issue to life.

We will do this by continuing to listen to others and being informed by the data.

It won’t be easy — transformation never is — but big change starts small.

Kate Middleton Signature



Early work

Social issues

The Duchess begins her work as a member of The Royal Family by engaging with grassroots charities focused on issues of addiction, homelessness and family breakdown.


January 2012

Action on addiction

The Duchess becomes patron of Action on Addiction, a charity helping people to live lives free of addiction and challenging the stigma that surrounds it. She hears first-hand about the long-term impact of poor mental health.


September 2015

HMP Send

Female prisoners enrolled in a special addiction treatment programme talk to The Duchess about the potential for early trauma to shape life outcomes and the positive ways that this cycle can be broken for future generations.


May 2016

Heads Together

Inspired by the understanding that mental health is at the root of many social issues, The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and the Duke of Sussex launch Heads Together, a national campaign to tackle stigma and change the conversation around mental health.  


April 2017

Young People's Mental Health

In response to the rate of mental health issues amongst the young, Heads Together transforms the 2017 Virgin Money London Marathon into 'The Mental Health Marathon,' encouraging millions of people to become comfortable in talking about their mental health.


January 2018

Mentally Healthy Schools launch

Providing the next generation with mental health support becomes a key priority with the launch of Mentally Healthy Schools. But conversations with parents and teachers suggest that children need help even before they start school, since 46% are arriving at reception not school ready.

March 2018

Early Years Symposium

The Duchess hosts a dedicated symposium at the Royal Society of Medicine to highlight the scientific link between early childhood development and later life outcomes.

May 2018

Early Years Steering Group

A Steering Group of academics, scientists, practitioners and service providers is convened to consider how, by working together, we can deliver positive lasting change.


November 2019

On the frontline

Shadowing midwives at London’s Kingston Hospital offers a practical immersion into the services and support available to families and the vital role that midwives play in nurturing good mental health from pregnancy. 


November 2020

State of the Nation survey

The biggest public study ever conducted on the early years concludes, having attracted over half a million responses to the 5 Big Questions. The study reveals that only 24% of people in the UK are aware of the specific importance of ages 0-5.


June 2021

The Centre for Early Childhood

The Centre for Early Childhood is established within The Royal Foundation to drive awareness and action on the extraordinary impact of the early years, to change lives, improve mental wellbeing and transform society for future generations.


January 2023

'Shaping Us' Is Launched

The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood launches 'Shaping Us,' a major campaign to increase public understanding of the crucial importance of the first five years of a child’s life.

November 2023

The Shaping Us National Symposium

The Princess of Wales and The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood hosts The Shaping Us National Symposium bringing together cross-disciplinary leaders, child and adult specialists, and global thinkers for the first time.

The Royal Foundation Centre for Early Childhood is a dedicated unit within The Royal Foundation, the primary philanthropic and charitable vehicle of The Prince and Princess of Wales.

While we work closely with others, we are not a grant-giving organisation and are unable to accept unsolicited requests for funding.