All children have rights, and that includes babies and very young children.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) expresses these rights within the framework of children’s lives and experiences. The rights in the UNCRC are linked together and support each other – so supporting one right, like the right to participate in play, promotes other rights including the right to be heard, to free expression, to development and to education.
Long before young children can understand the concept of children’s rights, they can develop a sense of their own agency. Babies and very young children can develop this through relationships with parents and carers, and through their surroundings and environment. Their experience of these early relationships will influence their sense of self, how they view others and how they respond to their environment.
Babies and very young children need to be supported by the adults that care for them to make their own decisions and to be listened to. They need to feel that their ideas, thoughts and decisions are respected.
They are finding out about their rights through how others treat them. They are learning about expressing themselves, their interdependence with others, how valued they are. They are also learning about sharing, making choices and their place in the world.
Early childhood is a critical period for the realisation of rights and good early years experiences increase the chances of children being able to realise their rights through childhood.