Our research on children and childhood looks at the environments, systems and mechanisms that impact children's development and wellbeing.

The first six years, from conception to school entry, are characterised by the greatest rate of brain development in the human life course. Adolescence, largely comprising the teen years, is a period of vulnerability in which risk-taking increases and key educational decisions are made. The experiences children have during these developmentally significant periods are characterised by significant brain plasticity, and establish foundations for ongoing health, learning and social wellbeing. 

Research undertaken for the sake of children is also closely associated with our families area of research. We know that the family you are born into has a strong influence on life chances and opportunities. With almost 600,000 children living below the poverty line, understanding the links between family characteristics and child outcomes is critical to designing efficient and effective policies to reduce disadvantage and enhance child wellbeing.

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Policy brief: Achieving responsive sleep, rest and relaxation practices in ECEC

Supporting healthy sleep development in early childhood is vital for ensuring that children can flourish and meet their individual potential. As with other areas of child development, such as walking or talking, there is considerable individual variation in children’s sleep needs across the early childhood period.

The importance of supporting early sleep development is reflected in the National Quality Standard for Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC), which specifies that "[each]  child’s wellbeing and comfort is provided for, including appropriate opportunities to meet each child’s need for sleep, rest and relaxation (Quality Area 2, Element 2.1.1)"

Professor Karen Thorpe and team developed this policy brief based on their research, to empower providers with best practices for:

  • Meeting individual sleep, rest and relaxation needs
  • Safety in the sleep environment
  • Approaches to sleep, rest and relaxation in ECEC (advantages and challenges)
    • Separate sleep spaces
    • Multi-room use
    • Indoor/outdoor spaces
    • Relaxation times
  • Including children and families in decision making

 Read the policy brief (PDF 43 kb) 

Policy brief: Stakeholder perspectives on sleep, rest and relaxation in ECEC

Sleep, rest and relaxation are an essential part of the ECEC day, providing both learning opportunities and support for healthy bodies and minds. The Early Years Learning Framework includes sleep, rest and relaxation as part of the curriculum and  early childhood curriculum and commencing October 1 2017, the requirement to have policies and procedures for sleep and rest is set out in s168(2) of the Education and Care Services National Regulations. To support this work we provide an overview of recent research undertaken in the Australian context documenting the perspectives of children, parents and educators. 

Read the policy brief (PDF 44 kb) 

Achieving Responsive Sleep, Rest and Relaxation Practices

E4Kids is a five-year longitudinal study designed to assess the impact of everyday, approved ECEC programs on children’s learning and developmental outcomes. Originally operating out of the Queensland University of Technology, Professor Karen Thorpe led a team via E4Kids to conduct the first large-scale observational studies of sleep practices in ECEC environments. The team investigated the effectiveness of sleep, rest and relaxation practices within more than 180 kindergarten, long day care and family day care settings, including more than 3000 children (from birth to five years).

Read our story (PDF 239 kb)