Early Child Development

Every child should grow up in caring, supportive, healthy environments and have access to high-quality early learning opportunities.


For almost 20 years, the Lawson Foundation has been at the forefront of supporting the science of early human development which shows that experiences during the prenatal and early childhood periods are key to the health, education, behaviour and the general well-being of children throughout their lives and even across generations. Research points to sensitive and critical periods in early brain development when children have the greatest ability to acquire certain developmental skills. The kinds of positive experiences children have early in life influence how they develop, and the benefits play out across later childhood, adolescence and adult life. So investing in healthy development right from the start makes the best social and economic sense.

In order to contribute to early child development in Canada and to help ensure universal access to high quality programs and services for children across the country, the Lawson Foundation is keen to support innovative community-based initiatives, new public policy approaches, and ongoing knowledge development and monitoring that will strengthen our ability to act effectively. Moreover, the Foundation will encourage the mobilization of knowledge that will help young families, practitioners, and decision makers create healthy, high quality environments for our children.

Have an idea?

The Lawson Foundation is always interested in hearing about new ideas. If you have carefully read our Strategic Direction and believe that your work is closely aligned to it, we invite you to put your innovative ideas forward for potential funding support via our Ideas Portal.

Active projects

Annual CCCF Meeting (2016-2018)
Canadian Child Care Federation (CCCF)

Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development (2015-2016)
Fondation Centre Hospitalier Universitaire Sainte-Justine

ECD Knowledge Mobilization (2016)
Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care (OCBCC)- Child Care Education Ontario

Polling – A Smart Investment in Our Future: Igniting a commitment to an early childhood system (2015)
Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care (OCBCC)- Child Care Education Ontario

Early Child Development-Funders Working Group (ECD-FWG) (2012-2013)
Ontario Coalition for Better Child Care (OCBCC)- Child Care Education Ontario
To support the work of the secretariat of the Early Child Development Funders’ Working Group during 2013-2014.

UNICEF Canada Children’s Observatory (2015)
Canadian Unicef Committee

Human Early Learning Partnership (HELP) – Realizing the World’s Best System of Child Development Monitoring (2011-2016)
University of British Columbia
A comprehensive monitoring system for population-level, developmental outcomes to detect differences over place and time, and to identify factors in enhancing outcomes for children: To support a National Research Lead under the mentorship of Dr. Clyde Hertzman at HELP and infrastructure support to extend the capacity of the Forum to advance ECD monitoring.A pan-Canadian consortium of experts has developed a high-quality early child development (ECD) monitoring system that can (1) assess the state of ECD across Canadian neighbourhoods; (2) track the developmental trajectories of children; (3) detect positive or negative differences in trajectories over place and time; and (4) point Canadian society towards those investments that are most effective in enhancing developmental outcomes. HELP, through the Forum for ECD Monitoring, will build on this system and its existing collaborative structures to achieve a comprehensive ECD monitoring system that will improve outcomes for children.

Monitoring Early Childhood Education (ECE) Policy to Promote Excellence (2013-2017)
University of Toronto
To support the research and evaluation of ECE policy initiatives. This project will help policy makers and practitioners identify policies and programs that improve the well-being of Canadian preschoolers, and raise the standards of evidence that are used in assessing ECE policies and programs. Specifically the project will validate, produce and disseminate the Early Childhood Education Report 2014 and 2017. This grant is a collaboration with the Margaret & Wallace McCain Family Foundation.

Past Projects

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