The Scout Association will extend its programme to children under six years old for the first time in its 111-year history.
The charity today announced that it will begin trialling provision for four and five year old boys and girls with a possible UK-wide roll out in 2020.
It has received £600,000 funding from the Department for Education (DfE) through the Early Years Disadvantage VCS grants to run the pilots.
Some 52 adult volunteers and parents will help to run the trials, which will operate for at least 12 months and provide services for 288 children and their families.
Children’s charity Action for Children will help to design the programme, which will test three different delivery models in 20 groups across disadvantaged areas of the UK.
Although this is the first time the charity has trialled services for early years children across the UK, its international affiliates have already done so.
The first model the charity will pilot will be similar to the Squirrels programme, run by a separate organisation working under a Memorandum of Understanding with Scouts Northern Ireland.
The second will be similar to a programme run by Scout’s affiliates in Denmark and the USA called Lions.
The third will be trialling early years services in non-traditional locations, such as children's centres.
‘Formative stage of life’
The Scouts said its new programme will help young people improve their emotional resilience, communication and language skills, independence and readiness for school.
It said it will also help young people develop their self-control, problem-solving, ability to focus, confidence to try new things and interactions with other children.
The programme is also designed to help their parents engage in activities that support their child’s early development.
Matt Hyde, Scouts chief executive, said: “Research has shown that high-quality early years programmes can make a significant positive impact on a young person’s development.
“At the Scouts, our mission is to prepare young people for the future by equipping them with the skills they need to succeed.
“We believe that this early years trial will help create a programme that will support the development of young people across the UK during this key, formative stage of their life.”