The importance of baby and toddler mental health

The early years of a human being’s life have a significant impact on lifelong mental health and wellbeing.’  Be You shares the importance of mental health and wellbeing to babies and toddlers and suggests resources for families and educators. 

New research has increased understanding of the environmental and biological factors that shape babies’ and toddlers’ development, and shows how much the early years influence future outcomes in development, health, wellbeing and learning.

Mental health in babies and toddlers is the optimal social, emotional and cognitive wellbeing of children age birth-to three-years old. These early years in a child’s life, when the brain is developing so rapidly, are a significant time for growth and development.

Baby and toddler experiences lay the foundations for future mental health and wellbeing

Early brain development occurs when the connections between brain cells develop. The way these neural connections develop lays the foundations for the structure of the brain and future brain functioning. This structure begins developing in utero and continues after birth, and is optimised when young children experience positive relationships with family and educators within a supportive environment.

Children experiencing these will more likely have positive future wellbeing and development, while those who have early adverse experiences may have an increased chance of difficulties later in life.

Quality environments enhance children’s experiences during the early years

A supportive, inclusive environment, with responsive adults, will ensure children feel safe to explore their world and make sense of it. As they progress from highly dependent babies to increasingly independent toddlers they are developing social and emotional learning skills. These first skills include a sense of self: feeling good about themselves and their achievements; social skills and emotional skills: expressing and managing feelings.

Early learning services providing high-quality education and care for babies and toddlers will have flexible, physical spaces that reflect the identities and interests of the families in their learning community. Such inclusive environments will provide children a range of opportunities for individual and shared experiences through meaningful interactions that promote, and support, the development of their social and emotional wellbeing.

Young children need quality relationships for their wellbeing

When adults respond to infants and toddlers consistently and sensitively, meeting their physical and emotional needs, they are supporting the development of warm and trusting relationships. This secure attachment is an emotional bond, which develops between a baby and their family member or educator, and enables them to feel safe and secure.

Secure attachment in the early years assists children to form positive relationships throughout their lives. It increases their sense of wellbeing; enabling them to enjoy interacting with others and promoting positive mental health.

A mentally healthy generation starts from birth


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Be You

Early Childhood Australia’s Be You team is a highly qualified and experienced multidisciplinary team of professionals committed to promoting and supporting positive mental health and wellbeing in the early years. Together, with Be You partners, Beyond Blue and headspace, the ECA team support educators in implementing the Be You Professional Learning and continuous improvement processes across early learning services and schools.

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