Children and young people at different developmental stages have different needs and strengths. This page reflects work we’ve undertaken with a focus on early childhood, from birth to age six.

Why early childhood matters

Healthy social-emotional development in early childhood is an essential building block for good mental health throughout life. Recent Ontario data suggests that a troubling number of children experience social-emotional vulnerability in their earliest years. Promoting mental health across the lifespan and acting early to prevent and address mental health challenges is crucial for the long-term health and success of individuals, families and communities.

From recommendations to action

In 2019 we published our second early years policy paper, deepening our focus on the mental health and social-emotional development of children between three and six years old (see Resources). We then moved forward to action two of the recommendations, along with Infant and Early Mental Health Promotion (IEMHP). We’ve since brought together representatives from various sectors in three communities to:

  • ensure the availability of high-quality, evidence-based preservice training and ongoing learning for service providers supporting the social-emotional development of three- to six-year-olds.
  • strengthen partnerships to create efficient care pathways for mental health services in the early years.

Want to know more about why we need pathways and how they help? See our care pathways page.

We're also working to validate an adapted version of the HEADS-ED tool for children ages five and under. Already in use for older children, the adapted tool will help primary care providers recognize the signs of problems when they surface in younger children and connect families with community-based mental health services sooner.

Learn more about HEADS-ED



Beyond building blocks: Investing in the lifelong mental health of Ontario’s 3-6 year olds

Learn about the foundational elements of infant and early mental health. Hear how communities are working together across sectors to support infant and early mental health in collaborative, timely and relevant ways. Presented by Children’s Healthcare Canada. 

Watch the webinar