What happens in early childhood can shape the lifelong health and well-being of individuals and their communities. It is during these critical years that we learn how to manage and express our emotions as well as to develop close relationships with other children and adults. 

Recent Ontario data suggests that a troubling number of children experience social-emotional vulnerability in their earliest years. These issues are starting to be seen more and more often in early learning and care settings, as well as classrooms throughout the province. And this isn’t something children simply “grow out of”. 

Children who struggle to meet social-emotional milestones often become youth and adults who struggle with mental health and other challenges, including poor educational attainment, reduced financial stability and compromised health. This highlights the need for mental health care that identifies challenges and intervenes early, and a child and youth mental health system that is there when, where and how families need it.  

Investing in the mental health care of the youngest Ontarians pays lifelong dividends to children, their families and their communities. That’s why we collaborated with Infant Mental Health Promotion and School Mental Health Ontario (formerly School Mental Health ASSIST) to develop a policy paper focused on social-emotional development of little children. 

Based on our shared expertise and that of our 23-member advisory committee, this paper offers up eight key recommendations to guide our collective response to support positive mental heath and well-being in Ontario’s three- to six-year-olds. In the coming months, the Centre will lead the implementation of two of these recommendations:  

  • Ensure the availability of preservice training and ongoing learning to support the social-emotional development of three- to six-year-olds. 
  • Strengthen partnerships to create efficient service pathways for mental health services in the early years. 

Stay tuned for more as we advance this work. And in the meantime, check out the policy paper Beyond Building Blocks: Investing in the lifelong mental health of Ontario’s three- to six-year-olds.