Early Years – Main category page – Short description
What are the Early Years?
Early years are the years that occur in child’s development from 0-5. From the outside, we see children over this age range developing early emotions and learning how to respond, react to, and understand the world around them. On the inside a child’s brain is rapidly developing, increasing in size and creating a network of things called synapses (which are parts of the brain that communicate with each other, just like how two phones might connect to each other in a network). This is a critical moment in brain development as synapses at this age are malleable displaying something called “plasticity” (more readily adaptive to changes) as a child continues to develop these synapses become less plastic with weaker connections being lost (in a process known as synaptic pruning). It is through this synaptic pruning we start developing our own personalities, interests and internal worlds.
The NSPCC has a great video that can you learn more how the brain develops at this early age.
Why are the Early Years so important in regards to mental health?
It may seem too early to be thinking about mental health & wellbeing in children this young however early years development plays a key role in determining mental health and well-being throughout childhood. Very young children develop through their interactions with the world and the people they form attachments with. The NSPCC have another great video here in which they use the metaphor of “Serve and Return” to explain how interactions support early brain development.
If we think about mental health as building a wonderful statue of ourselves, or others, then the early years form the solid foundation that underpins the ongoing work we do throughout our lives to construct and manage good mental health.
What are the signs of poor emotional well being?
Supporting an early years child’s emotional wellbeing can be challenging as depending on their age and language development which can limit their ability to communicate their emotions. As a child develops and begins to act out their feelings they can often display negative emotions and behaviour as a normal part of this process. However, if these negative emotions and behaviours are displayed frequently and repeatably, they could be indicating that they are struggling with their emotional health. Some children who find it difficult to interact and communicate with those around them may find the only way they can communicate is by displaying anger or being frustrated.
We’ve pulled together information on some of the key areas to focus here at the early stages of a child’s development so take look to through to learn bit more about how you can support young people to develop into healthy happy children.