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Early Development

The first three years set the stage for lifelong success.

During the earliest months and years of life, the architecture of the brain is being built at an unparalleled rate in response to nurturing early experiences. Caring adults have a wonderful opportunity to foster feelings of trust and safety in babies, which helps toddlers establish a sense of self and become confident explorers.

Research shows that, to ensure a good start in life, all infants and toddlers need good health, strong families and positive early learning experiences.

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    Child development is greatly affected by the mental health of the adults who care for them.

    Why It Matters

    Optimal child development, including during the perinatal period, is based on feeling safe, secure and loved.

    Primary caregivers should have the capacities to be attuned, consistently meet their child’s needs, and nurture healthy attachment, though these relationships are often dependent on the caregiver’s own mental health and well-being. 

    Healthy child development isn’t always a clear path for infants and toddlers. Early identification and intervention for children with developmental delays or disabilities can improve cognitive and social skills, lead to higher achievement and greater independence and promote family competence and well-being.

    By the Numbers

    Earlier identification and intervention is more effective and less costly.

    Source: ZERO TO THREE (2010, February 8). Making hope a reality: Early Intervention for infants and toddlers with disabilities.

    Science tells us that early experiences really do matter, and the connections that we have with the caregivers in our lives make a real difference in how we see and understand the world. ZERO TO THREE occupies a unique position in the early childhood landscape. We focus on a relatively small age range, but our reach is broad—from family, to policies, to all the service settings that touch the lives of infants. In terms of giving voice to the needs of babies, we don’t leave any stone unturned. 

    Brenda Jones Harden, PhD

    Policymakers must understand the critical early years.

    Our Impact

    We use evidence-based frameworks to develop early childhood development resources for parents, professionals and policymakers.

    Through regular professional development opportunities and our ZERO TO THREE Journal, we provide early childhood professionals the latest research on the science of early development. Our team of experts works to raise awareness among parents and providers for early intervention services, as well as advocate for the expansion of those services to meet all children in need.

    We host an expansive library of child development resources, including our latest Podcast, The Earliest, which focuses on the role that caregiver and infant mental health play in early development.

    Early Development in the Classroom

    Related Resources

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