Professional Resource

USA Today Article Shows How Pandemic Babies Have Fallen Behind 

Jun 9, 2022

In a major new article published by USA Today exploring how the pandemic has impacted the growth and learning of babies and toddlers, ZERO TO THREE and HealthySteps experts explain what can be done to help our children and their families.

Emerging evidence reveals an uptick in developmental delays and challenging behaviors in children belonging to the so-called “COVID generation.” Born during or shortly before the pandemic, many of these children are talking, walking and interacting later and less frequently. They’re also more prone to certain behaviors, like outbursts, physical aggression and separation anxiety.

Intervening early is key, experts say, because of what we know about early childhood development. After age 3, the brain begins to prune itself: The neural connections that are used frequently become more secure while the others fade away. Essentially, the brain loses what it doesn’t use. Caregivers and providers weigh in on these delays, and how our HealthySteps program is helping bridge the gap.

Read More in USA TODAY

HealthySteps Supports Families

The HealthySteps program provides early childhood development support to families where they are most likely to access it – the pediatric primary care office. Our program specialists identify whether children are reaching developmental milestones, help connect families to additional services, and answer families’ questions about child development and well-being so all babies and toddlers have a strong start in life.


Nylah Mancuso, 3, and her mother Jessica Mahurin, 32, speak with specialist Andrea Pauley during Nylah’s check up at the University of Missouri Health Care Zero to Three Healthy Steps program on Thursday, April 28, 2022 in Columbia, Mo.

“The past few years have seen unprecedented challenges for children and parents alike, making the work that HealthySteps Specialists do across the country more vital now than ever. So much goes into our efforts with families in pediatric settings, and shining a light, as this article does, will go a long way in reaching those who may have thought they were going through these difficult times alone.” - Rahil Briggs, national director of HealthySteps

The Impact

In 2020, we reached more than 300,000 children, at over 180 sites in 20 states – and that number continues to grow. Read more about how the HealthySteps program has impacted the lives of families.

Supporting Caregivers’ Mental Health

The mental health and early childhood development of an infant is greatly affected by the mental health of the adults who care for them. 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 relationships, which are often dependent on the caregiver’s own mental health and well-being. When parents and caregivers are under stress because of the pandemic, that can greatly affect the health and well-being of their children.

To learn more about how trauma and mental health can affect the earliest years of life, listen to The Earliest, a ZERO TO THREE podcast.

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COVID-19 Resources

Early Intervention

Learn more about the range of early intervention services available to children and their families, the important role that parents play in intervention activities and how to access these services in your community.

Explore Resources

Safeguarding the Well-Being of Babies in the Midst of Unprecedented Turmoil

This Journal article brings the perspective of an infant-early childhood mental health consultant working with struggling educators, families, and young children, It adds a sharp focus to the information gathered nationally about the well-being of babies and families and about the early educators who strive to support them despite their own challenges in these turbulent times.

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Baby Talks: Parent Coronavirus Questions Answered

ZERO TO THREE parenting experts address common parent questions and concerns about coping with the unique challenges of COVID-19.

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What Comes Next: Back to Child Care Following Shelter-in-Place

Heading back to child care. If you imagine this change may be harder for your child after months of “just you,” you are probably right.

Here are some tips for managing the preschool transition during and post-COVID:

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Caring for Each Other

In response to the uncertainty facing children and families everywhere, Sesame Workshop launched Caring for Each Other, an initiative to support children, parents, and caregivers as they cope with the pandemic’s impacts and navigate an ever-changing “normal.”

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