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Social and emotional development 

During their first few years of life, children’s brains are rapidly developing, as is their capacity to learn essential social and emotional skills. Social and emotional development in the early years, also referred to as early childhood mental health, refers to children’s emerging capacity to:

  • Experience, regulate and express a range of emotions.

  • Develop close, satisfying relationships with other children and adults.

  • Actively explore their environment and learn.

Social and emotional development is influenced by both biology and experiences. Together, genes and experiences shape the architecture of the brain: Genes provide “instructions” for our bodies while experiences affect how and whether the instructions are carried out. Children’s early experiences consist of interactions with caregivers—parents, other family members, child care providers and teachers—and their environment. Due to the rapid nature of brain development in early childhood, the quality of early experiences can lay either a strong or weak foundation, which will affect how children react and respond to the world around them for the rest of their life. 

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