Infants & Toddlers

Young children’s social experiences and opportunities to explore the world depend on the love and care they receive and are central to “infant mental health.” These early relationships provide an important foundation for later development.

The first five years of life provide the basis for children’s mental health and social-emotional development. If a child does not have healthy early relationships, they may seem sad, rejected and lethargic. Some babies may become depressed or develop eating or sleeping problems. They display very little emotion and are disinterested in sights, sounds or touch. They may avoid being touched and are unable to comfort or calm themselves.

Young children may rock back and forth trying to nurture themselves. Some children get angry or are aggressive and hostile without provocation. They won’t allow comforting, even when they are hurt. They may be unable to play with or frequently fight with others, appear sad or withdrawn, are unusually fearful, have an absence of language or communication, be extremely active or accident prone, or show inappropriate responses to situations. Such children may even need special attention in a therapeutic preschool setting.

Warning signs that your child may need help:


  • Displays very little emotion
  • Does not show interest in sights sounds or touch
  • Rejects or avoids being touched or held or playing with others
  • Unusually difficult to soothe or console
  • Unable to comfort or calm self
  • Extremely fearful or on-guard
  • Does not turn to familiar adults for comfort or help
  • Exhibits sudden behavior changes

Preschool Children

  • Cannot play with others or objects ? Absence of language or communication
  • Frequently fights with others ? Very sad
  • Unusually fearful ? Inappropriate responses to situations (e.g., laughs instead of cries)
  • Withdrawn ? Extremely active
  • Loss of earlier skills (e.g., toileting, language, motor) ? Sudden behavior changes
  • Very accident prone ? Destructive to self and/or others