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Physical and mental health for young children
Physical and mental health for young children

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3.5 What can be done to promote good mental health for children?

The features of high-quality Early Childhood Education and Care can be effective in promoting children’s wellbeing and reducing the incidence of poor mental health. For example, the requirement of the EYFS that each child must have a key person who knows and understands each child and can develop a positive relationship which can help with attachment.

A photograph of an upset child
Figure 3

For many children, their home environment can provide some of the ‘ingredients’ that can help to promote good wellbeing, such ingredients include predictable routines where they experience warm relationships, are listened to, and have interesting and stimulating play opportunities. In turn, this can help with developing good mental health. However, many children live in chaotic homes where their parents find the struggles of daily life overwhelming, and this may mean that their children’s wellbeing and needs are not given sufficient attention. For some families, this can be an on-going situation, for other families, they may go through periods of uncertainty and chaos because of bereavement, loss and other events that can impact on children’s wellbeing. At such times, early care and education settings and schools can play a compensatory role for children, providing a secure and predictable environment.

For all children, early education and education settings can have a positive impact on their mental health. The aims and principles of early childhood curricula lend themselves to supporting children’s wellbeing. For young children, having the opportunity to engage with different play can be therapeutic and the persistence that is required by children when engaging with some activities can help them to develop resilience. Outdoor play helps to stimulate the release of endorphins which are chemicals that promote a sense of wellbeing. Consequently, children who do not have the opportunity to take part in outdoor physical play may be predisposed to a reduced sense of wellbeing and, consequently, poorer mental health. However, as discussed in the following section, it is essential that all adults involved in the care of and providing services to children share this responsibility.