3.6 Mental Health in the Early Years

The physical health and well-being of children, families, educators, and employees in early years settings were at the forefront of daily practice during the Covid-19 pandemic. Enhanced health and safety measures were implemented that tested the resources and resiliency of those working in the early years profession. Licensed child care organizations remained open while schools closed, providing emergency child care for school age children whose guardians were deemed essential workers.

Daily screening protocols were implemented, enhanced exclusion policies were ever changing, personal protective equipment was regularly used, disinfection routines disrupted pedagogical growth, and even physical distancing measures were practiced in early years settings. It wasn’t until further on in the pandemic that Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs) were even considered essential workers, caring for children of essential workers so they could go to work.

The impacts of the pandemic continue to this day, through grieving lost family members and friends, by managing long haul Covid-19 symptoms, and in supporting the mental health of everyone who lived through this life-changing event.


The Ministry of Education introduced Building on How Does Learning Happen?: Pedagogical approaches to re-opening early years and child care programs in Ontario to support educators in shifting the focus to the social and emotional well-being of children, families, and themselves as they navigated the ongoing pressures of the pandemic.

Family members were not permitted entrance into licensed child care centres during the early months of the pandemic. Children were dropped off and picked up outside or at the centre entrance to an employee or supervisor managing the transition. This practice reduced interactions between educators and guardians, limiting relationship building and partnerships necessary for the well-being of all involved. New families engaged in virtual tours before dropping off their infant for the first time. These physical distancing measures took their toll on children, families, and educators. Daily communication was limited and took place via Zoom, phone, or through digital platforms.

Digital platforms such as Storypark and Hi Mama became invaluable during the pandemic as families were able to view the documentation of learning stories and see photos and videos of their children while they were in care. Pedagogical practices changed for educators as they had to embrace these new methods of communication and find ways to embed them into their daily practice. The digital platforms allowed family members to communicate and co-construct knowledge around how their children were learning. These digital platforms continue to be of value for communication between educators and family members.

Please view the links below for the most common digital platforms used in the early years in Ontario:


Read the policy brief highlights from Covid-19 and Early Childhood Mental Health: Fostering Systems Change and Resilience by accessing the following link. Consider the challenges, considerations, and policy recommendations necessary to support early childhood education and care.

Dr. Jean Clinton shares an important message about the conditions necessary for children to learn when caregivers cultivate conditions necessary for children to develop a sense of belonging and well-being.

Video: Dr. Jean Clinton – Conditions for Learning by Waterloo Catholic District School Board (WCDSBTube) [3:02].Transcript available on YouTube.


Read and interact with the following webpage to learn more about mental health in young children and to discover valuable resources for supporting children and families in maintaining their social and emotional well-being.


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Holistic Care and Wellness in Early Years Settings Copyright © 2023 by Barbara Jackson and Sheryl Third is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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