Zero to Three Years: A Critical Period in a Child’s Development

Adopted February 2017 – Health & Community Concerns Commission

The first three years of life are a period of incredible growth in all areas of a baby’s development. Research shows that, to ensure a good start in life, all infants and toddlers need good health, strong families, and positive early learning experiences. Programs and services that address these areas are critical. California State PTA supports healthy child development and the practices that enhance it.

California State PTA believes that parents are the experts on their children, and there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to raising children. As young children are just beginning to develop self-control, challenging behavior is common and expected in the years from birth to three. California State PTA believes families should learn how the earliest relationships can promote healthy brain development, how young children build social and emotional skills, and ways to support language and literacy development.

All children are unique. Celebrating, nurturing, and supporting developmental milestones from birth to three years is one of the joys of parenting. Parents should learn how to nurture a baby’s social, emotional, intellectual, language, and motor development from birth.

The parent-child relationship is the foundation of healthy development. A child’s development depends on both the traits he was born with (nature), and what he experiences (nurture). All areas of development, social, emotional, intellectual, language, and motor, are linked. Each depends on, and influences, the others. What children experience, including how their parents respond to them, shapes their development as they adapt to the world.

  • Children need to develop self-control in order to follow rules, understand limits, and cope with strong feelings. Developing self-control begins at birth and continues throughout childhood.
  • Children need positive parenting, taking an approach that is sensitive to children’s individual needs and addressing the typical challenges that arise in early childhood with empathy and respect.
  • California State PTA believes that a range of early intervention services offers very young children the opportunity to develop skills and abilities that will ready them for school and life. California State PTA encourages parents and families to take advantage of resources to help them maximize the health and wellness habits of their child.
  • Children need access to early screening and intervention services that address challenges to their healthy development. The earlier a child is connected with intervention services, the faster a child gets back on the right track.
  • Children need access to high-quality, affordable early health care including mental health, early education and family support services. Programs and services that address these areas are critical. To be effective, programs must be organized within cohesive systems that coordinate and align a broad array of services. To support the healthy development of all children, states and communities must provide comprehensive, coordinated, well-funded systems of high-quality, prenatal-to-age-3 services that foster success in school and life.
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