Early Childhood

Infant & Toddler Mental Health:

Issues & Information for Educators


Instructor  Name:         Dr. Pamela Bernards, Ed.D.

Facilitator Name:         Aumony Dahl, M.Ed.

Phone:                         509-891-7219

Office Hours:              8 a.m. to 5 p.m. PST Monday-Friday

Email:                          aumony_dahl@virtualeduc.com

Address:                      Virtual Education Software

                                    16201 E Indiana Ave, Suite 1450

                                    Spokane, WA 99216

Technical Support:       support@virtualeduc.com



Welcome to Infant & Toddler Mental Health: Issues & Information for Educators, an interactive computer-based instruction course designed to help you achieve a better understanding of infant and toddler mental health, child development, and strategies you can use to promote positive relationships with children and their families. This course provides information that will help you to understand and identify your role as a child care provider, educator, and early childhood professional. Infant & Toddler Mental Health will provide you with research-based information on early child development, attachment, temperament, and curriculum. This course also lists resources for both teachers and parents who would like more help or information about infant and toddler mental health.


This computer-based instruction course is a self-supporting program that provides instruction, structured practice, and evaluation all on your home or school computer.  Technical support information can be found in the Help section of your course.


Course Materials (Online)

Title:                Infant & Toddler Mental Health: Issues & Information for Educators  

Instructor:        Dr. Pamela Bernards, Ed.D.

Facilitator:        Aumony Dahl, M.Ed.

Publisher:         Virtual Education Software, inc. 2007, Revised 2010, Revised 2014


Academic Integrity Statement

The structure and format of most distance-learning courses presume a high level of personal and academic integrity in completion and submission of coursework. Individuals enrolled in a distance-learning course are expected to adhere to the following standards of academic conduct.


Academic Work

Academic work submitted by the individual (such as papers, assignments, reports, tests) shall be the student’s own work or appropriately attributed, in part or in whole, to its correct source. Submission of commercially prepared (or group prepared) materials as if they are one’s own work is unacceptable.


Aiding Honesty in Others

The individual will encourage honesty in others by refraining from providing materials or information to another person with knowledge that these materials or information will be used improperly.



Violations of these academic standards will result in the assignment of a failing grade and subsequent loss of credit for the course.


Level of Application

This course is designed to be an informational course with application to early childhood education or childcare settings. The curriculum and strategies presented are designed for children from birth to thirty-six months of age. Some alterations may be needed when working with children with sensory processing disorders or other developmental disabilities.


Course Objectives

·         To define infant and toddler mental health and explain why it is so important;

·         To discuss core concepts in early development from birth to thirty-six months;

·         To explore current research on brain development, including examining conditions for healthy development and the effect of adverse experiences;

·         To increase the ability to observe typically developing infants and toddlers, as well as to identify infants and toddlers with mental health issues;

·         To provide information and best practice methods used in the care of infants and toddlers and their families;

·         To increase knowledge in the research areas of attachment and temperament; and

·         To provide resources for early childhood educators and care-providers to help them strengthen the children and families with whom they work.


Course Description

The Infant & Toddler Mental Health course has been divided into four chapters that are designed to inform parents, professionals, and care providers by: providing an overview of the core concepts of early development; reviewing developmental milestones; exploring current research on brain development; examining what curriculum looks like for infants and toddlers; exploring the importance of early attachment; reviewing different temperament traits; and providing suggestions for strengthening families.  Upon completing this course you should have the basic framework for understanding the critical role of infant and toddler mental health, as well as developmental knowledge of children from birth to thirty-six months. 


Student Expectations 

As a student you will be expected to:

·         Complete all four information sections showing a competent understanding of the material presented in each section.

·         Complete all four section examinations, showing a competent understanding of the material presented.  You must obtain an overall score of 70% or higher, with no individual exam score below 50%, and successfully complete ALL writing assignments to pass this course. *Please note: Minimum exam score requirements may vary by college or university; therefore, you should refer to your course addendum to determine what your minimum exam score requirements are.

·         Complete a review of any section on which your examination score was below 50%.

·         Retake any examination, after completing an information review, to increase that examination score to a minimum of 50%, making sure to also be achieving an overall exam score of a minimum 70% (maximum of three attempts). *Please note: Minimum exam score requirements may vary by college or university; therefore, you should refer to your course addendum to determine what your minimum exam score requirements are.

·         Complete all course journal article and essay writing assignments with the minimum word count shown for each writing assignment.

·         Complete a course evaluation form at the end of the course.


Course Chapters Overview

Chapter 1: Early Childhood Development

Chapter One is an Introduction to Infant & Toddler Mental Health.  In this chapter we will clarify what infant and toddler mental health is, discuss why it is so important, and review three core concepts of early development.  We will look at current research on brain development and discuss optimal conditions for the development of brain architecture in young children.  We will also look at the life-long implications that adverse early childhood experiences have on the developing brain.   Lastly, we will discuss how the interaction of biology, relationships, and environment impacts brain development in very young children, and review the core values that support the philosophy of this course.


Chapter 2: Additional Areas of  Development

In Chapter Two we will look at child development from infancy to thirty-six months.  We will briefly review what experts have to say about the following topics related to child development: child development theory, development of emotions, development of self, human development, SIDS, brain development, nutrition, development of vision and hearing, and finally, language development.


Chapter 3: Personal & Classroom Issues

In Chapter Three we will discuss the importance of infant and toddler curriculum. You will learn some vital information concerning curriculum, such as what is appropriate, what is meaningful, and what promotes the relationship between you, the child, and the child's family. We will review the latest information about play and how it benefits a child's development. Finally, we will discuss school-readiness and look at several key characteristics of school-ready children.


Chapter 4: Personal & Family Issues

In Chapter Four we will discuss the important role attachment plays in the development of young children.  We will discuss different types of attachment and examine several risk factors that impede healthy attachment in young children.  We will look at methods for fostering secure attachment. We will define temperament, examine specific temperament traits, and review research about the impact of temperament on child development.  We will discuss numerous practical strategies for supporting all children, regardless of their temperament. Finally, we will briefly discuss variables such as language and literacy, culture, gender, race, and socio-economic status that may influence connections with families (these variables will be thoroughly examined in another course in this series called Family-Centered Services).  We will explore ways in which we can work to strengthen families, which ultimately has a positive impact on the well-being of the children we serve.



At the end of each chapter, you will be expected to complete an examination designed to assess your knowledge. You may take these exams a total of three times. Your last score will save, not the highest score. After your third attempt, each examination will lock and prevent further access.  The average from your exam scores will be printed on your certificate.  However, this is not your final grade since your required writing assignments have not been reviewed.  Exceptionally written or poorly written required writing assignments, or violation of the academic integrity policy in the course syllabus, will affect your grade.  As this is a self-paced computerized instruction program, you may review course information as often as necessary. You will not be able to exit any examinations until you have answered all questions. If you try to exit the exam section before answering all questions, your information will be lost. You are expected to complete the entire exam in one sitting.


Writing Assignments

All assignments are reviewed and may impact your final grade.  Exceptionally or poorly written assignments, or violation of the Academic Integrity Policy (see course syllabus for policy), will affect your grade. Fifty percent of your grade is determined by your writing assignments, and your overall exam score determines the other fifty percent.  Refer to the Essay Grading Guidelines which were sent as an attachment with your original course link. You should also refer to the Course Syllabus Addendum which was sent as an attachment with your original course link, to determine if you have any writing assignments in addition to the Critical Thinking Questions (CTQ) and Journal Article Summations (JAS).  If you do, the Essay Grading Guidelines will also apply.


Your writing assignments must meet the minimum word count and are not to include the question or your final citations as part of your word count.  In other words, the question and citations are not to be used as a means to meet the minimum word count.


Critical Thinking Questions

There are four CTQs that you are required to complete. You  will need to write a minimum of 500 words (maximum 1,000) per essay. You  should explain how the information that you gained from the course will be applied and clearly convey a strong understanding of the course content as it relates to each CTQ.  To view the questions, click on REQUIRED ESSAY and choose the CTQ that you are ready to complete; this will bring up a screen where you may enter your essay.  Prior to course submission, you may go back at any point to edit your essay, but you must be certain to click SAVE once you are done with your edits.


You must click SAVE before you write another essay or move on to another part of the course.


Journal Article Summations

You are required to write, in your own words, a summary on a total of three peer-reviewed or scholarly journal articles (one article per JAS), written by an author with a Ph.D., Ed.D. or similar, on the topic outlined within each JAS section in the “Required Essays” portion of the course  (blogs, abstracts, news articles or similar are not acceptable). Your article choice must relate specifically to the discussion topic listed in each individual JAS. You will choose a total of three relevant articles (one article per JAS) and write a thorough summary of the information presented in each article (you must write a minimum of  200 words with a 400 word maximum per JAS). Be sure to provide the URL or the journal name, volume, date, and any other critical information to allow the facilitator to access and review each article. 


To write your summary, click on REQUIRED ESSAYS and choose the JAS that you would like to complete. A writing program will automatically launch where you can write your summary. When you are ready to stop, click SAVE.  Prior to course submission you may go back at any point to edit your summaries but you must be certain to click SAVE once you are done with your edits. For more information on the features of this assignment, please consult the HELP menu.


You must click SAVE before you write another summary or move on to another part of the course.


Facilitator Description 

Aumony Dahl received her Master’s degree in Exceptional Children from Western Washington University.  She is certified to teach in K-12 Special Education with an additional endorsement in Early Childhood Special Education.  Aumony began her career working as an elementary special education teacher for several years.  She is currently an instructor in the Special Education Department at Western Washington University, teaching a variety of classes on topics related to early childhood special education, students with complex special needs, assessment and evaluation, and program planning.  Aumony is also a supervisor for practicum students who are training to become teachers. Please contact Professor Dahl if you have course content or examination questions.


Instructor Description 

Pamela Bernards has 30 years of combined experience in diverse PK-8 and high school settings as a teacher and an administrator.  In addition to these responsibilities, she was the founding director of a K-8 after school care program and founder of a pre-school program for infants to 4-year-olds to address all early childhood issues.  When she was a principal, her school was named a U.S. Department of Education Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.  More recently, the school in which she serves as curriculum coordinator was named a 2010 Blue Ribbon School.  Areas of interest include curriculum, research-based teaching practices, staff development, assessment, data-driven instruction, and instructional intervention with exceptional populations.  She received a doctorate in Leadership and Professional Practice from Trevecca Nazarene University.  Please contact Professor Dahl if you have course content or examination questions.


Contacting the Facilitator

You may contact the facilitator by emailing the Professor Dahl at aumony_dahl@virtualeduc.com or calling her at 509-891-7219, Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. - 5:00 p.m. PST. Phone messages will be answered within 24 hours. Phone conferences will be limited to ten minutes per student, per day, given that this is a self-paced instructional program. Please do not contact the instructor about technical problems, course glitches, or other issues that involve the operation of the course.


Technical Questions

If you have questions or problems related to the operation of this course, please try everything twice. If the problem persists please check our support pages for FAQs and known issues at www.virtualeduc.com and also the Help section of your course.


If you need personal assistance then email support@virtualeduc.com or call (509) 891-7219.  When contacting technical support, please know your course version number (it is located at the bottom left side of the Welcome Screen) and your operating system, and be seated in front of the computer at the time of your call. 


Minimum Computer Requirements

Please refer to VESi’s website: www.virtualeduc.com or contact VESi if you have further questions about the compatibility of your operating system.


Refer to the addendum regarding Grading Criteria, Course Completion Information, Items to be Submitted and how to submit your completed information. The addendum will also note any additional course assignments that you may be required to complete that are not listed in this syllabus.


Bibliography (Suggested Readings):

Ainsworth, M., & Bowlby, J. (1965). Child care and the growth of love. London, UK: Penguin Books.

Ainsworth, M. D. S., Blehar, M. C., Waters, E., & Wall, S. (1978). Patterns of attachment: A psychological study of the strange situation. Hillsdale, NJ: Erlbaum.

Berk, L. (2005). Infants and children (5th ed.). Boston, MA: Pearson Education.

Bowlby, J. (1969). Attachment. Attachment and loss: Vol. 1. Loss. New York, NY: Basic Books.

Bredekamp, S., & Copple, C. (Eds.). (1997). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs (Rev. ed.). Washington, D.C.: NAEYC.

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University. (n.d.).  InBrief: The impact of early adversity on children's development. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/index.php/resources

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University. (2011, September 29). Three core concepts in early development [Video file]. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VNNsN9IJkws&list

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. (2011). Building the brain’s “Air Traffic Control” system: How early experiences shape the development of executive function: Working paper no. 11. Retrieved from www.developingchild.harvard.edu

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University. (2011). Working paper #11: Building the brain's "air traffic control" system: How early experiences shape the development of executive function. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/reports_and_working_papers

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. (2012). The science of neglect: The persistent absence of responsive care disrupts the developing brain: Working paper 12. Retrieved from www.developingchild

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University. (2014a). Inbrief: Early childhood mental health. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/resources/briefs/inbrief_series/inbrief

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University. (2014b). Key concepts: Brain architecture. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/key_concepts/brain_architecture/

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University. (2014c). Key concepts: Executive function. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/key_concepts/executive_function/

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University. (2014d). Key concepts: Serve and return. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/key_concepts/serve_and_return/

Center on the Developing Child, Harvard University. (2014e). Key concepts: Toxic stress. Retrieved from http://developingchild.harvard.edu/key_concepts/toxic_stress_response/

Early Head Start school readiness: It’s all about relationships. (n.d.). Retrieved from http://comfortconsults.com/blog/bid/265244/Early-Head-Start-School-Readiness-It-s-All-About-Relationships

Elkind, D. (2001). The hurried child: Growing up too fast too soon (3rd ed.). Cambridge, MA: Perseus.

Goossens, F., & van Ijzendoorn, M. (1990). Quality of infants’ attachment to professional caregivers: Relation to infant-parent attachment and day-care characteristics. Child Development, 61, 832-837. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624

Gonzalez-Mena, J., & Widmeyer Eyer, D. (2001). Infants, toddlers, and caregivers (5th ed.). Mountain View, CA: Mayfield.

Hanline, M. F., Wetherby, A., Woods, J., Fox, L., & Lentini, R. (2005). Positive beginnings: Supporting young children with challenging behavior. Tallahassee, FL: Positive Beginnings.

Heidemann, S., & Hewitt, D. (1992) Pathways to play. St. Paul, MN: Redleaf Press.

Jakobsen, I., Horwood, L. J., & Fergusson, D. M. (2012). Childhood anxiety/withdrawal, adolescent parent-child attachment and later risk of depression and anxiety disorder. Journal of Child & Family Studies, 21(2), 303-310.

Landy, S. (2002). Pathways to competency: Encouraging health social and emotional development in young children. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brooks.

National Forum on Early Childhood Program Evaluation. (2007). Early childhood program evaluations: a decision-maker’s guide. Retrieved from http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu

National Scientific Council on the Developing Child. (2008/2012). Establishing a level foundation for life: Mental health begins in early childhood: Working paper 6 (Updated ed.) Retrieved from http://www.developingchild.harvard.edu

National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). (1998). Guide to accreditation. Washington, D.C.: Author.

National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD). (1997). The effects of infant child care on infant-mother attachment security: Results of the NICHD study of early childcare. Early Childcare Research Network. Child Development, 68, 860-879. doi:10.1111/j.1467-8624.1997.tb01967.x

McLeod, S. (2008). Mary Ainsworth. Simply Psychology. Retrieved from http://www.simplypsychology

Mendoza, J., Katz, L., Roberston, A. S., & Rothenburg, D. (2003). Connecting with parents in the early years. Champaign: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. 

Pawl, J. H., & Dombro, A. L. (2001). Learning and growing together with families: Partnering with parents to support young children’s development. Washington, D.C.: Zero to Three.

Pbworks. (n.d.). What is early childhood social and emotional development? Retrieved from http://pelicbooks.pbworks.com/w/file/35671727/What%20Is%20Early%20Childhood%20Social%20and%20Emotional%20Development.doc

Petersen, S. (2012). Approaches to learning: Supporting brain development for school success. Zero to Three Journal, 33(1), 24-27.

Powers, S. (2012). From research to practice: Strategies for supporting school readiness in programs serving infants and toddlers. Zero to Three, 3(1), 37-42. Retrieved from http://www.zerotothree.org/zttjournal/index-listing/sept-12-ednote-toc.pdf

Powers, S. (2012a). Introduction. Zero to Three, 3(1), 2. Retrieved from http://www.zerotothree.org

Rogers, S., & Sawyers J. (1988). Play in the lives of children. Washington, D.C.: NAEYC.

Sagi, A., Koren-Karie, N., Gini, M., Ziv, Y., & Joels, T. (2002). Shedding further light on the effects of various types and quality of early childcare on infant-mother attachment relationship: The Haifa study of early childcare. Child Development, 73, 116-1186. doi:10.1111/1467-8624.00465

Schaffer, H. R., & Emerson, P. E. (1964). The development of social attachments in infancy. Monographs of the Society for Research in Child Development, 29, 94.

Zeanah, C. H. (Ed.). (2009). Handbook of infant mental health (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Guilford Press.

Zero to Three. (n.d.) From science to public policy: Promoting policies that support early childhood emotional and social development. Retrieved from http://main.zerotothree.org/site/DocServer

Zero to Three. (n.d.). Getting ready for school begins at birth. Retrieved from http://www.zerotothree

Zero to Three. (n.d.). The school-ready child (infographic). Retrieved from http://www.zerotothree

Zero to Three. (2005). Diagnostic classification of mental health and developmental disorders of infancy and early childhood: Revised edition. Washington, D.C.: Zero to Three Press. Retrieved from http://www.zerotothree.org/

Zigler, E., Singer, D., & Bishop-Josef, S. (Eds.). (2004). Children’s play: The roots of reading. Washington, D.C.: Zero to Three Press.

Additional References:

Ainsworth, M. D. S., & Bell, S.M.  (1970). Attachment, exploration, and separation: Illustrated by the behavior of one-year-olds in a strange situation. Child Development, 41, 49-67. doi:10.2307/1127388

Bretherton, I. (1992). The origins of attachment theory: John Bowlby and Mary Ainsworth. Developmental Psychology, 28, 759-775. doi:10.1037/0012-1649.28.5.759

Clothier, S., Cohen, J., Onunaku, N., & Poppe, J. (2005, September).  Helping young children succeed: Strategies to promote early childhood social and emotional development. Early Childhood Research and Policy Report to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

Onunaku, N. Improving maternal and infant mental health: Focus on maternal depression. (2005). Los Angeles, CA: National Center for Infant and Early Childhood Health Policy at UCLA.

Parlakian, P., & Seibel, N. L. (2002). Building strong foundations, practical guidance for promoting the social-emotional development of infants and toddlers. Washington, D.C.: Zero to Three Press.

Shonkoff, J., & Phillips, D. (Eds.). (2000). From neurons to neighborhoods: The science of early childhood development. Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

Websites Used:

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: http://www.cdc.gov/

Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University: http://developingchild.harvard.edu/

National Association for the Education of Young Children: http://www.naeyc.org/

Strengthening Families: http://www.strengtheningfamiliesprogram.org/

ZERO TO THREE: http://www.zerotothree.org/

Course content is updated every three years. Due to this update timeline, some URL links may no longer be active or may have changed. Please type the title of the organization into the command line of any Internet browser search window and you will be able to find whether the URL link is still active or any new link to the corresponding organization's web home page.


Updated 9/6/16 JN