A Focus on Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health

April 2022
Friendship Skills and Facilitating Purposeful & Meaningful Interactions between Children
This newsletter focuses on sharing information on infant/early childhood mental health and
the importance of relationship-based approaches and supports that help infants and young children feel safe, supported, and valued by the adults around them. The newsletter, and the Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC) program, is made possible by a partnership between the Office of Child Development and Early Learning (OCDEL) and the Pennsylvania Key.
This month’s Bright Start, Bright Kids, Bright Future will explore friendship skills. While building friendships may seem like it would be an inherent skill, adults can support children in being a friend and navigating some of the difficulties that come with friend relationships.

Per the Illinois Early Learning Organization toolkit, “Adults can provide opportunities for young children to play alongside and with other children. Whether in a playgroup, at a playground, in a childcare center, or at home with friends, children notice what other children are doing very early. Infants turn to other infants and begin to imitate their peers. Toddlers watch their peers, play next to them, and often show preference to certain playmates. Preschoolers often start to demonstrate complex friendship skills, including reading cues, understanding others’ feelings, and resolving conflicts”.

We hope the resources found in this issue will help you support the young children in your lives to build and maintain positive, rewarding friendships throughout their lives.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Next month, we will share practical resources around early mental health including the importance of social emotional screening.
“When children feel that they and their families belong, feel accepted for who they are and are valued as contributing members of the classroom community, the foundation for a classroom culture committed to friendship is built. In addition to creating a welcoming and responsive environment, teachers foster a culture of friendship when they promote helpfulness and cooperation among children intentionally.”  

Hemmeter, Ostrosky and Fox
Creating a Sense of Belonging for Children: When children feel a sense of belonging, they develop confidence and self-identity. Read more.
You’ve Got to Have Friends: In this paper, specific skills known to influence friendship at the preschool level are highlighted. A variety of strategies for creating a classroom climate conducive to friendship development and specific strategies for teaching friendship skills are described. Read more.
I Won’t Be Your Friend If You Don’t!: Helping children understand their social world an develop ways to meet their emotional and social needs is a critical part of early education. Read more.
Strategies to Encourage Peer to Peer Interactions in Early Childcare Settings: Encourage children to interact with each other by using these six strategies. Read more.
Teachers can engage children and motivate learning through use of their senses with fun songs and stories.

The Little Book of Friendship 3:48. Read aloud for kids… The little book of friendship is a book about how to make friends with each other, how to care for your friends and how to be best friends forever
Sesame Street: Elmo and Rosita Teach Friendship 2:44. Friends play together, share together, and dance together! Elmo and Rosita know all about friendship because they are the best of friends!
What makes a good friend? 2:23. A song about the things that make someone a good friend for children. 63 Kindergarten children at my school brainstormed all the things they could think of that make a good friend and we turn it into a song.

Songs featuring David Kisor about friendship and belonging. Friends 2:36 and That Friend, My Friend, Is You 2:12
Support all the learners in your classroom with these visual supports focusing on positive peer interactions and friendship skills.
Peer-Mediated Skills: Peer mediated strategies are specific behaviors to teach friendship skills. Read about 5 skills and the steps to teach them. Read more.

I Am a Super Friend: A social story to support children in understanding what good friendship skills are so that they use them naturally as they play and interact with their peers. Read more.

Super Friend Award: Use this certificate to acknowledge children’s friendship skills and communicate with families regarding friendship skills in the classroom. Available in English and Spanish.
Meal Talk: Use these visuals from Head Start Center for Inclusion to provide prompts to facilitate conversations between peers. Read more.                        
Partnerships with families strengthen children’s friendship skills. Sharing information about the development of friendships between the children in the classroom can help families promote friendships and play outside of the school.

Magic of Everyday Moments: From Feelings to Friendship: The bond between a parent and child builds the child’s ability to form relationships with others, express emotions, and face difficult challenges. Read more.
Making and Keeping Friends: Knowing how to make and keep friends is an important skill for young children to learn. Parents can help their child learn how to be a good friend. Read more.
Sesame Street in Communities: Caring and Sharing: It’s a big world, and a lot of us are sharing space in it. Children need help building the skills that let them develop healthy relationships and respect the differences between themselves and others. Read more.          
Helping Children Play and Learn Together: Carefully arranging the environment, focusing on children’s skills and strengths, and regularly celebrating these strengths within early childhood settings can help promote peer interaction among all children. Read more.

Supporting Young Children’s Friendships: An Interview with Dr. Michaelene Ostrosky 19:20. Dr. Ostrosky and IEL staff member Dr. Rebecca Swartz discuss why friendships are important to young children as well as strategies for helping young children, including those with disabilities, develop the skills for making friends. Read more.
Checklist for effective friendship practices. A tool for teachers to guide, support and improve effective friendship practices in their classrooms. Read more.
IECMH Consultation helps adults strengthen their relationships with young children and build capacity to respond to children’s social-emotional needs. IECMHC can help reduce caregiver stress, as well as increase caregivers’ reflective practice skills.
IECMH Consultants are available by appointment to provide IECMHC Virtual Office Hours consultation via telephone or video conference. IECMHC Virtual Office Hours is a short-term, collaborative, problem-solving conversation to help you find next steps for: Child Social-Emotional Concerns | Child Behavioral or Developmental Concerns Emotional Well-being of Teachers and Caregivers | Partnering with Families.
Appointments are held on the first and third Fridays of the month, or other days/times by request. Get more info.
The Pennsylvania Key has streamlined the process for Keystone STARS programs to request Infant Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation (IECMHC). Child care providers can request services by using the Request for Service Form (PDF). Completed forms can be submitted via email PAIECMH@pakeys.org or faxed to 717-213-3749.
Programs and families can contact the program leadership directly at PAIECMH@pakeys.org with questions or concerns.
Share your feedback! We'd like to hear what you think about infant early childhood mental health. Are there resources you'd like to see? Questions you have? Tell us! Send your feedback to PAIECMH@pakeys.org.