A Focus on Infant/Early Childhood Mental Health

December 2021
High Quality Supportive Environments
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.
Welcome to the December issue of the IECMH newsletter! This month we continue to explore the universal tier and begin to focus on high quality environments. December’s focus is on the physical classroom environment.
The classroom environment includes the physical arrangement of the room, the availability of and access to materials, a posted visual schedule, and class-created rules.  

Children profit from a predictable structure, high expectations for cognitive growth and classroom behavior, and consistent modeling, reminders, and support for learning what is expected to meet those expectations. 

  • A safe and well-arranged physical environment, a predictable schedule, and rules that are clearly explained and consistently reinforced all contribute to a safe and orderly learning climate that reduces distraction and keeps the focus on learning and development of skills. 
  • Modeling the role of emotion, attention and learning during daily activities through purposeful interaction with each child helps to create a positive classroom environment and develops a productive pathway for learning. 

(from the American Psychological Association, October 2019) 
The Pennsylvania Key Infant-Early Childhood Mental Health Consultation Team is excited to share a new service: Virtual Office Hours!
Through Virtual Office Hours, early learning professionals, families, and specialists who are supporting children 0-5 will be able to speak directly with IECMH Consultants via telephone or video conference. Virtual Office Hours is a short-term, collaborative, problem-solving conversation to help caregivers and specialists find next steps for: Child Social-Emotional Concerns, Child Behavioral or Developmental Concerns, Emotional Well-being of Teachers and Caregivers, and Partnering with Families.
This service is now available at no cost across the state of Pennsylvania. Virtual Office Hours are available by appointment on the first and third Fridays of every month. Get more info.
While relationships play a key role in children’s healthy development, the physical environment also has a significant impact. When environments are engaging, they support children’s participation in activities that promote development and learning.
Designing Environments 4:48
Learn about features of the physical and social classroom environment that maximize young children’s engagement and learning. Click here for more info.
How to Zone Your Preschool Classroom
Zones are a great way to organize centers in our early childhood classroom. Use this tip sheet to get six basic rules of thumb for setting up zones successfully. Click here for more info.
Creating Space: Arranging Environments to Promote Positive Behavior Teaching Practices Checklist
Visual supports can help children learn new skills and prevent challenging behavior. Visuals help young children learn and follow routines by helping them understand what is happening now and what is going to happen next. Visuals serve as reminders for verbal directions and help children know exactly what is expected of them.
Schedules and Routines 4:33
Schedules and routines help to promote children’s learning. Explore guidelines to create daily classroom schedules that children can learn to follow. Click to watch the video.

10 Reasons to Use a Visual Schedule
Visual schedules are a simple, highly successful tool for communicating routines and expectations to children. And, as an added bonus, they give adults relief from repeating themselves again and again and they motivate kids into action! Click for more info.

Backpack Connection Series: How to Use Visual Schedules to Help Your Child Understand Expectations
This handout provides information that helps families stay informed about what their child is learning at school and specific ideas on how to use the strategy or skill at home. Click for more info in English or Spanish.
Once a teacher/parent has identified the classroom/home behavior expectations, classroom and home rules can be developed. Recall that rules are used to clarify expectations for specific settings. Further, rules help establish boundaries for young children so they can be safe and successful in their early childhood/home environments.
Creating Classroom Rules 4:39
Five steps teachers can follow to generate meaningful classroom rules and teach them to children. Click to watch the video.
Developing and Displaying Rules
Here are several guidelines that teachers should consider when they craft rules for early childhood settings. Click for more info.
Setting Clear Behavior Expectations
Create a visual for each expected behavior. Post them around your classroom or home and refer to them often. Click for more info.
Assessing Our Physical Spaces and Strategizing Changes
Examine your classroom’s physical spaces to assess strengths and limitations. Click for more info.

How to Make a Calming Down Corner
Calming down corners provide a safe place to relax and process upsetting feelings and events. Click for more info.
Taking a Break: Using a Clam Down Area at Home
The calm down area provides children with a place to let go of
strong emotions and begin to feel calm and ready to engage with others again. See the tip sheet in English or Spanish.

Visual Supports for Routines, Schedules and Transitions              
Visual supports can help children learn new skills and prevent challenging behavior. Learn about Visual Schedules, First/Then Boards, and Making Your Own Visual Cards. Available in English and Spanish.   

Classroom Visuals & Supports
Pictures can increase a child’s understanding and engagement in the classroom. Visual supports can be especially helpful for children with special needs by giving them another way to communicate, instead of relying on verbal communication. Get more info.   

Going to School: A Story about Our Expectations and Rules to Read to Your Child (Scripted Story)
A scripted story about expectations and rules to read to your child. Available in English and Spanish.  
Michelle Salcedo, in an Out of the Box Training Kit wrote:  
 “When a child exhibits challenging behaviors, what if, instead of blaming the child, we were to look first at the environment? What if the focus were to shift from fixing the child to adapting the conditions in which the child is growing and learning?” 
There is great power to lessen the incidences of challenging behaviors and increase learning (Katz, 2015) when teachers create learning environments shaped around children’s needs (Clayton & Forton, 2001; Inan, 2009).” 
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.