• Early childhood mental health is a child's (birth to 5 years) growing ability to experience, regulate, and express emotions. They learn to develop close, secure relationships with peers and caring adults. Children begin to explore and learn from their surroundings, pay attention, and follow directions. Early childhood mental health is the same as social-emotional development. Head Start and Early Head Start programs partner with local professionals and other programs to ensure children, families, and staff have access to prevention and intervention services.