The emotional, social and physical development of young children has a direct effect on their overall development and on the adult they will become. That is why understanding the need to invest in very young children is so important, so as to maximize their future well-being. Neurological research shows that the early years play a key role in children’s brain development. Babies begin to learn about the world around them from a very early age – including during the prenatal, perinatal (immediately before and after birth) and postnatal period. Children’s early experiences – the bonds they form with their parents and their first learning experiences – deeply affect their future physical, cognitive, emotional and social development. Optimizing the early years of children’s lives is the best investment we can make as a society in ensuring their future success. What exactly is social and emotional development? It’s the change over time in the way children react to and interact with their social environments. A child is not born with the ability to identify his emotions, control his impulses, or understand his place in the social world. These fundamental social and emotional skills — and many others — must be learned through experience. Because of the rapid pace of brain development between birth and age 3, early experiences can have long-term consequences. Infants and toddlers need nurturing parenting and stable environments that provide safety and security and support learning and exploration. Without them, a child is unlikely to reach his or her potential. Ensuring that all of our community’s children have a strong social-emotional foundation can improve our city’s economic growth and competitiveness. Why? Because the social and emotional skills that children begin learning in infancy are strongly related to later outcomes like school readiness, college attendance and adult earnings.