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Understanding Core Needs

Getting your needs met as an infant has a significant impact on social and emotional development.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is a pyramid-like structure consisting of five key necessities: Physiological needs, Safety, Social needs, Esteem, Self-actualization. Ensuring these necessities will help babies and children develop and evolve so that they can reach their full potential.

You can hopefully see how this applies to mental health and wellbeing in the early years. When more immediate needs are not met, it is increasingly unlikely that a child will be able to improve their sense of wellbeing by building resilience, increasing their self-esteem or building healthy relationships.

These most basic levels of human need must be met before a child is fully able to be engaged, motivated, regulated and ready to play or learn.

Select each of the hotspots on the image below to see the basic needs of every child.


Another lens to look at what a child needs to develop is though the Government’s Every Child Matters framework. You can read it here but the essential needs identified are to:

  • be safe
  • be healthy
  • enjoy and achieve
  • make a positive contribution
  • achieve economic wellbeing

Emotional wellbeing is a core feature of all five of the Government’s intended outcomes for children.

When needs are not met it infringes on the rights of children and young people as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which is summarised below:

Failing to respond appropriately, or at all, to the needs of children can have wide-ranging and serious consequences.