Emerging Minds

Practice strategies for infant and toddler assessment

About the course

In Practice strategies for infant and toddler assessment you will develop your confidence in applying five base relational assessment strategies. These strategies centre curiosity about infants' and toddlers’ needs, caregiving experiences and play as core intentions in your engagement with parents.

You will view a fictional family case study, and through reflecting on the practice demonstrations build your confidence in how to develop with parents a shared understanding of their child’s needs and the relational opportunities for growth and change.

This course is part of a suite of products that examine practice strategies to support collaborative engagements with infants and toddlers and their families. These resources aim to improve your confidence in providing early identification and prevention responses to foster infants’ and children’s mental health.

Our course, Keeping the infant and toddler in mind provides foundational knowledge about infants' and toddlers’ development, to enhance your engagement with children and parents. We recommend completing that course before starting this one.

This course focuses on working with children and families from pregnancy to age five. Its purpose is not to critique assessment protocols or therapeutic modalities; rather, the course invites you to consider key relational assessment strategies that promote infant and toddler mental health and family-inclusive practice. In reflecting on these skills, you can explore how they can complement your current practice.

Who is this course for?

This course is designed for child and family practitioners and mental health professionals, including:

  • social workers
  • psychologists
  • mental health nurses
  • child and family workers
  • speech therapists
  • occupational therapists; and
  • maternal child and family nurses.

Learning aims

By the end of this course, you will be able to:

  • describe how reflective practice skills apply to infant, toddler and family inclusive practice
  • develop responsive relationships with parents to understand the family’s psychosocial context and the developing parent-child relationship
  • develop and apply skills in observing, noticing and describing infant and toddler interactions, needs and communication cues with parents
  • engage in play activities with infants, toddlers and parents during your sessions to explore parenting strengths and challenges and to promote connection; and
  • reflect upon and expand your assessment discoveries with parents to consider the context and meaning of these for both the parent and child.


It is estimated that this course will take you approximately three hours to complete, including reading material and watching videos.

You can undertake the course across multiple sessions at your own pace. The last screen you visit before logging off will be bookmarked and you will have the option of returning to that screen when you next log in.


As you work through the course, it is important to be aware of your own emotional responses. Please follow the self-care tips below and seek help if needed:

  • We do not recommend undertaking the entire course in one sitting. Give yourself some breaks. Even if you don’t feel that you need a break, it’s a good idea to take one anyway and come back later.
  • Be aware of your emotions as you progress through the course and take action if you are starting to feel stressed or upset. For example, consider taking a break and doing something for yourself that you enjoy.
  • Be aware of your emotional responses after you complete the course.

If at any point you find you are struggling, please talk with your supervisor, seek help, or call Lifeline on 13 11 14, Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636, or SANE Australia on 1800 18 7263.


For the purposes of this course, the term parent encompasses the biological and adoptive parents of a child, as well as individuals who have chosen to take up a primary or shared responsibility in raising that child.

The term infant encompasses the antenatal period up to age three. While clinical research and services often use infant to describe children up to five years of age, this course will use the term toddler to clarify later developmental stages.

Social and emotional wellbeing refers to the way a person thinks and feels about themselves and others. It incorporates behavioural and emotional strengths and is a facet of child development.1

In broad terms, social and emotional wellbeing is the foundation for physical and mental health for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. It is a holistic concept which results from a network of relationships between individuals, family, kin and Community. It also recognises the importance of connection to Land, culture, spirituality and ancestry, and how these affect the individual.2

Social and emotional wellbeing is also used by some people from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds, who may have differing concepts of mental health and mental illness.3

Co-parenting is defined as two or more adults collaborating to raise a child. It recognises that children are parented by individuals but live in larger systems comprising several adults who care for them.4

Reflective functioning or mentalising refers to our capacity to understand ourselves and others in terms of intentional mental states, such as feelings, desires, wishes, goals and attitudes. Mentalising is a quintessential human capacity that is necessary to navigate the social world.5

Parallel process in relationship-based practice describes how certain relationships can impact other relationships.6

Rupture and repair is a concept drawn from Bowlby’s attachment theory. Rupture refers to disconnect or mis-attunement between parent and child. Repair refers to restoring an emotional connection that feels safe and soothing to the child, by being empathic, warm, loving, accepting, curious, and playful.7

The window of tolerance is described by Siegal (1999) as the optimal levels of both psychological and physiological arousal. The window represents the middle zone between hypoarousal and hyperarousal. In this zone we’re able to self-regulate and tolerate emotions, as well as be present and engaged with the world around us.8

Extending the conversation

In some sections of this course, you will be invited to share your learning with other users by scanning a QR code and submitting your reflections. Responses are collated and added to the course for future learners to consider, and will remain anonymous.

Alternatively, you can simply record your reflections in the ‘notes’ section on the relative screens and print them at the end of the course.


This course draws on the latest research, clinical insights, and the lived experience of our child and family partners. We’d like to thank the professionals and families who played an integral role in shaping this course, generously offering their time, wisdom and unique perspectives.

A quick guide to Emerging Minds Learning

Watch the following video for a quick guide on how to navigate Emerging Minds Learning courses.


  1. Australian Institute of Health and Welfare. (2012). Social and emotional wellbeing: development of a Children’s Headline Indicator. Cat. no. PHE 158. Canberra: AIHW.
  2. Commonwealth of Australia. (2017). National strategic framework for Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples’ mental health and social and emotional wellbeing (p. 6). Canberra: Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet.
  3. Everymind. (n.d.). Understanding mental health and wellbeing. Newcastle, NSW: Everymind.
  4. McHale, J. P., & Irace, K. (2011). Coparenting in diverse family systems. In J.P. McHale & K.M. Lindahl (Eds.), Coparenting: A conceptual and clinical examination of family systems (pp. 15–37). Washington, DC: American Psychological Society.
  5. Allen, J. G., Fonagy, P., & Bateman, A. W. (2008). Mentalizing in clinical practice. Washington, DC: American Psychiatric Press.
  6. Hause, N. (2022). Reflective supervision and consultation [Webinar]. Washington, D.C.: Zero to Three.
  7. Bowlby, J. (1958). The nature of the child’s tie to his mother. International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 39(5), 350–373.
  8. Siegel, D. J. (1999). The developing mind. New York, NY: Guilford.

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