Posted: January 24th, 2023

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In Week 1 of this class, you drafted your initial philosophy of teaching in infant/toddler education and care statement. Since then, we have covered a lot of new material and based on your weekly reflections, it’s obvious that your thinking about this subject has evolved with your new knowledge from your completed readings, videos, discussions, and assignments.

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Part 1. (making updates, edits, or changes to your first draft) (PDF Below)

Update your initial draft with any new thinking or learning from the last several weeks. Be sure to add a citation or connection from the readings with page numbers (PDFs Below) to support your responses. As a reminder, your initial draft should have responded to the following prompts in about 1 page:

  1. Your perception of teaching. This opening paragraph is where you describe what teaching means to you and your views on the role of the infant/toddler care teacher.
  2. Your perception of learning. In this second paragraph, try and describe your thoughts on how infants/toddlers learn and develop. You can reference particular philosophies or teaching approaches (these can come from your reading) or simply relate your own thoughts and opinions.
  3. Your teaching goals. In this final paragraph, you will describe your goals for young children and what you can do as an infant/toddler care teacher to support early learning and development in a group care environment (this can be center-based and/or family childcare). This is where you tell the reader why you teach the way that you do!

Part 2 (responding to the prompts below and growing your document)

Now we are going to grow your philosophy statement from the original 1 page to 2 pages by adding your responses to the following prompts below:

  1. The importance of the environment. In this paragraph, you should describe your thoughts on the the importance of the environment in infant/toddler education and care. What exactly makes a learn environment great? How will you support all children? (PDF Below Learning Environments – An Introduction)
  2. The importance of working with families.  In this next paragraph, tell us why you think it’s important for infant/toddler care teachers to include families in their work with very young children.  In your opinion, what’s the best way to do this?  (PDF Below Chapter 1- The Development of Programs with Families)
  3. Your thoughts on quality. Wrap up your new additions by discussion the difference between meeting basic standards for licensing and high quality care. What does it mean to provide high quality care? How will you ensure that your education and care practices represent the highest quality practices? (PDF Below Chapter 5- Guidelines for Operating Infant/Toddler Programs)

Some Advice

Since you are incorporating new information in your draft, it may not make sense for you to keep things in the same order. Look at the 6 topics above (Your Perception of Teaching, Your Perception of Learning, Your teaching goals, The importance of the environment, The importance of working with families, Your thoughts on quality) and consider what order makes the most sense for you to present your content. You may want to change things up to improve the flow of your draft.

This is a great chance to start thinking about spelling and grammar.  If this isn’t your strength, use the spelling and grammar checking features in your word processing program.

Longer is not always better. At this point, your draft should now be 2 pages (single spaced). Any longer than that and you may need to consider editing it down.  Be clear, but concise in your points.

child development



Infant Child Development



Teaching is a process of assisting someone, in this case, children acquire knowledge. In early childhood education, the concept of teaching is a little different. This is the stage where children are taught the basic things in life like being around each other. Teaching at this stage is more of observing, encouraging, and nurturing. Children at this stage cannot express themselves clearly. Therefore it is through observation that the teacher gets to know what the child wants. The teacher is also expected to encourage the child to try out new things. When the child makes progress, however little it might be, the teacher should appreciate them. It is at this stage that positive progress is encouraged and any negativity discouraged.

Learning, on the other hand, is how these children acquire the knowledge that is presented to them by the teacher. Learning is dependent on the child. Different children learn differently and at different speeds. The teacher needs to understand that children have different degrees of potential and that each child should be handled according to their potential. Learning especially for young children is a process. These children need to take one thing at a time. Children learn by trying out new things. Therefore it is important to encourage them and let them explore new things.

Teaching is not done for its own sake. The goal is to ensure that the children learn and for this to be successful, certain considerations have to be made. Children do not like complicated things so in the course of teaching, try and come up with something more predictable. Also prepare a teaching environment that will be appealing to children, for example, the use of brightly colored illustrations. Maintaining a positive relationship with the children and their families will increase the children’s trust in you which is very important. Encourage physical activities as part of the teaching process not only because little children love to play but also because it is important for their mental development. Encourage children to communicate freely. This will help in their language development and communication which is an important skill.

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Infants & Toddlers Learning
Environments Learning
Environments: An Introduction
Research tells us infants and toddlers learn best in environments where
they can have secure relationships with caring and responsive adults, where
they feel safe and where they feel free to explore and learn. A well-arranged
environment can help you meet the needs of infants and toddlers. This
lesson highlights the importance of the environment and provides an
overview of what to consider when creating and maintaining
developmentally appropriate infant and toddler learning environments.


Recognize the effects of learning environments on infants and toddlers.
Identify features of environments that help infants and toddlers feel
secure, comfortable, welcome and ready to explore and learn.
Describe how to design and maintain a safe and developmentally
appropriate environment for infants and toddlers.
List potential learning areas found in infant or toddler classrooms.



How Do Environments Affect You?

There are certain places you like to go: maybe a favorite restaurant, a
sporting arena or a good friend’s home. What about those places makes
you feel welcome or secure? What makes you want to go back? Thinking

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about these places, you might remember the people around you, the color
of a room, if there is sunlight, the smells and sounds, furniture and
accessories or temperature.

Now consider places you don’t like to go: maybe the dentist’s office, the
airport or a noisy restaurant. What makes these environments less pleasant
for you? In some settings, we feel relaxed and comfortable. In other places,
we might feel tense, overwhelmed and confused. The environment has a
powerful effect on us. It influences how we feel, what we do and the ways
we respond. Some of us dislike places where we feel we cannot control or
predict our experiences. In some spaces, we may feel like we don’t belong
or are not appreciated.

Just like adults, infants and toddlers are affected by their environments,
even if they cannot yet tell us directly how they feel. It’s our job to ensure
learning spaces make infants and toddlers feel welcome, secure and ready
to learn.

Designing Your Space to Meet Infants’ and Toddlers’

Families are infants’ and toddlers’ first and primary teachers. However,
many infants and toddlers spend time in care settings outside of their
homes. Experiences during the first few months and years of life are critical
because they set the stage for the child’s future development and learning
(Shonkoff & Phillips, 2000). The quality of these early experiences is
shaped by the individuals and environments with which infants and toddlers
spend their time. Ronald Lally states that, “In high-quality infant-toddler
programs, the interests of the child and the belief that each child has a
curriculum are what drive practice” (Lally, 2000, p. 6). Thus, the infant-
toddler learning environment must provide a flexible climate that supports

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child-directed practices, spontaneous exploration, curiosity, motivation for
learning and the creation and maintenance of positive relationships
between adults and children. As such, the learning environment is an
essential component of curriculum for infants and toddlers.

Creating a supportive learning environment requires time, reflection and
planning. An emotionally supportive environment helps prepare infants and
toddlers for learning (Bagdi & Vacca, 2005), and may be especially
important for at-risk children who may not have high-quality relationships
outside the learning space. Military children are a particular group that may
experience a great deal of change in their daily lives; your supportive
learning environment can be an important source of consistency for them. A
supportive environment is:

Well-organized: orderly, planned and safe.
Dependable: a stable “home base” for children who need it.
Flexible: able to adjust to meet the needs of different children.

Such supportive environments send children a variety of positive messages
about their learning (Dodge et al., 2010), such as:

This is a good place to be.
You belong here.
You can trust this place.
There are places where you can be yourself when you want to be.
You can do many things on your own here.
This is a safe place to explore and try out your ideas.

Watch the video to see examples of ways these messages appear in
learning environments.

Messages our Environments Send

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What messages does your environment send to children?

Environments not only affect how we feel and send messages about how to
act, they can influence what we learn. The Reggio Emilia approach to early
childhood education recognizes the tremendous impact of the environment
by referring to it as the “third teacher” (with parents and teachers as
children’s first and second teachers, respectively). The Reggio Emilia
approach was developed by Loris Malaguzzi and named after an area in
Italy. This approach states children are powerful learners and their interests
should guide adults’ decisions surrounding learning, including how the
environment is arranged and the materials provided. The Reggio Emilia
approach believes the learning environment plays a critical role, and that
intentionality (thoughtful planning and action) on behalf of teachers in the
design of spaces and the selection and arrangement of materials
significantly influences children’s level of engagement and learning

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(Edwards, 2002). We will return to these ideas in future lessons in this

Special Considerations for Working with Infants and Toddlers


The infant and toddler learning environment includes many different


All of these relationships affect infants and toddlers. Although adults often
assume infants and toddlers are too young to understand what happens
between adults in their environment, recent research shows that they can
quickly recognize tension between adults (Du Rocher Schudlich, White,
Fleischhauer, & Fitzgerald, 2011). Any such tension could mean some
infants and toddlers spend eight or more hours in stressful environments.
Positive, respectful relationships among all adults in a program affect the
emotional climate for everyone—children, staff and families (McMullen &
Dixon 2009).


Safe and secure environments elicit more positive and less restrictive
interactions with caregivers (Howes, 1983). Caregivers can devote their
time to playing and developing relationships rather than keeping children
away from hazards. In a safe environment, attentive caregivers, aware of

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infant and toddler needs, can help them move about freely, explore and play
with materials that are sturdy, in good repair and a safe size. Mobile infants
develop rapidly, and their increasing motor skills require caregivers to be
alert and anticipate their actions and possible new hazards, such as
reaching things they could not reach before. Toddlers are incredibly curious
and not fully aware of what is dangerous. Caregivers must support and
balance exploration and curiosity with a careful eye and use simple
language to explain what is safe and unsafe. Caregivers must also complete
ongoing safety checks and provide families with information about safety
checks at home. For more information on safe and appropriate materials for
infants and toddlers, please see this section’s Materials lesson and the
Safety Course.

Understanding what is developmentally appropriate

Caregivers can support the natural desire of infants and toddlers to actively
explore their environment with their whole body by knowing about this age
group’s development. Having this knowledge helps caregivers better
understand and predict what interactions, materials and experiences will be
safe, engaging and most supportive to best promote learning and
development. The courses on cognitive, physical, social emotional, creative
and self will help build and strengthen teachers understanding of infant and
toddler development.

Knowing individual characteristics

Caregivers can be most responsive when they understand the strengths,
interests and needs of each individual child in their care. Knowing the
individual needs of infants and toddlers enables caregivers to offer
adaptations essential for children with disabilities and other special needs.

Connecting with families

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Caregivers should take time to connect with families to better understand
their cultures, values, beliefs, expectations, hopes and dreams. This offers
caregivers the opportunity to create learning environments, including
interactions and experiences that are respectful, supportive and meaningful
for infants, toddlers and their families. Children’s experiences at home and
in their community influence their reactions to care and learning
environments. An environment could seem familiar to a toddler, or it may be
unfamiliar and even frightening. Understanding the infant’s or toddler’s
home culture and language can help caregivers create a more familiar and
comfortable care and learning environment.

Caregivers’ needs

Although the focus of supportive learning environments for infants and
toddlers is on the children, supportive environments also consider and
accommodate the needs of caregivers. Caring for infants and toddlers is
rewarding but can be tiring. The environment should be set up to make the
caregiver’s job as easy as possible. For example, adult-sized rocking chairs
allow caregivers to provide responsive care while feeding infants or rocking
them to sleep. Storage space for adult personal items (e.g., purse, coat)
may help reduce anxiety about children’s safety. If possible, caregivers
should have a quiet space (e.g., lounge) in which they can spend breaks
from their work and recuperate their physical and emotional energy. Such
space can also be used for private conversations between caregivers and
parents. Talk to your trainer, coach, or supervisor if you feel the learning
environment is contributing to feelings of stress or burnout.

Caregivers, along with their trainer, coach, or supervisor, can consider
methods and processes for reflecting on and further examining infant and
toddler environments. For example, many programs use environmental
rating tools. Environmental rating tools are surveys completed by observers

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that examine and help provide an overall picture of the environment that has
been created for the infants, toddlers and adults who share an early
childhood setting. These tools, such as the Infant-Toddler Environmental
Rating Scale (ITERS; Harms, Cryer, & Clifford, 2003), can be used by staff
to gather information about an environment to support caregivers,
improvements, and approaches to infant and toddler development and
learning. You can ask your trainer, coach or supervisor for more information
on the kinds of tools your program uses to assess or provide feedback on
classroom and outdoor environments.

Creating Developmentally Appropriate Spaces for Infants and Toddlers

Infants and toddlers grow and develop both quickly and at their own pace.
Environments must be created to meet their current developmental and
emerging skills while keeping in mind the appropriateness and safety of the
space and furniture.

Young infants react to the new world around them and need to feel secure
in order to engage in exploration and learning. Caregivers can provide
spaces and experiences that encourage trust and strengthen bonds, such
as cozy spaces for caregivers to hold and care for infants. For example,
looking at board books together is an activity that promotes literacy and
language learning and the development of attachment between infants and
their caregivers.

Mobile infants have a strong desire to move and explore. Caregivers should
provide spaces that are safe, clean, and stimulating. Soft, thick floor
coverings, such as vinyl mats, will help mobile infants feel comfortable
moving on the floor. Adding features such as tunnels to the environment will
encourage further development of motor skills and exploration. Offering
safe furniture upon which infants or toddlers can pull themselves up and

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cruise or creep along is also helpful.

Toddlers are learning to focus their attention on desired experiences.
Caregivers can offer a variety of materials and sensory experiences to
support toddlers (e.g., sand and water table, sound area). Learning areas
should be organized to support toddlers’ developing independence.
Materials should be placed on low, open shelves and labeled with pictures
and words. Toddlers will avoid frustration when they can find what they
need and want.

For rooms with only young infants, setting up specific learning areas may
not be appropriate, as the entire room forms the “learning area” for infants.
However, caregivers should offer a variety of experiences and materials for
infants and toddlers, and should be prepared to rotate materials and
experience, or rearrange spaces when children’s developmental needs
change. Keep in mind, though, that offering too many materials at one time
may overstimulate children. It is important to explore the environment from

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the perspective of infants and toddlers, e.g., crawl around on your hands
and knees or lay on the floor, to understand how well it functions for very
young children.

Creating Learning Areas for Infants and Toddlers

Using the environment to support development for infants and toddlers
helps caregivers concentrate on specific experiences. A learning area is an
area within an infant-toddler room that allows caregivers to offer children
nurturing and learning experiences; each learning area is typically planned
to support particular developmental domains (e.g., a climbing or grasping
area to assist with gross or fine motor development) or exploration of
certain ideas (e.g., a block area to explore cause-and-effect and balance).
Although learning areas may be designed to support particular aspects of
development or interests, they should not be used exclusively for one
purpose. Rather, learning areas should include many engaging possibilities,
with each area serving multiple functions. Sensory exploration by infants
and toddlers, for example, will happen in all care and learning areas, and
need not be contained to a learning area with that label. In addition, a cozy
book area, not only provides young children with early literacy experiences,
but also provides a quiet, calm space to relax alone or with a caregiver.

The learning environment should connect to all that infants and toddlers do
rather than using categories appropriate for older children, such as art and
science. Learning areas must also be accessible and adaptable for children
with disabilities and other special needs. Young infants will need caregivers
to bring them materials. Mobile infants and toddlers will likely take materials
(e.g., stuffed toys, foam blocks) with them across the entire room and that
is appropriate.

Possible learning areas to consider when creating infant or toddler rooms:

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Cozy spaces to safely take a break from the group.
Reaching, grasping and kicking area (various hanging materials).
Climbing area (stairs, platforms, risers, low cubes).
Mirror area.
Blocks and building, construction area.
Soft toy area.
Books and language areas.
Dramatic play area (play kitchen, dress-up materials).
Messy area (art and expressive materials, sand and water table).
Sound area (chimes, instruments, music, CDs and player).
Sensory area (scented items, natural materials).
Animal area (fish, bird).

Carefully consider how learning areas are arranged next to one another. For
example, it can helpful to think about placing quieter learning areas next to
one another, or near the napping space, or anticipating how infants and
toddler may want to use materials across learning areas. Freedom to move

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materials from one learning area to another provides infants and toddlers an
opportunity to take charge of their learning and make their ideas come to
life. For example, moving a dinosaur from the block area to the dramatic
play area to be “washed” in the play sink offers a toddler a way to express
their budding imaginative play.


When creating supportive indoor learning environments for infants and
toddlers, there are many factors to consider. Watch this video for examples
of different learning areas to consider for young infants through older
toddlers. What do you notice?

Supportive Learning Environments for Infants and Toddlers

The messages infants receive from early experiences in a supportive learning environment.


When designing and arranging learning environments to benefit infants,
toddlers and yourself, you should:

Ensure safety and health by making sure physical spaces and materials
are appropriate for infants and toddlers.
Observe the children in your care closely so you become familiar with
their likes, dislikes, needs and interests. Getting down on the floor and
viewing the learning area from the perspective of infants and toddlers
can help inform your design with respect to safety and stimulation.
Provide a variety of materials and experiences for infants and toddlers.
Periodically rotate materials and/or rearrange the room as children’s
developmental needs change. Take care not to overstimulate children.
Arrange the environment to support caregivers’ well-being, which will

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ultimately also benefit the children in your care.
Design learning areas that promote making choices and allow for
freedom of movement between areas.

Completing this Course

For more information on what to expect in this course, the Learning
Environments Competency Reflection, and a list of the accompanying
Learn, Explore and Apply resources and activities offered throughout the
lessons, visit the Infant & Toddler Learning Environments Course Guide.

Please note the References & Resources section at the end of each lesson
outlines reference sources and resources to find additional information on
the topics covered. As you complete lessons, you are not expected to
review all the online references available. However, you are welcome to
explore the resources further if you have interest, or at the request of your
trainer, coach, or administrator.


Think about how environments affect you and the children in your care.
Download and print the Environments Affect Behavior activity. Answer the
questions about each space in your learning environment and share your
responses with your trainer, coach or supervisor. Finally, compare your
answers to the suggested responses.


This list of room arrangement tools can help you design your learning space
—without the heavy lifting! Download the Tools to Use document and keep
the websites as a resource.

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An environment that fits the stage of development the
children are in but is still flexible enough to allow for
differences between children in skills, interests and

rating tool

A tool, such as a survey completed by an observer, that helps
examine and provide an overall picture of an environment
created for infants, toddlers and the adults who share that

Fine-motor skills The ability to use fingers and hands well


The ability to move and coordinate large muscle movement
(e.g., crawling, walking, jumping)

Learning area

An area within an infant–toddler room that allows caregivers to
offer children specific nurturing and learning experiences and
includes many engaging experiences, but should not be
exclusive to the label for that area; for example, sensory
exploration by infants and toddlers will happen in all care and
learning areas


References & Resources:

Bagdi, A., & Vacca, J. (2005). Supporting early childhood social-emotional
well being: The building blocks for early learning and school success. Early
Childhood Education Journal, 33, 145-150.

Dodge, D. T., Aghayan, C., Berke, K., Bickart, T., Burts, D. C., Colker, L.,
Copley, J., Dighe, J., Heroman, C., Jones, C., & Tabors, P. O. (2010). The
Creative Curriculum for Preschool (5th ed.). Washington, DC: Teaching
Strategies, Inc.

Dodge, D., Rudick, S., Berke, K. (2006). The Creative Curriculum for Infants,

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Toddlers and Twos, (2nd ed.). Washington DC: Teaching Strategies, Inc.

Du Rocher Schudlich, T. D., White, C. R., Fleischhauer, E. A., & Fitzgerald, K.
A. (2011). Observed infant reactions during live interparental conflict.
Journal of Marriage and Family, 73(1), 221-235.

Harms, T., Cryer, D., & Clifford, R. M. (2003). Infant/toddler environment
rating scale-revised.

Howes, C. (1983). Caregiver behavior in center and family day care. Journal
of Applied Developmental Psychology 4(1): 99-107.

Infant/Toddler Caregiving; A Guide to Setting Up Environments, 2nd ed.
(1990), Sacramento: California Department of Education and WestEd.

Lally, J. R. (Ed.). (1990). A Guide to Setting Up Environments: Infant/Toddler
Caregiving, (2nd ed.). Sacramento: California Dept. of Education and

Lally, J. R. (2000). Infants have their own curriculum: A responsive approach
to curriculum planning for infants and toddlers. Head Start Bulletin, 67, 6–7.

McMullen, M. B., & Dixon, S. (2009). In support of a relationship-based
approach to practice with infants and toddlers in the United States. In
Brownlee, J. (Ed.). Participatory Learning and the Early Years (pp. 109-128).
London: Routledge.

National Research Council and Institute of Medicine. (2000). From neurons
to neighborhoods: The science of early childhood development. Committee
on Integrating the Science of Early Childhood Development. Jack P.
Shonkoff and Deborah A. Phillips (Eds.). Board on Children, Youth, and
Families, Commission on Behavioral and Social Sciences and Education.
Washington, DC: National Academy Press.

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Petersen, S. H., Wittmer, D.S. (2008). Infant and Toddler Development and
The Responsive Program Planning: A Relationship-Based Approach. Saddle
River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

“Families and communities are the ground

level generators

and preservers of values and ethical systems. Individuals acquire

a sense of self not only from observation of their own bodies and

knowledge of their own thoughts but from their continuous relationship

to others, especially close familial or community relations, and

from the culture of their native place, the things, the customs,

the honored deeds of their elders.”

—J. W. Gardner, Building Community

This chapter describes the crucial role of the family during the first three years of life and explains why, in order to achieve a high-quality program, infant care
teachers begin by working together with families. The approach presented here places

infant/toddler care in the context of families, rather than as a program separate from

families. The chapter then considers the nature of relationships and communication

with diverse families within a family-oriented approach to the care and education of

infants and toddlers.

Chapter 1

The Development of
Programs with Families







er 1

The Central Role of Families cultural rules in exactly the same way. In fact,
infants, toddlers, and their families develop

Children are not islands. They are inti within a set of “nested” communities, each
mately connected with their families. In their one influencing the child’s development and
relationships children and their families each identity. These communities may include
have a significant influence on the other. The neighborhoods, towns, churches or temples,
family adapts to the child, and the child to the infant/toddler programs, and schools. Each
family.1 community has its own culture, and each has

an influence on the family and the child.
The family’s influence on the learning and The following illustration is adapted from
development of an infant or toddler sur- Bronfenbrenner (1979): Imagine the child’s
passes all other influences. world to be represented by a series of con

Family relationships have more influence centric circles with the individual child at the
on a child’s learning and development than center. Each circle represents a sphere of influ
any other relationships he has. Family mem ence that affects the child’s life. These spheres,
bers know him better than anyone else. They which include family, child care, community,
know his usual way of approaching things, school, the media, the workplace, and govern
his interests, how he likes to interact, how ment, to name but a few, are nested within
he is comforted, and how he learns. Fam- one another, extended outward from the child
ily members understand his strengths, and herself.
they have learned how to help him with any Communities can be a source of strength
special needs he may have. Just as important, for families and their children, providing sup
the child’s relationships with family members port and resources. These resources can be
shape the way he experiences relationships services to people who make up the families’
outside the home. communities. For instance, neighbors in a

“What young children learn, how they community may provide friendship and emo
react to events and people around them, and tional support to one another, celebrate family
what they expect from themselves and oth events, and help families cope with stress. A
ers are deeply affected by their relationships community may have available prenatal and
with parents, the behavior of parents, and the health care, nutrition, and early intervention
environment of the homes in which they live” services—all of which help children as they
(From Neurons to Neighborhoods 2000, 226). develop. All infant/toddler programs represent

a very important kind of supportive com
Infants and toddlers learn and develop in munity for families and their young children.
the context of their families’ cultural com- They are communities where infants and tod
munities. dlers spend large amounts of time, learn, and

develop significant relationships with adults
Families are not islands; they are con and other children. For these communities to

nected to cultural communities. Each family work well, families must be respected, have
has beliefs, values, and expectations for their a sense of belonging, and be viewed as active
children that are rooted in cultural commu participants.
nities yet reflect the unique perspective of When a very young child enters an in
that family. Culture also influences families’ fant/toddler program, both the infant and the
perspectives and approaches to supporting infant’s family experience dramatic changes in
children with disabilities or other special their lives. The infant is faced, usually for the
needs. Families often participate in more than first time, with the challenges of adapting to
one community, and no two families follow a strange environment, different routines, and

new relationships. The family members, too,

The term “family member” is used throughout this publica must make a difficult adjustment—the sharing
tion to describe the people who are primarily responsible for a
child, whether they are parents, grandparents, foster families, or of the care of their child with someone outside
others. the family.

The Nature of Relationships The Importance of
Between Programs and Families Establishing Working

An infant/toddler program is a system Relationships
of relationships (Rinaldi 2003). Within this Both families and teach
system, the relationship between the family ers feel the strong impulse to
and the program is key to the program’s rela protect infants and toddlers.
tionship with the child. Through a welcoming Teachers can be more re
relationship with the family, the child’s teach- sponsive to family members’
ers begin to understand the family’s perspec strong emotions if they have
tives, strengths, needs, routines, hopes, and established a positive relation
expectations. This understanding helps teach ship based on two-way com-
ers to appreciate not only who the child is but munication. When a family
also the child’s experience of the world. member and a teacher have

Within a system of relationships, the different beliefs about how to
relationship between the family and the infant nurture a child, each may react
care teacher is key. For a family, the experi emotionally. Being responsive
ence of entering an infant/toddler setting may to family interests early in the
be highly emotional. Family members usually relationship helps build trust.
have anxiety about the separation from their In programs based on relation
child and may feel ambivalent about leaving ships with families, teachers
their child. For many families these feelings seek and value the family’s
and experiences can often be intensified when voice as the best source of in
their child has a disability or other special formation about the child (such
need. All families feel protective of their child as her temperament, strengths,
and want the best for her. Their beliefs about interests, or needs). Family
what is right for their child reflect both their members often enjoy talking
culturally based expectations and their unique to someone who knows and
relationship experiences with her. They are appreciates their child’s unique
often unsure what to expect from the infant/ personality and sense of humor.
toddler program or what kind of relationship This connection between fami
they will have with it. lies and teachers can be one of

joy and humor as they share


Complex Feelings

Bonita steps into the room and
looks around. Maria, the teacher
she’s talked with before, is head-
ing toward her. She has a nice
smile. “This is it,” Bonita thinks.
“No choice. I have to be at work
in twenty minutes.” Maria greets
both Bonita and the small, awake
bundle in her arms. After chat-
ting briefly with Maria, Bonita
says, “Well, I have to go.” As she
hands her baby to Maria, she
adds, “And you know when you
feed him, well, I mean after you
feed him, he burps more easily
if you first lean him forward on
your knee. I guess I told you that,
or showed you, but when you do
it, he likes the pats lower down
on his back and it’s more sort of a
rub-pat. Oh, I’m not really liking
this. . . .” Her voice cracks.

Maria says, “No, of course not,
this is a hard, hard thing. I do
remember a lot of what you told
me and showed me about Amos,
and I think Amos is already good
about showing what he wants
and likes.”

Bonita looks sad and says, “I
know he’ll be OK.”

Maria looks at her warmly and
answers, “We’ll talk when you
come back, and I’ll tell you what
I saw and did, and you can tell
me more about Amos. You can
call and check on him if you’d
like. We’ll be thinking about you,
Amos and I.”



er 1

stories about children’s activities at home and
in care. When concerns do arise, the existing
relationship provides a natural transition for
conversing about them. The family member
and the teacher know each other and have
already developed some trust.

Cultural Perspectives on
Nurturing Young Children

Williams and De Gaetano (1985) de-
scribe culture as a way of life of a group of
people, including shared views of the world
and social realities, values and beliefs, roles
and relationships, and patterns or standards
of behavior. Through culture children gain a
sense of identity, a feeling of belonging, and
beliefs about what is important in life, what is
right and wrong, how to care for themselves
and others, and what to celebrate, eat, and
wear. When children are raised only in their
home culture, they learn those lessons almost
effortlessly. When they spend some of their
formative years in child care with people who
were not raised in their culture and who do not
necessarily share the same family and com-
munity values, the learning of those important
early lessons becomes more complex.

A person’s approach to nurturing infants
and toddlers reflects one’s values. Certain
values that are familiar may be experienced as
“natural,” whereas other values are considered
“different.” For example, the early childhood
profession in the United States has historically
emphasized that young children be set on a
path toward independence and encouraged to
care for themselves as early as possible. The
common practice of encouraging older babies
to feed themselves reflects the profession’s
emphasis on independence. Recently, how-
ever, an increasing number of early childhood
professionals are recognizing the diversity of
perspectives on independence. Many families
whose children attend child care programs
value interdependence more than indepen-
dence. This value can be observed in the ways
children are taught to help one another and to
respect the needs of others (such as staying at
the table until everyone is finished). Early care
and education programs have begun to modify
program practices and policies to weave the
concept of interdependence as well as the con-
cept of independence into the fabric of care.

Sometimes, differences of opinion surface
between the infant care program and a family
about how to care for children. Addressing
these differences often provides opportunities
for teachers to learn and grow together with
families. Teachers need to initiate conversa-
tions with the family to find out the family
members’ thoughts about caring for the child.
The family’s perspectives and values may or
may not reflect the cultural communities in
which the family participates. Even when a
family belongs to the same cultural communi-
ty as the teacher, the teacher’s perspective may
differ from the family’s, as each person inter-
prets cultural rules and expectations differ-
ently. In a family child care home, the culture
of the provider’s family is strongly represented
in various ways, such as its communication
styles, artwork, child-rearing practices, and
music. Home settings present an opportunity
for providers to initiate discussions with fam-
ily members about one another’s cultures,
values, and beliefs.

Open, respectful communication helps the
teacher bridge children’s experiences in the


program with their experiences at home. When
a teacher becomes aware of different beliefs,
values, practices, or communication styles,
open and respectful communication with the
family is especially important. This type of
communication means being thoughtful and
willing to share one’s own beliefs and values
without imposing them on the family. It also
means learning from family members what
their beliefs and values are without judging
them. Through conversations with the family,
the teacher may discover ways she can adapt
her practices so that the child’s experiences in
the infant/toddler setting closely connect with
his experiences at home.

Every relationship in an infant/toddler pro-

gram affects the well-being and development
of the child. Teachers who understand the
fundamental importance of the family–child
relationship place a high priority on building a
positive, reciprocal relationship with the fam-

ily. They know that only the
family can provide information
on the child’s unique relation-
ship experiences at home.

Open, two-way commu-
nication between teachers and
families enables them to learn
from one another and to gain
insights into how to facilitate
the individual child’s learn-
ing and development. Recent
child development research, as
described in the next chapter,
sketches a picture of infants
and toddlers as motivated
learners who actively seek
relationships with adults. The
usefulness of insights from this
research is greatly enhanced by
information from the family,
for it completes the picture of
the individual child.

Resolving a Difference

In one infant/toddler center,
babies would arrive with amu-
lets and medicine bags hanging
around their necks for health
reasons. The center staff members
decided to remove those items
while the babies were at the
center so the babies would not
strangle. The staff members did
not think the amulets served a
purpose, anyway, but the par-
ents felt strongly that they must
remain on the babies all through
the day. Finally, after much
discussion, the parents and staff
members managed to hear each
other. Instead of forbidding the
babies to arrive with little bags
around their necks, they found
ways to attach the bags to the
babies’ clothes so the bags would
not present a potential strangling
hazard and the babies could still
have their preventive or curative
amulets with them.








This section presents two sets of guidelines: one for administering programs and one for facilitating early learning and development. Chapter 5, “Guidelines for Operating Infant/
Toddler Programs,” applies to the entire program, providing relationship-based care and orga

nizing the early care and education environment. The guidelines in Chapter


provide a sound
basis for high-quality care and education. Addressing all policies and practices in Chapter 5 is
necessary for effectively implementing the guidelines in Chapter 6. The second set of guidelines,
Chapter 6, “Guidelines for Facilitating Learning and Development with Infants and Toddlers,”
focuses on particular domains or areas of infant/toddler development and also describes a curricu-
lum process for infant care teachers.

Each guideline includes a rationale and suggested practices to help programs and teachers
to attain the guideline. Every infant/toddler center and family child care home will have unique
ways of achieving guidelines. The practices provide a starting place to help programs find ways
to work toward each guideline. They are presented in categories so that recommendations on spe-
cific topics can be easily found. Many program leaders will recognize practices that they already
have in place to provide high-quality care for infants and toddlers. Teachers and program leaders
will be able to go beyond these recommendations as they use this publication to guide program

The guidelines set forth in this publication relate to the California Department of Education’s
(CDE’s) Desired Results system. Many guidelines in chapters 5 and 6 contribute to the attainment
of all six of the CDE’s Desired Results. Some guidelines, particularly those in Chapter 6, focus
only on learning and development Desired Results. Additional detailed information on these con-
nections appears in the chart in Appendix C, which maps the links between guidelines and the
Desired Results Developmental Profile-Revised.

All the guidelines together are intended to guide practitioners in the field toward continu-
ous quality improvement that will support the complementary goals of high-quality care and the
Desired Results system.

Part Two: The Guidelines



“The . . . environment must be a space that welcomes

the individual and the group, the action and the reflection. . . .

[A]n infant toddler center is first of all a relational system where the

children and the adults not only are formally initiated into an organiza-

tion, a form of our culture, but also have the possibility to create culture.

The creative act is much more possible when educational creativity

involves not only the children, not only the teachers, but also the

parents and the entire society around the children.”

—C. Rinaldi, Bambini: The Italian Approach to Infant/Toddler Care



Guidelines for Operating
Infant/Toddler Programs







This section offers guidelines to program
leaders and infant care teachers, including
family child care providers,1 as they create
programs with families that support the learn-
ing and development of infants and toddlers
in group-care settings. These guidelines rest
upon the concepts presented in Part One. The
development of family-oriented programs
described in Chapter 1, the four insights into
learning and development found in Chapter
2, and the roles of the infant care teacher and
the program leader described in chapters 3
and 4 are represented throughout Chapter 5.
This comprehensive perspective is essential.
Every aspect of an early care and education
program and everyone involved (infant care
teachers, program leaders, family members,
other children, and, when applicable, special-
ists) contribute to each child’s learning and

This chapter focuses on the following

1. Families
2. Relationships
3. Health and safety
4. Environment
5. Programs
6. Teachers

1 These guidelines refer to family child care homes as
programs and to family child care providers as teachers and
program leaders. Any staff members who regularly interact with
children are considered teachers as well.

Research and practice have demon-
strated that following these guidelines leads
to high-quality early care and education for
infants, toddlers, and their families. By provid-
ing high-quality services, programs seek to
achieve the CDE’s Desired Results for Chil-
dren and Families. The guidelines in Chapter 5
also provide an essential base for the learning
and development guidelines in Chapter 6.

Section 1

Providing family-
oriented programs

Infant care teachers and program leaders
create, together with families, relationships
that foster the development and well-being of
the child. To work effectively with families,
teachers and program leaders must be aware
of their own values and beliefs and must learn
about those of the families they serve. This
awareness is essential for clear communication
and the development of positive relationships
among program leaders, teachers, children,
and their families.


Programs and teachers support the
relationship between the family and
the child as the primary relationship in
a child’s life.

The family is central in a child’s life, for it
is what the child knows. The child learns about
himself and the world through experiences
with his family. Families come in all forms
and sizes. A single father may be the sole
adult family member for his children. Another
family may have several adult relatives, such
as grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins,
who are involved in raising a child. In this
publication, family member is used to define
the people who are primarily responsible for
a child, including extended family members,
teen parents, or foster families. Programs sup-
port the growth of the child within the context
of the family by creating continuity between
the home and the early care and education
setting. Programs are responsible for learning

about the child’s home life through com-
munication with family members and, when
possible, home visits. As part of this process,
programs will learn to work with diverse
family structures, including those headed by
grandparents, foster families, and teen parents.
An essential aspect of high-quality programs
is finding ways to support the growing rela-
tionship between the child and the family and
adapting to the strengths and needs of each

2 child–family relationship.

• Develop a written statement of philosophy

or a handbook for families that empha-
sizes the importance of connecting the
infant’s experience at home with the early
care and education setting.

• Let family members know that the pro-

gram places priority on supporting the
relationship between the family and the

• Share and discuss the written statement
of philosophy with family members and
adapt policies as needed in response to
each family.

2 The activities listed under “Programs” are carried out by
the program leader working with teachers, other staff, and fam-
ily members.



• Include the child and

family members in the
primary caregiving rela-
tionship (particularly in
settings where families
participate in the care of
their children, such as
programs serving teen

• Make sure the presence
of family members can
be sensed by the child
even when they are ab-
sent (such as by posting
family photos or talking
about family members).

• Offer family members

frequent opportunities to
explain how care is provided at home and
to discuss their preferences so that they
may be incorporated into care.

• Make time for informal and planned one-
to-one meetings with family members as


Programs and teachers are responsive
to cultural and linguistic diversity.

From the moment families enter a fam-
ily child care home or a child care center,
they encounter culture in many ways. The
noise level, voice tones, the language used,
the colors, smells from the kitchen, and the
ways in which children interact with adults
and one another reflect the cultures of the
families, teachers, and staff in the program.
Program leaders and teachers need to convey
to families through written, oral, and nonver-
bal communication that cultural and linguistic
differences are honored and valued. Infant
care teachers should work with families to cre-
ate continuity between home and child care to
help children feel comfortable and safe in the
group-care setting.

Honoring diversity strengthens relation-
ships with families and children, thereby
enhancing the quality of care and education

Guidelines in this section link to
the following Desired Results:

• Dr 5. Families support their
children’s learning and devel-

• Dr 6. Families achieve their

children learn about themselves,
others, and the world around
them through their families.
When teachers and family mem-
bers communicate openly and
regularly about each child, they
can find ways to link the child’s
experience at home with her
experience in the infant/toddler
setting. The predictability that
these linkages create for the child
help her feel safe, loved, and
understood in the program.



for infants and toddlers. When a child’s home
language differs from the language spoken
most frequently in the program, teachers and
families must work together to find ways to
help the child feel comfortable and communi-
cate his interests and needs in the group-care

The structure of families also varies
tremendously from family to family. For
instance, a teen parent may reside with her
parents, and the grandparents may be deeply
involved in raising their grandchild and in
participating in conferences with teachers
and other program-related events. Acknowl-
edging and respecting diversity among fami-
lies gives an inclusive message and encour-
ages families to participate in the program. A
key way to acknowledge and respect diverse
family structures is to provide intake forms
that have additional space for the names of
family members other than the child’s mother
and father to indicate their involvement with
the child.

• State in the philosophy statement or

handbook the importance of connecting
a child’s cultural or linguistic experience
at home with the early care and education

• Develop outreach efforts to achieve repre-
sentative staffing (culture, language, race
and ethnicity, gender) at all staffing levels
within the program.

• Hire infant care teachers who are repre-
sentative of the children’s cultural and
linguistic communities.

• Encourage volunteers from the children’s
cultural and linguistic communities to
participate in program activities.

• Invite extended family members to partici-

pate in program events.
• Provide program information and an-

nouncements in the home languages of the

• Provide an interpreter or someone rep-
resentative of the family’s culture, when
necessary, to help in communication with
the family.

• Initiate discussions with families about
cultural preferences and practices and how
these preferences may be incorporated into
daily care and routines.

• Support a family’s cultural style and

respond positively to a child’s expres-
sions of cultural identity (for instance, a
child may hug or kiss his father rather than
wave “bye-bye”).

• Reflect in interactions, play materials,
family photos, room decorations, and cel-
ebrations the various backgrounds of the
children in the program as well as other
racial and ethnic groups in the community.

• Value the role of culture and home lan-
guage in child-rearing practices and
discuss their influence with families and
other staff members.

• Speak a child’s home language frequently

or, if not fluent, learn simple, essential
phrases of a child’s home language and
use them in daily communication with the

• Discuss with family members, on a regular
basis, their children’s care routines and
other preferences and use this information
to create continuity between home and the


• Acknowledge any tension that may arise
over differing cultural practices and work
with families to resolve or manage it.

Reflective Practice
• Find out if family members have similar

or different assumptions about child-rear-
ing practices.

• Participate in professional development
activities that build awareness of one’s
own cultural beliefs and values about how
children learn and develop and how best
to nurture and teach them.

• Seek guidance from other professionals to
support both other teachers and families
when needed.

• Discuss culture and diversity issues with
other care and education professionals in
local networks or associations, particu-
larly when working independently as a
family child care provider.


Programs and teachers build relation-
ships with families.

Programs convey an important message
to families when they seek their views and
collaborate with them in the care of their
children. This message helps family members
understand that their preferences and their
concerns about the learning and development
of their child are important to teachers and
program leaders. When a teacher has open,
honest, and understanding relationships with
family members, the resulting links between
the home and the early care and education
setting often help their infant feel safe and

• Support the participation of all family

members, being responsive to their cul-
tural, linguistic, and economic differenc-
es, as well to as any disabilities or special
needs of the children or a family member.

• Involve family members in making deci-
sions about the program and its policies.



• Recognize and acknowledge that teen par-
ents are still adolescents developmentally
even though they are in an adult role as

• Provide a way for families to give feed-
back to the program, such as regular
evaluations or opportunities for informal

• Schedule regular meetings, social times,
and other special events for families so
that they can learn more about the pro-
gram, get to know each other and staff
members, and build a sense of community.

• Seek and consider families’ views when

identifying and hiring new staff members.
• Create an area for posting information for

families (daily notices, outside services,
child development information, commu-
nity events, and job and education oppor-

• Encourage communication between teach-
ers and family members at the beginning
and end of each day.

• Share a child’s records with his or her

family, including assessment information
on the child’s learning, experiences, and
developmental progress.

• Learn about the different families in the

• Engage in a two-way exchange of ideas,

preferences, and child-rearing philoso-
phies during the first meetings with family
members, setting the tone for future com-

• Listen, reflect, and respond when family
members communicate concerns and ideas
about their child.

• Initiate discussions with families to under-
stand and resolve issues when they arise.

Culturally Sensitive Care—
A Way to Build Relationships
with Families

“Acknowledge, Ask, and Adapt

By putting into practice the
following steps for culturally
responsive caregiving, you will
gain the information you need to
support appropriately the growth
of all the children in your care.

Step 1: Acknowledge
The first step is a step of recogni-
tion in which you use your grow-
ing awareness of the existence
of different cultural assumptions
about infant and toddler devel-
opment. a willingness to be open
with yourself is essential to the
success of this step.

• Engage in communication with family
members at the beginning and end of each
day about the child’s care, activities, inter-
ests, and moods.

• Communicate to family members that
they are always welcome to visit or call to
check on their child.

Reflective Practice
Explore in discussions with family mem-

bers both families’ and teachers’ assumptions
about young children and how they learn.

Step 2: Ask
The second step is an informa-
tion-gathering step. The goal is
to get the information you need
about the parents’ and your cul-
tural beliefs and values so
that you can solve the problem
together during the third step.
Do not rush the second step.

Step 3: Adapt
In this last problem-solving step,
you use the information gathered
in step two to resolve conflicts
caused by cultural differences
and find the most effective way
to support each child’s growth.”

—L. Derman-sparks, “Develop-
ing culturally responsive care-
giving Practices: acknowledge,
ask, and adapt,” in Infant/Tod-
dler Caregiving: A Guide to
Culturally Sensitive Care



Section 2

Providing relationship-
based care

Guidelines in this section link to the fol-
lowing Desired Results:

• DR 1. Children are personally and socially

• DR 2. Children are effective learners.
The development of infants and toddlers

is enhanced when they have close, positive
relationships. When programs implement the
six policies and practices described in Chapter
4— responsive care, primary caregiving, small
groups, culturally sensitive care, inclusive
care, and continuity of care—the stage is set
for children to develop positive and secure
relationships with teachers. When a teacher
is together with a small group of infants for
a period of time, they have an opportunity to
grow and learn together. Because the children
stay together in a small group, they know
one another intimately and are able to read
cues, communicate, and predict each other’s
responses, which, in turn, creates a sense of
safety and trust among the children. Because
of his intimate experience with the group, a
teacher can observe and anticipate the inter-

ests of each child. In addition, when a teacher
works with the same family over several years,
the probability of better communication and
collaboration grows. Collaboration with fami-
lies is especially crucial for teachers who care
for infants with disabilities or other special


Programs and teachers provide
intimate, relationship-based care
for infants and toddlers.

Close, secure relationships support the
development of a positive sense of self and
provide the emotional and physical environ-
ment a child needs to explore and learn. In an
intimate setting the teacher is able to appreci-
ate and be responsive to each child’s rhythms,
temperament, interests, and needs, which sup-
ports the inclusion of all children. The policies
of primary care, small groups, and continuity
of care lay the groundwork for an intimate set-
ting. Small family child care homes with one
teacher have these relationship-based policies
built into the program structure, which is a
great benefit of this type of setting. However,
like centers, both large and small family child
care programs that employ staff need to follow




Highlight on Relationships

child care as an important ex-
perience for very young children
cannot be separated from our
continued attempts to appreci-
ate and understand relationships
in general. child care must be
thought about and seen as occur-
ring in a context of other rela-
tionships and as containing rela-
tionships. When “relationship” is
highlighted as the true issue for
children, families, and teachers,
then the understanding of what
child care is shifts. When rela-
tionships are recognized as the
major issue, then true changes in
the quality of care can happen.

—adapted from J. Pawl, “Infants
in Day care: reflections on
experiences, expectations and
relationships,” Zero to Three

the policies of primary care,
small groups, and continu-
ity to ensure that the teachers
and children have time and
space for their relationships
to develop. For all programs
the policies of responsive
care and education, culturally
sensitive care and education,
and inclusion of all children
and families are essential
components of relationship-
based care.

• Limit the size of groups

so that teachers can pro-
vide close, caring rela-
tionships and easily adapt
to individual children’s
strengths, abilities, inter-
ests, and needs.

• Provide staff members
with professional devel-

opment opportunities to increase their un-
derstanding of development and to support
the implementation of continuity of care.

• Create policies and practices that ease
transitions between the home and the
infant/toddler setting as well as between
settings when a child attends more than
one program.

The program should have a “warming-

in” process that allows the child and family
members to get to know the teachers and the
program gradually and allows teachers to
learn about the child and family members by
observing them together.

• Interact with infants in predictable ways.
• Follow a daily sequence of events so that

infants can anticipate what is coming next.
• Maintain adult-to-child ratios that provide

opportunities for one-to-one attention with
each child throughout the day.

• Accommodate differing developmental
levels and ages by adapting the environ-
ment and play materials as necessary.

Group Context
• Care for children in small groups in their

own space separate from other small

• Provide primary caregiving.
• Work as a team member with another

primary caregiver or caregivers.
• Provide continuity of care in either same-

age or mixed-age groups.
• Help children get to know a new teacher

and build a trusting relationship with her if
their current caregiver leaves the program.

• Help children and families who are new
to the program and entering an established
group get to know the other children and

• Communicate with family members about

their child each day.


Programs and teachers ensure that all
children have a sense of belonging.

For infants and toddlers to thrive in a
group setting, a sense of belonging is essential.
Belonging means full, unconditional member-
ship in a group. An important part of belong-
ing is a feeling that one’s style and beliefs are
respected and valued. All children have the
right to be accepted and included for who they

are. Children with disabilities or other special
needs who are following a different develop-
mental path benefit from a sense of belonging
as much as any other child does. Belong-
ing—feeling comfortable and connected to the
early care and education setting and growing
together with a small group of children—ben-
efits everyone.

• Comply with the Americans with Disabili-

ties Act and care for children with disabili-
ties or other special needs.

• Ensure that program materials—includ-
ing handbooks, outreach information, and
brochures—make it clear that families and
children of all cultural backgrounds, home
languages, and abilities are welcome in the

• Recruit and enroll children from diverse
backgrounds and with diverse abilities.

• Include information in program materials
for families about working with special-
ists who regularly visit to support children
with disabilities or other special needs.

• Provide appropriate support, accommoda-

tions, or adaptations so that every child
may participate fully in the program.

• Celebrate and enjoy each
child for the unique indi-
vidual he or she is.

• Acknowledge and sup-
port a child’s emerging

• Provide information to

staff members about
working closely with
specialists who may be
involved with a child or

• Provide opportunities for
communication among
the child’s primary
caregiver, other teachers,
family members, and any
specialists working with
a child or family.

• Facilitate child-to-child

interaction within the
group and help children
develop relationships
with each other.

• Facilitate visits by
specialists who support



“If I were the infant, would I like
to be here?

Does the environment allow me
to be able to do everything that I
naturally would do?

are there opportunities for me
to anticipate what will happen

Is there a large enough and abso-
lutely safe space in which I can
move freely?

Is there a selection of safe and
appropriate objects from which I
can choose?

am I given time to play without

can I do what is expected of me?

If I cry, do I know the person
who will respond?

If I am tired, do I have a peaceful
place to sleep?

Does my caregiver observe
closely in order to understand
my needs?

am I given time to work out my
own conflicts as much as pos-

Does my caregiver give me full
attention while caring for me?

Will my caregiver stay with me
when I am a toddler?

are my parents welcome to visit
me at any time?”

—M. Gerber and others, Dear
Parent: Caring for Infants with



gram Guidelines

Learning During Personal Care

Learning during personal care
routines does not mean that
you have to sing aBcs or count
with a child. The learning that
happens relates directly to the
routine. a child may learn that
her teacher is in a hurry or that
she has to sit on the toilet or eat
when the teacher tells her to,
rather than when she feels the
need. On the other hand, a child
may learn that his participation
matters, that he is an active part-
ner in his own care, and that his
teacher likes it when he initiates
the process by pulling her by the
hand to the cubby for a diaper.

—expert Panel, Infant/Toddler
Learning and Development Pro-

individual children with
disabilities or other special

• Adapt to children’s ap-

proaches to learning and
interacting with people.

• Celebrate and enjoy each
child for the unique indi-
vidual she or he is.

• Work with families, other
teachers, and specialists to
create a plan for inclusion.

• Use information from
specialists such as disabil-
ity or mental health experts
in providing service to all
children, when applicable.

Reflective Practice
• Participate in professional

conferences or activities to
learn about working with

children from diverse backgrounds or with
disabilities or other special needs.

• Communicate with families, other teach-
ers, and specialists about successes and
challenges, observations, and reflections
related to working with individual chil-


Programs and teachers personalize
care routines for infants and toddlers.

This guideline directly links to the follow-
ing Desired Result:

• DR 4. Children are safe and healthy.
Personalized care begins with the relation-

ships that a program and families build togeth-
er. The family is the best source of informa-
tion on how to care for the child and provide
continuity between the home and the program.
Personal care routines such as diapering,
dressing, feeding and eating, or administering
medication involve personal contact with the
child. These times during the day provide a
chance for the infant care teacher and the child
to connect with each other one-to-one. Each

personal care routine provides an opportunity
for a cooperative, communicative interaction.
The teacher gains insight into the pace and
abilities of the individual child as they work
together to accomplish a task. The essence of
personalized care is that a child receives the
message that she is important, that her needs
will be met, and that her choices, preferences,
and interests will be respected. Following a
child’s unique rhythms and style promotes
development of a positive sense of self and
well-being and supports the child’s growing
ability to self-regulate.

• Recognize personal care routines as key

times during the day for emotional con-
nections between children and teachers.

• Communicate to family members the

importance of caregiving routines for
teachers to develop and maintain relation-
ships with each child in the group.

Group Context
• Support teachers as they organize daily

caregiving routines that are adapted to
each child.

• Support teachers as they strive for bal-
ance between the care of the individual
child and the smooth functioning of the

• Support flexibility and collaboration
among teachers so that other children in
the group are attended to whenever their
primary caregiver is occupied in caregiv-
ing routines with individual children.

• Approach personal care routines as op-

portunities for warm, cooperative interac-
tions and communication.

• Understand and incorporate family pref-
erences into personal care routines.

• Encourage children’s participation in
caregiving routines.

• Organize in advance the equipment and
supplies needed for routines so that full
attention can be given to the child.

• Develop routines into rich, enjoyable

experiences for each child.
• Follow individual mealtime and napping

routines for children until they indicate
that they would like to participate with
others in the group.

• Follow individual diapering and toileting
schedules for all children.

• Conduct routines in a predictable manner
to allow the child to anticipate and coop-
erate during routines, but remain flexible
and sensitive to changes in the child’s
mood or attentiveness.

• Minimize interrupting children to carry

out personal care routines.
• Let children know in advance and assure

them that, when an interruption is neces-
sary, they can go back to what they were
doing as soon as the routine is finished.

• Provide families with a record of their
child’s routines and activities for the day.

Section 3

Ensuring health and safety
Guidelines in this section link to the fol-

lowing Desired Result:
• DR 4. Children are safe and healthy.

Many teachers, including family child care
providers, and program leaders have children
of their own. They understand the act of trust
that families show when they share the care
of their child with others. Infants

and toddlers

are amazingly competent, but they still need
adults to protect their health and well-being.
Children also need to be safe in the relation-
ships and the environments in which that
competency develops.

Attending to emotional health and safety
is as important for infants’ well-being as is en-
suring their physical health and safety. When
children feel safe and loved, they can focus on
the experiences around them that engage their
curiosity and foster learning.






Programs and teachers promote the
physical health of all children.

Health is an important issue in all settings
where children spend time and is especially
critical in programs that care for groups of
infants and toddlers. During the first months
and years of life, children are particularly
vulnerable to infectious disease, so proper
hygiene and cleanliness are crucial to pre-
vent the spread of illness. Low adult-to-child
ratios and group sizes also play an important
role in maintaining young children’s health.
For example, the risk of repeated ear infec-
tions increases in one- to six-year-old children
who are cared for in groups of more than six
children (Hardy and Fowler 1993). Research
suggests that a ratio of fewer children per adult
reduces the transmission of disease because
caregivers are better able to monitor and
promote healthy practices and behaviors (Who
Cares for America’s Children 1990).

• Meet or exceed all required standards

pertaining to health and nutrition.
• Maintain and update appropriate health

policies and practices as well as health
records and emergency contacts for all

• Establish policies and procedures to ad-
minister medications reliably, safely, and
in accordance with child care licensing

• Maintain high standards for cleanliness;
for example, by emphasizing frequent
hand-washing and washing and sanitizing
of play materials, equipment, and sur-

• Seek community and financial support for
health and safety improvements.

• Communicate with family members when

children have been exposed to reportable
communicable diseases or infestations
such as chicken pox or head lice.

• Provide updates for staff members on cur-
rent health issues and practices.

• Establish a relationship with a health care
provider who can advise on good health
and safety practices and who is sensitive
to the cultural perspectives represented in
the program.

• Maintain confidentiality when gathering
information and communicating about the
health of children.

• Make preparations for serving children

with special health needs.
• Install classroom sinks and toilets, in cen-

ters, that children can use easily and that
are convenient for teachers to supervise.

• Ensure that counters and sinks for food
preparation are separate from and not
used for diapering or toileting activities.

• Establish and follow procedures for main-

taining good hygiene, especially during
diapering and food preparation.

• Incorporate hand-washing and other
hygienic activities into routines so that
children can begin to learn healthy and
safe habits early.

• Place infants in cribs on their backs when
they are under six months of age or can-
not easily turn over on their own, to lower

the risk of sudden infant death syndrome
(SIDS), and communicate with families
about this practice.

• Clean, maintain, and disinfect floors, sur-

faces, and all play materials regularly.
• Choose nontoxic cleaning supplies and

classroom materials.
• Provide ventilation to ensure rooms have

fresh, clean air.


Programs and teachers ensure the
safety of all children.

Because infants and toddlers are com-
petent and constantly on the move, program
leaders and teachers must prepare the environ-
ment so that it is safe as well as interesting for
children to explore. Programs must pay special
attention to safety in infant and toddler pro-

grams because very young children are gain-
ing new skills rapidly and they are continually
testing their new abilities. Making safety a
high priority helps family members to become
confident that the teachers will protect their
child in their absence and reinforces families’
awareness of safety at home.

• Maintain and update appropriate safety

policies and practices.
• Prepare for emergencies and practice

emergency procedures.
• Assign teachers to small groups of chil-

dren so that children are continually super-
vised by someone who knows them well
and can anticipate their behaviors.

• Ensure the program’s facilities and indoor

and outdoor play equipment meet or
exceed safety standards for infant/toddler


Best Practices for Best Practices for mend environmental adapta-
Preventing Disease Supporting Safety tions that will enhance the

To help in preventing disease,
early care and education pro-
grams should provide the follow-

1. Information on immuniza-
tion for all children and staff

2. Identification and protection
of children and staff members
who are at high risk if ex-
posed to infectious diseases

3. a systematic morning health
check of children and staff
members to exclude any
individual who has an acute,
contagious disease

4. strict hand-washing policies,
procedures, and training

5. routine environmental clean-

To support safe practices, early
care and education programs
should provide the following:

1. Written policies and proce-
dures relating to accident

2. Periodic training for staff
members on safety issues and
accident prevention

3. an emergency plan and poli-
cies, procedures, and training
to cover emergencies, such
as fire, earthquake, or other
natural disasters

4. an emergency care plan for
each child

5. a general transportation plan
and an emergency transporta-
tion plan

safety of all children, includ-
ing children with special
health care needs or disabili-

8. Periodic training regard-
ing signs and symptoms of
child abuse and neglect and
reporting procedures

9. an incident, accident, and
injury report form . . . for
an injury log with specific
information about the date
and time of each accident,
who was involved, what hap-
pened, who was notified, and
what follow-up measures and
steps were taken to prevent

—adapted from B. Presler,
california Institute on human

ing and sanitizing practices 6. staff members who are com- services, Health and Safety
6. strict universal precautions, petent to assess an injury and Considerations: Caring for Young

policies, procedures, and to provide basic first aid and Children with Exceptional Health
training cPr Care Needs

7. consultants who can recom-



• Check all play equipment and materials
frequently for safety and maintain and
repair as needed.

• Provide adequate space for children to
move without hurting themselves or oth-

• Develop relationships with local fire-

fighters, police, and other public safety
officials to gain support in preparing for
emergencies and to be assured of their as-
sistance when needed.

• Continually monitor children of all ages

to ensure they are safe even when they are

• Anticipate and prevent safety problems
(for example, remove toys from high-traf-
fic areas).

• Arrange caregiving, play, and sleeping ar-

eas so that children can be seen and heard
at all times.

• Ensure that children’s areas are safe for
exploration and free movement and are
easily supervised, both indoors and out-

• Select furnishings and play equipment
(such as slides or ramps) that are both ap-
propriately challenging and appropriately
sized for the children in the group.

• Explain simple safety rules to older tod-

dlers, helping them to understand and
follow them.


Programs and teachers ensure that
children are well nourished and that
mealtimes support relationships.

Children’s nutritional needs change as
they develop and grow. In some cases the
program provides meals; in others, family
members bring their child’s meals. Either way,
close communication with family members
about the child’s daily nourishment is neces-
sary to ensure a balanced diet for each child.
How meals are provided is also important.
Mealtimes can be wonderful opportunities for
teachers to nurture their relationships with the
children and also to support developing peer
relationships. Holding young infants during
feeding times offers teachers special one-on-
one time with the child. Once children are able
to sit in a chair while eating, they may start by


eating with one or two other children, eventu-
ally moving to a group setting. Eating together
in a pleasant environment contributes to a
sense of community, especially when meal-
times reflect the practices and preferences of
the families. Mealtimes offer opportunities for
teachers to support the development of health-
ful habits and attitudes toward food and help
to ensure that children receive the nutrition
they need to grow.

• Support teachers as they work to adapt

mealtimes to meet the individual needs of
infants and toddlers.

• If the program provides food, follow
recommended practices for well-balanced,
nutritious, and developmentally appropri-
ate meals that incorporate the food prefer-
ences of the children’s families.

• Provide teachers with training and re-
sources to incorporate nutrition education
into daily experiences with toddlers.

• Provide the equipment or staff training
necessary to enable children and adults
with disabilities or other special needs to
participate in mealtimes.

• Provide adequate space and facilities for

mealtimes for all age groups.
• Provide a comfortable and private place

for nursing mothers.
• Provide small tables and chairs for tod-

dlers and infants who are ready to use
them and comfortable chairs for adults
when bottle-feeding infants and for sitting
with children at the table.

• Invite family members who may wish to

join children at mealtimes.

• Establish and follow procedures for proper

preparation, handling, and storage of
mother’s milk, formula, and food.

• Provide individual mealtimes for infants
and toddlers until toddlers begin to show
interest in eating together in a small group.

• Hold infants on laps until infants are
ready to sit independently at a child-sized

• Model healthful eating habits in front of
the children.

• Use child-sized tables and chairs for

mealtimes. Avoid use of high chairs or
limit the use to mealtimes and ensure that
footrests are adjusted.

• Sit and talk with children during meals

(making sure everything needed for the
meal is nearby to avoid leaving the table

• Talk with families to learn from them
how to ensure consistent feeding practices
between home and care.

Programs and teachers promote chil-
dren’s mental health.

A child’s mental health is affected by
social and emotional experiences; in particu-
lar, the emotional responses the child receives
from other people. A child’s mental health
is inextricably linked to the mental health
of the family members who are her primary
attachment figures, whether they are parents,
grandparents, or others. From the child’s per-
spective, mental health is her sense of well-
being: Does she feel safe and comfortable?
Does she trust that her needs will be met?
Social–emotional development and a child’s
progress in increasing self-regulation depend
on the experience the child has in her personal

Programs that support infant mental
health as a health and safety issue provide
emotional as well as physical safety and secu-
rity for infants and toddlers. A collaborative
relationship with the family members helps
program staff to understand the values that
influence the family’s interactions, expecta-
tions, and beliefs. Social–emotional well-be-
ing is necessary for a child to be mentally
healthy. Infants and toddlers develop this
sense of well-being in settings that reflect a



clear understanding of the role that emotion-
ally responsive and nurturing care and educa-
tion play in a child’s life.

• Take steps to reduce staff turnover in the

program to encourage positive relation-
ships between infants and teachers and
among teachers.

• Emphasize the importance of helping each
child develop a sense of competence and

• Maintain contacts with mental health

professionals who can provide advice or
services when children, family members,
or staff members appear to be especially
sad, under stress, unpredictable, or short-
tempered over a period of time.

• Collect information on mental health ser-
vices and offer referrals to families or staff
members when appropriate.

• Observe and reflect upon children’s emo-

tional responses to the day’s experiences
and take these responses into consider-
ation in all planning processes.

• Guide and support children’s satisfying
relationships with adults and peers.

• Discuss with family members children’s

interactions and emotional responses.
• Use a positive tone when responding to

children’s actions or words.

Reflective Practice
• Recognize the emotional nature of early

care and education, taking time to reflect
on one’s own emotional responses (both
positive and negative) to particular chil-
dren, interactions, or events.

• Take a break or talk with a supervisor or
colleague, when needed, to avoid immedi-
ately acting on difficult feelings.

• Seek help when experiencing mental
health problems, such as depression or



• Recognize cultural differences in under-
standing mentally healthy behavior.


Programs and teachers protect all chil-
dren from abuse and neglect.

To protect children and prevent abuse and
neglect, programs can offer support to families
to help lessen the stress they may be experi-
encing. A positive relationship with the family
opens the door for providing assistance. This
support can come in the form of conversa-
tions, referrals to services, or information on
education or job opportunities. In addition,
program leaders can foster an environment in
which teachers feel comfortable engaging in
confidential discussions with designated staff
members about concerns for a child and, as
appropriate, with the child’s family members.
Program leaders and staff members must also
understand and comply with requirements for
reporting child abuse and neglect.

• Develop program policies and practices to

cover reporting (such as steps to take and
with whom to communicate).

• Ensure that all staff members fully under-
stand and comply with mandated reporting

• Seek the help of other professionals when

• Provide information to families on local

services, physical and mental health care
providers, and local job or education op-

• Inform families of mandated requirements
for reporting child abuse and neglect.

Reflective Practice
• Provide support to staff members who

may experience stress associated with
providing care for children whose behav-
iors may be erratic or difficult to handle
because of abuse, neglect, or other trauma.

• Make sure that all teachers and other
program staff members develop an under-

standing of the difference
between culturally dis-
tinct styles of caregiving,
which may make a person
feel uncomfortable, and
abuse or neglect, which
requires intervention.

• Observe each child care-

fully, noting clusters of
behaviors or other signs
that may indicate abuse or

• Understand and follow
the state’s mandated
reporting requirements.

• Offer to talk with families

about stress they may be
experiencing; provide
support and information
or refer them to local
resources when appro-pri-


A Child’s Sense of Self

“In effect, as parents we can
allow our child in child care to
miss us, but she should not miss
herself. her sense of herself, and
of herself in relation to others,
should not be damaged. That
is the major loss in being sepa-
rated from a good and adequate
parent. separation itself may
be painful in many ways, but
it pales in comparison with
the child’s loss of an effective,
competent, well-loved self or a
socially competent self who can
relate and be related to. There
must be relating partners who
much of the time respond to a
child as he is and in terms of his
needs. There must be a sensi-
tive, caregiving relationship, not
mechanical caretaking.”

—J. Pawl, “Infants in child care:
reflections on experiences,
expectations and relationships,”
Zero to Three



Section 4


The space available to children and teach-
ers plays an important role in the develop-
ment of relationships within the program.
In addition, a well-planned environment
provides infants and toddlers with a space
in which they can safely explore and learn.
In both family child care homes and centers,
the arrangement of space affects whether two
children will be able to quietly flip through
the pages of a book together or whether a
child will be able to focus on the experiences
that interest him.

Family child care homes are different
from centers since the space used for care and
education is usually also where the business
owner’s family lives (except where space is
dedicated to child care, such as a converted
garage). Family child care programs usually
provide mixed-age care more frequently than
centers do. The basic principles of high-qual-
ity environments apply to mixed-age groups
in a home setting but may be put into practice
in different ways. For instance, a couch may
double as climbing equipment, and a bathtub
may be a place to float boats in shallow water
under the teacher’s watchful eye.

The quality of the environment includes
both the physical arrangement of the space
and its emotional impact on children and
teachers. Small-group sizes and low adult-to-
child ratios contribute to a positive emotional
climate. (See Tables 1 and 2.) To take full

Creating and maintaining
environments for infants

and toddlers
Guidelines in this section link to the fol-
lowing Desired Results:
• DR 1. Children are personally and socially

• DR 2. Children are effective learners.
• DR 3. Children show physical and motor

• DR 4. Children are safe and healthy.

Table 1. Recommended Ratios for Same-Age Groups

Age (Months) Adult-to-Child Ratio Total Size of Groups
Minimum Square Feet

per Group

0–8 1:3 6 350
8–18 1:3 9 500

18–36 1:4 12 600

Table 2. Guidelines for Ratios in Mixed-Age Groups

Age (Months) Adult-to-Child Ratio Total Size of Groups
Minimum Square Feet
per Group

0–36 1:4a 8 600

Note: In both tables the last column is based on minimum standards of usable square footage per child. The
footage does not include entrances, hallways, cubbies, diapering, or napping areas.
aOf the four infants assigned to a caregiver, only two should be under twenty-four months of age (Together in
Care 1992).

advantage of a small-group size and a low
ratio, the environment must be well designed.
An appropriate amount of space that is sepa-
rate and sheltered from other groups enhances
the ability of teachers and a small group of
children to read one another’s cues, communi
cate, build trust, and develop positive, nurtur-
ing relationships.


Both indoor and outdoor spaces sup-
port the development of a small com-
munity of families, teachers, and in-
fants in which they build relationships
of care and trust.

Young children and their teachers learn
and thrive together in an indoor space that is
large enough for the group, has comfortable
furnishings for all children and adults, and
allows an individual child or a small group
of children to engage in quiet, focused play.
These conditions increase the likelihood that
children and adults will enjoy the environment
together and that relationships and a sense of
community will grow.

Effective use of outdoor space is essential
for any program. When children can move
freely between indoors and outdoors, their
choices for exploration and learning are ex-
panded. Even young infants benefit from being



outdoors. Natural light, fresh
air, and the sights and sounds
of the outdoors contribute to
good health, enjoyment, and
togetherness for both children
and adults.

• Design the space with suf-

ficient square footage per
child to meet the needs of
a small group of children.
(See Tables 1 and 2.)

• Arrange the space so that
family members feel wel-
comed and comfortable
when they spend time at
the program.

• Provide open space that
can be rearranged to
suit the current abilities,
interests, and needs of the
children to move freely.

• Create small, easily su-
pervised play areas where infants can play
alone or in groups of two to three without
undue distraction from the sights and
sounds of others.

• Design areas for care routines so that
equipment and necessary supplies are
conveniently located.

Group Size as a Health and
Safety Issue

research clearly demonstrates
the importance of maintaining
appropriate teacher-to-child
ratios and group sizes. Teacher-
to-child ratios and group sizes
are two of the most frequent
indicators of an infant/toddler
program’s overall quality and
significantly affect many health
and safety issues. smaller group
size is associated with a de-
creased risk of infection in group
settings. The risk of illness in
children between the ages of one
and three years increases as the
group size increases to four or
more; whereas children in groups
of three or fewer have no greater
risk of illness than children cared
for at home (Bartlett, Orton, and
Turner 1986; Bell and others


• Arrange furnishings and equipment so that

adults can comfortably observe, supervise,
and interact with infants.

• Include furnishings and display art and
photos that reflect the home environments
of the families in the program (such as
wall hangings, hammocks, baskets, and
pictures of family members).


The environment is safe and comfort-
able for all children, teachers, and fam-
ily members.

Infants and toddlers spend many hours
in care and education settings. The setting


for them should become a home away from
home. For teachers, other staff members, and
children’s family members, the family child
care home or infant/toddler center should be-
come a place of community and togetherness.
Providing comfortable furnishings where
teachers and children can relax together and
creating an atmosphere that conveys both
emotional and physical safety are essential
for this type of setting. Program leaders need
to keep in mind that what is comforting for
one person may not be for another, and these
differences tend to be deeply personal. For
instance, a teacher may enjoy soft classical
music in the background during routines,
while some family members would prefer
something a little more lively. When differ-
ences arise, two-way open conversations can
lead the way to solutions. A comfortable and
safe environment that everyone can enjoy
contributes greatly to the quality of an infant/
toddler program.

• Ensure that areas and furnishings in the

environment support full participation of
all children and adults in the program, in-
cluding persons with disabilities or other
special needs.

• Provide a staff lounge, in centers, for
relaxation and storage of personal belong-
ings as well as for lunch and breaks.

• Provide a separate staff restroom, in cen-
ters, with adult-sized toilets and sinks.

• Play recorded music only when children
show interest in listening to and play-
ing with the music, not as a background

• Provide appropriately sized furniture and

equipment that offer safety and comfort to
children and adults.

• Provide equipment (such as a refrigerator,
microwave oven, stove) for staff members
to store and prepare meals.


• Provide several quiet, cozy areas that al-
low infants and adults to be together.

• Use light and color to create an effect that
is pleasing, calming, and inviting.

• Select surface materials that are easy to
clean and maintain and that support the
intended use of each area.

• Use fabric and other sound-absorbing
materials to reduce unwanted noise.


The environment is arranged and orga-
nized to support children’s free move-

Being able to move freely and spontane-
ously is essential for infants’ exploration and
discovery. When children are allowed to move
in every way they are able to, they do so and

change their positions frequently. They learn
about themselves and the environment through
movement and touch. Children are driven
to move and feel great joy in moving freely.
Children who are unable to move indepen-
dently or who need support to move also learn
from movement and exploration. Program
leaders should turn to family members and
specialists for guidance on appropriate ways to
make adaptations in the environment to sup-
port physical and motor competence.

• Provide ready access to the outdoors, with

the possibility for children to move freely
from indoors to outdoors.



Benefits of Well-Designed Envi- a healthy identity. and in appro- teachers to experience more ap-
ronments priately designed classrooms, the propriate interactions with chil-

children are given an opportunity dren. Both indoor and outdoor “The physical environment af-
to play both independently and spaces support the development fects children’s learning and de-
in small groups, and the teach- of a small community, within velopment in many ways. Well-
ers are supported in their role which a small group of families, designed environments support
as observers and facilitators of teachers, and infants build rela-exploration, give young children
children’s learning and develop- tionships of care and trust.” a sense of control, and enable
ment. children to engage in focused, —L. Torelli, “enhancing Develop-

self-directed play. . . . The physical environment affects ment Through classroom Design
a program’s ability to promote in early head start: Meeting the The physical environment also
best practices. It can become a Program Performance standards affects relationships. Well-de-
tool for both staff and program and Best Practices,” Children and signed environments evoke a
development. an appropriately Families sense of security, which is a pre-
designed environment helps requisite in the formation of


The Importance of Play

“as we observe infants, it almost
looks as if they are working
rather than playing: they are
fully involved, absorbed in what
they are doing. We don’t need to
invent exercises for them. They
learn to follow their instincts and
to trust their own judgment.

Infants accomplish mastery by
endless repetitions, continuing
the same activity over and over
again, long after adults may have
lost interest. When an infant
repeats an action many, many
times, he is not bored. rather,
he is learning thoroughly about
that action, making it a part of
himself and his world. When he
has learned it to his own satisfac-
tion, he will move on to another
new activity.

While playing, children work
through conflicts with objects,
other children, and adults. Play
provides an outlet for curiosity,
information about the physical
world, and a safe way to deal
with anxiety and social relation-
ships. In the long run, play serves
children’s inner needs, hopes,
and aspirations.”

—M. Gerber and others, Caring
for Infants with Respect


• Provide play spaces that
facilitate exploration and
free movement for infants
and toddlers, both indoors
and outdoors.

• Arrange the play space
to encourage exploration
while minimizing the
need for the teacher to
say no.

• Arrange for alternative
opportunities to move for
children who have physi-
cal challenges.

• Communicate with fam-

ily members and special-
ists involved with the
family about the proper
use of adaptive equip-
ment or alternative oppor-
tunities for movement for
a child with a disability
or other special needs.

• Avoid the use of restric-
tive equipment that limits
children’s free movement
and isolates them from
other children.

• Do not use walkers. In
addition to being unsafe,
they have been found to

interfere with the coordination of vi-
sual–motor skill development (Siegel and
Burton 1999).

• Use dividers to create safe, protected play

areas for infants who are not crawling or
walking, both indoors and outdoors.

• Arrange walkways so that foot traffic of
adults and children goes around, rather
than through, children’s play areas.


The environment is organized and
prepared to support children’s learning
interests and focused exploration.

For infants and toddlers, every aspect of
the world of people and things is interesting
and engaging. When they are in a well-orga-
nized environment with clear choices, they
easily find things that fascinate them and
concentrate on learning. However, when an
environment is disorganized or too stimulat-
ing, infants and toddlers may have difficulty
focusing on any particular aspect of the envi-
ronment. Programs and teachers must arrange
the environment so that infants and toddlers
can focus on the things that interest them. In
addition, arranging the space so that infants
are protected from the movement of older chil-
dren lets everyone explore with confidence.

Similarly, arranging play areas so that they are
well defined and protected from traffic patterns
lets toddlers play without interruption.

In family child care programs, areas are
often defined by how the family uses them.
For example, the kitchen is used for cooking
and eating, or the living room or family room
is arranged for the children’s exploration and
discovery. Areas for types of activity, such as
a quiet area or an active area, can be set up
within different rooms.

• Create clearly designated areas for person-

al care routines by using furnishings that
invite and support infants’ involvement.

• Provide easy access to toys and materials
by making them visible and available in
wide, sturdy, attractive containers on the
floor, low shelves, or elevated surfaces.

• Keep play areas inviting, organized, and
safe, noticing when an area needs to be
picked up (being careful not to interrupt
children’s play or take apart something on
which they are still working).

• Allow children ample time to play within
play areas without interrupting the play.

• Provide children with ample play materi-

als, giving the children interesting choices
without overwhelming them.

• Provide enough equipment and materials,
both indoors and outdoors, so that several
children can engage simultaneously in the
same activity.

• Offer toys and play materials found in the
children’s homes or communities.

• Create sheltered, quiet areas for explora-

tion of toys and materials (such as books,
puzzles, connecting and construction toys)
that require listening and concentration.

• Provide predictable play areas, where chil-
dren can reliably find familiar materials,
and modify the environment in response to
children’s emerging interests.





Section 5

Engaging in program
development and commitment

to continuous improvement

Guidelines in this section link to the fol-
lowing Desired Results:
• DR 1. Children are personally and socially
• DR 2. Children are effective learners.
• DR 3. Children show physical and motor

• DR 4. Children are safe and healthy.
• DR 5. Families support their children’s

learning and development.
• DR 6. Families achieve their goals.

Maintaining high-quality care and educa-
tion for infants and toddlers is a continually
evolving task. The program is always chang-
ing, taking in new children, new families, new
teachers, and new leaders. As a result, the
program needs to create a process of continu-
ous review and improvement. Program leaders
and teachers might ask the following relevant

• How are we responsive to the infants, tod-
dlers, and families we serve now?

• Where are the children in their develop-
ment at this time, and how can we cel-
ebrate that?

• How else might we gain feedback from
the families?

• How might we expand our resources and
work together with our changing commu-
Program development and improvement is

not a one-time occurrence—it is a part of the
climate that the program creates and main-

Family child care program leaders are in
a unique position to shape the quality of care
and education they provide. As small-business
owners, they carry the major responsibility for
improving the quality of their programs. By
soliciting and responding to feedback from
family members, mentors, and other teachers,
family child care program leaders can assess
how well their programs are serving children
and families. With this information they can
take steps to improve the quality of their
programs and create care and education that is
responsive to the community they serve.


Programs meet quality standards.

Programs are usually accountable for qual-
ity standards. Many programs (both child care
centers and family child care homes) must
meet requirements set by funding or regulatory
agencies, such as Community Care Licens-
ing in California. They may also be required

to document their effectiveness through a
set of measures such as those that make up
the CDE’s Desired Results for Children and
Families system. Frequently, programs on a
path of continuous improvement and program
excellence will choose another system of
accountability, such as accreditation through
the National Association for the Education
of Young Children (NAEYC) or the National
Association for Family Child Care (NAFCC).

The guidelines in this publication are not
as specific as program standards. Many of the
action points are similar to program stan-
dards, but the guidelines themselves present
a broad goal that can be achieved in different
ways based on the unique characteristics of
a particular program. The guidelines are in-
tended to be used in addition to program stan-
dards. Compliance with program standards
represents an important part of implementing
the guidelines set forth in this publication.

• Meet or exceed all applicable program

quality standards and regulations.
• Align program activities and assessments

with the Desired Results system.
• Engage in continuous improvement,

which may include becoming accredited
by the NAEYC or NAFCC.

• Ensure that there is coordination with

families and specialists for children who
have individualized family service plans.

• Consult with families about the results of
program evaluations.

• Discuss with families how to address
problems or issues that are identified in a
program evaluation.


Programs monitor the development of
individual infants and toddlers.

Monitoring each child is an important
way for programs to assess how well they are
supporting children’s learning and develop-
ment. In California the Desired Results De-



velopmental Profile-Revised
(DRDP-R) offers a carefully
designed assessment tool
for monitoring learning and
development. Observations
and assessments, combined
with information from fam-
ily members, allow program
leaders and teachers to adapt
care and education for the
children and families cur-
rently enrolled in a program.
The information on individual
children also helps teachers
and families consider whether
a child should be referred
for a formal assessment and
evaluation by a developmen-
tal or medical specialist.

• Gather information about

a child through discussion
with family members,
observation of the child
at different times, and
reflection and discussion
with other teachers.

• Involve family members
in the ongoing assessment

• Conduct regular developmental screen-
ings with each child, taking into account
any cultural or linguistic limitations of the
screening tool.

• Balance assessments across all the do-
mains of development, using assessment
tools such as the DRDP-R that reflect the
full breadth of infants’ and toddlers’ devel-

• Inform family members at the initial meet-

ing that the program regularly documents
children’s development.

• Celebrate and support development, giv-
ing children many opportunities to enjoy
the skills they are acquiring.

Reasons for Concern

“The child . . .

• By age three months, does
not coo or smile.

• By age six months, does not
babble to get attention.

• By age one, does not respond
differently to words such as
‘night night’ or ‘ball.’

• By age one, does not say
words to name people or
objects, such as ‘mama’ or
‘bottle,’ or shake head ‘no.’

• By age two, does not point to
or name objects or people to
express wants or needs.

• By age two, does not use
two-word phrases, such as
‘want juice’ or ‘mama go.’

• By age three, does not try to
say familiar rhymes or songs.

• By age three, cannot follow
simple directions.”

—From Reasons for Concern
That Your Child or a Child in
Your Care May Need Special
Help (2004) (see appendix e for
the entire text.)



• Use a daily log to record notable events
and to inform family members about the
child’s day as well as to record the child’s
feeding and eating, diapering or toileting,
and nap routines.

• Maintain for each child a confidential file

of all information required by licensing
and other agencies.

Developmental Screening
At times programs may use screening

tools. Programs and teachers need to un-
derstand what screening tools accomplish.
Screening reveals one of two things:

1. The child is within the typical range of
development at this time; or

2. The child needs further assessment.
Screening does not identify a definite de-

lay nor does it guarantee that the child will not
develop problems later.

Assessment and Evaluation
Assessment can be an informal process

accomplished by gathering information and
observation. Evaluation is generally a more
formal process. Formal assessment and evalu-
ation tools, such as the DRDP-R, must
be completed by appropriately trained and

qualified personnel. Assessment and evalua-
tion include the following purposes:

1. To determine eligibility for services
2. To obtain a diagnosis (may be medical or

3. To assist in program planning for the

4. Any combination of the above

(Brault 2003)


Programs engage in systematic

In high-quality programs leaders, families,
teachers, and staff members collaboratively
conduct ongoing reviews of program poli-
cies and practices in order to serve children
and families as responsively and effectively
as possible. Teachers and program leaders
reflect regularly on their work with children
and families. They use the insights they gain
from reflection to create opportunities to
expand children’s experiences, learning, and
development. Teachers communicate regularly
with families to encourage their participation
in the development of the care and education
program. Through this process families learn
that teachers and program leaders listen to and

value their ideas and incorporate their ideas in
program development. Including families in
collaborative self-assessment allows programs
to align their policies and practices with the
goals they set for children’s care and educa-

• Assess on a regular basis how well the

program is serving children and families.
• Use assessments to determine how well

individual children’s abilities, interests,
and needs are being addressed and to
strengthen planning.

Continuous Improvement
• Create systems for including the ideas and

perspectives of everyone—families, teach-
ers, staff members, and program lead-
ers—in ongoing discussions of program

• Revise and adapt program policies and
practices in response to a collaborative
review and ideas from all program partici-
pants (families, teachers, and staff mem-

• Implement changes respectfully, ensuring
that everyone—teachers, staff members,
and families—participates in the process
and is aware of the changes that are occur-


Programs develop and maintain
partnerships within their community.

Family child care homes and infant/tod-
dler centers are small communities that are
linked to larger communities. When programs
develop partnerships with community groups,
such as social service organizations, other
early care and education programs, local busi-
nesses, or volunteers, they strengthen their
community connections. These connections,
as well as participation in professional early
care and education associations, may lead to
opportunities to share resources, address com-

mon problems and issues that affect children
and families, and expand the program’s sense
of community.

• Build partnerships with other providers of

early care and education in the local area.
• Develop and maintain lists or files of com-

munity resources that families can use.
• Develop policies and meaningful, appro-

priate roles for volunteers in the program.
• Welcome advice and support from outside

service providers.
• Foster collaboration between teachers and

outside specialists or consultants.

• Communicate with institutions of higher

education about the participation of teach-
ers in continuing professional develop-

• Participate in the efforts of institutions
of higher education to create appropriate
learning opportunities for the early care
and education field.

• Initiate projects that help the surrounding

community become aware of how children
learn and develop and the services the
program provides to the community.

• Create ongoing partnerships with com-
munity organizations, businesses, and
agencies that are committed and able to
contribute to children’s well-being and
learning through financial support, in-kind
donations, or other resources.

• Join local, statewide, and national profes-
sional organizations, such as the NAEYC
and NAFCC.

• Identify and work collaboratively with
specialists in the community, such as
health care providers, social service pro-
viders, and mental health professionals.




Section 6

Helping teachers continue
to grow professionally

Guidelines in this section link to the fol-
lowing Desired Results:
• DR 1. Children are personally and socially
• DR 2. Children are effective learners.
• DR 3. Children show physical and motor
• DR 4. Children are safe and healthy.

• DR 5. Families support their children’s
learning and development.

• DR 6. Families achieve their goals.
Providing care and education for infants

and toddlers is an ongoing process that is dy-
namic, emotional, challenging, and personal-
ly rewarding. Teachers continually learn from
the children, from the children’s families,
and from the community. Program leaders
must support teachers’ ongoing (informal and
formal) learning, both as individuals and to-
gether as a group. A community that is based
on respectful, collaborative relationships
among adults also supports and celebrates the
learning of all staff members. Just as foster-
ing the growth of relationships among teach-
ers, families, and children is important for
children’s development, fostering the growth
of relationships between staff members is


important for the teachers’ growth. The trust
that grows from these relationships allows for
the collaboration and creative problem solving
necessary for teachers’ professional develop-


Programs hire well-qualified, represen-
tative staff members.

Programs that build a trained and educated
staff are more likely to provide nurturing and
enriching care to infants and toddlers. Hiring
staff members who are educated and com-
mitted to the field of early care and education
also lessens the likelihood of frequent staff
turnover. Teachers appreciate when they work
with colleagues who are knowledgeable and
skillful. A professionally prepared staff cre-
ates a solid foundation for collaboration and
continuous program improvement. Another
consideration in hiring staff members is to
seek to build a staff that is representative of
the cultural, linguistic, and ethnic backgrounds
of families in the program. A staff that in-
cludes individuals who are representative of
the community is able to establish a high level
of continuity between home and the infant/tod-
dler setting. It also facilitates communication
and understanding between the program and
the families.

• Hire a diverse staff, including teachers

who are representative of the cultures,
languages, and ethnicities of the families
and children in the program.

• Seek teachers through community colleg-
es’ placement services and other organiza-
tions that support the growth of early care
and education professionals.

• Encourage staff members to develop and
maintain links with institutions that pre-
pare early childhood teachers, including
community colleges and universities.

• Establish high standards for qualifications
of teachers.

• Work to ensure, when hiring and assigning
staff members, that children experience

nurturing and responsive relationships
with both men and women.


Programs create working conditions
that support quality and job satisfac-
tion to reduce turnover.

In a field where staff turnover is as high as
40 percent annually (Whitebook, Sakai, Ger-
ber, and Howes 2001), finding ways to retain
staff members is crucially important. Because
research and experience so compellingly sup-
port the value of enduring relationships for
infants, toddlers, and families, programs must
make a strong commitment to staff stability. A
climate of personal and professional support
and respectful work relationships helps build a
stable staff.

Family child care providers who employ
staff members must address the turnover issue
as well. For family child care providers who
work alone, meeting with other providers
regularly gives insights on how to make their
job personally and professionally reward-
ing. Attending workshops, conferences, and
college classes is a helpful way to develop
relationships with colleagues and strengthen
one’s commitment to the field.

• Identify resources in the community that

could provide incentives to child care
providers (such as free or reduced-price
tickets to shows, free admission to com-
munity parks and museums, or discounts
at stores).

• Schedule time and occasions for staff
members to enjoy being together, such as
dinners, retreats, or other social events.

• Arrange for on-call teachers to substitute
for regular teachers when needed.

Reflective Practice
• Communicate respectfully with others at

all times to promote responsive care and
effective partnerships with other staff
members and families and encourage
inclusive classrooms.

• Acknowledge the emotional and physi-
cal demands on infant care teachers and
respect their need for time to recharge.

Work Conditions
• Increase pay and benefits as teachers

continue their education and professional

• Provide benefits for staff members, such
as health insurance, dental insurance,
vacation, and sick/family leave.

• Work with local and state government
efforts to provide higher compensation for
staff members.


Programs foster respectful, collabora-
tive relationships among adults.

Respectful and collaborative relationships
among adults lead to a strong, dynamic early
care and education program. Every type of
adult relationship—between teachers and other
staff members in an infant center, between
the family child care business owner and staff
members, between families and teachers, and



between the families served—affects program becomes pleasant and inviting—a place where
quality. In shaping program policy and prac- people want to be.
tice, leaders in centers and family child care
homes need to respect and consider the values, Programs:
beliefs, and expectations of all adults, includ- • Model respectful interactions among
ing those of teen parents. Effective program adults.
leaders work to create continuity between a
child’s home and the infant/toddler program,

• Support staff members’ interactions with

facilitate the professional and personal growth
specialists involved with children or fami-

of teachers, and model and foster respectful,
collaborative relationships among adults. By Communication
allowing ample time for reflection and discus-
sion, leaders ensure that the ideas of each par-

• Talk with family members about how the

ticipant are heard and considered in program
program can adapt to meet their needs and

development. This approach to leadership

has a ripple effect throughout the program, • Communicate the value of respect in the

strengthening respectful interactions between staff handbook and family handbook and

teachers and children. in all meetings.
•Children are keenly aware of the feel- Provide ample opportunities for staff

ings that adults have for each other and the members to express their concerns and
behaviors the adults show toward each other. ideas.
In other words they sense the quality of the • Understand that children are listening
relationships between their families and their to conversations even when they are not
teachers and among their teachers. They notice directly involved.
when the adults respect each other and co-
operate, and children often imitate what they Reflective Practice
observe. Infants and toddlers are especially • Create consistency between learning op-
sensitive to the emotional tone of the teacher portunities offered to family members and
who is responsible for their primary care. program practices—in particular, when
When teachers are supported and feel appreci- parenting education is provided, such as
ated, they become invested in their work and in many programs that serve teen parent
comfortable with each other, and the program families.

Modeling Respect When ruth greets Jade with a warm seemed weird, but I guess I just
Interacting with the Family smile. Janea says to Jade, “Let’s got used to it. Jade seems to like
Member and the Child take off your jacket, Babygirl.” it, and I love when she smiles

Fifteen-year-old Janea brings her
infant daughter, Jade, into the
classroom. ruth, Jade’s teacher
as well as Janea’s parent educa-
tion teacher, smiles and says,
“You did your hair differently,
Janea—it’s picture day at the
high school, right?” Janea nods,
looking shy. “My sister did it for
me—we stayed up kind of late.”
ruth nods and says, “sounds like
you and your sister had a sweet
time creating a fun, new hairstyle
for you.”

Jade looks up as her mom tugs
on the first sleeve. she gazes at
her mom’s face and raises her
arm when Janea reaches for the
next sleeve. ruth smiles as she
watches. “Janea,” ruth says,
“When you tell Jade what you
are doing like that she just lights
up—it helps her to know what
is going to happen. I think she
feels included. What do you
think?” Janea looks thoughtfully
at her daughter and says to ruth,
“When I first came here and
saw you talking to the babies, it

at me.” Janea kisses her baby’s
cheek. she goes on, “sometimes
people stare at me when I talk
to her, like I’m crazy, but I really
think she understands.”

“I agree,” says ruth as she nods
and turns to Jade. “Your mom
and I are talking about how
much you like it when she talks
to you.” Jade radiates happiness
as both Janea and ruth smile at
her for a moment before Janea
says bye and rushes off to class.


• Support teachers as they collaborate
with family members and other staff
members to solve problems creatively

• Address concerns that may arise among
staff members, or between staff mem-
bers and family members, using com-
munity resources and organizations if


Programs support the professional
development and ethical conduct
of infant care teachers and program

The development of individual staff
members is necessary to promote high-
quality care and education and appropriate
standards of professional conduct. Access to
ongoing professional development, geared
to the characteristics and ages of children
in the program, is a key to quality. Program
leaders in centers and family child care
homes need to support staff participation
in professional development activities and
the implementation of what staff members
learn. Providing adequate compensation,
with benefits and periodic pay increases,
communicates to teachers that their contri-
butions and hard work are valued. When
staff members feel valued and respected,
they are more likely to create environments
that convey appreciation of others—in-
cluding children, families, and colleagues.
These environments, in turn, support
families’ participation in the program and
children’s healthy learning and development
(Kagan and Cohen 1997).

• Inform and consult with family mem-

bers about continuing professional
development activities for teachers and
program leaders.

• Provide opportunities for teachers to
participate in planning and decision

• Encourage staff to attend trainings
or courses that cover the domains of


A Professional Code of Ethics tion is promoted, and positive

“Ethical responsibilities to
children. Our paramount respon-
sibility is to provide safe, healthy,
nurturing, and responsive settings
for children. We are committed

relationships are modeled. Based
upon our core values, our pri-
mary responsibility in this arena
is to establish and maintain set-
tings and relationships that sup-

to support children’s develop-
ment; respect individual differ-

port productive work and meet
professional needs.

ences; help children learn to live Ethical responsibilities to com-
and work cooperatively. munity and society. Our respon-

Ethical responsibilities to fami-
lies. Because the family and the
early childhood practitioner
have a common interest in the

sibilities to the community are to
provide programs that meet its
needs, to cooperate with agen-
cies and professions that share

child’s welfare, we acknowledge
a primary responsibility to bring
about collaboration between the

responsibility for children, and
to develop needed programs that
are not currently available.”

home and school in ways that —From National association for
enhance the child’s development. the education of Young children,

Ethical responsibilities to col-
leagues. In a caring, cooperative
workplace, human dignity is

NAEYC Code of Ethical Conduct
and Statement of Commitment
(see appendix D)

respected, professional satisfac-

infant/toddler learning and development,
elements of group care, children with dis-
abilities or other special needs, influences
of family, and curriculum.

• Contribute to program improvement by

creating and implementing a professional
growth plan with staff.


• Present and help implement concepts
and recommendations based on current
research on early childhood development.

• Set clear expectations for professional-
ism and ethical behavior, such as those
presented in the NAEYC Code of Ethical

• Provide professional development activi-

ties that relate to the infants, toddlers, and
families who attend the program, includ-
ing individuals with disabilities or other
special needs.

• Provide adequate paid time and incen-
tives for staff members to attend in-service
training, classes, and conferences.

• Arrange for the program leader to engage
in continuing professional development.

• Shape a professional development plan

with each teacher.
• Provide consistent opportunities for each

teacher to meet with mentors, either within
the program or through connections with
other teachers.


• Provide professional development in the
language or languages most easily under-
stood by the teachers.


Programs use reflective supervision to
support teachers.

Reflective supervision acknowledges that
teachers are human, with emotions, personal
histories, and beliefs that contribute to (and
sometimes interfere with) effective teach-
ing. Through regular, ongoing conversations,
teachers and their supervisors explore together
the many complex feelings, thoughts, and is-
sues that arise in their work with children and
families. In these conversations supervisors
facilitate a process that offers needed support
and helps teachers answer their own questions
as they decide how to apply new insights and
information to their everyday work with chil-
dren and families.

In family child care the provider may not
have a colleague or family member on site.
In this situation providers benefit enormously
from seeking support from other family child
care providers in the community through
meetings, phone calls, or even e-mails.

• Provide regular opportunities for teachers

to meet individually with their supervisor
to reflect and plan.

• Set aside time during staff meetings for
teachers to reflect on their practice.

• Observe teachers in their classrooms and
engage in discussion with them about
what occurred.

• Help individual staff members to reflect
on their emotional responses to children,
interactions, attitudes, and behaviors and
to gain awareness of their own biases.

• Make time to reflect with other leaders in
the early care and education community.

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