Early childhood programs with infants and toddlers are bustling and alive in ways different from programs that have only preschoolers. Infants and toddlers can make group care environments more caring and family focused spaces, nurturing the well-being of all adults and children participating in the program.
The number of infants and toddlers who spend their days in group care in either center or family child care settings in the United States continues to grow (Flanagan & West 2004; Laughlin 2010). Directors of early childhood programs that opened their doors to infants and toddlers and their families speak of added challenges and responsibilities for administrators, balanced with unique joys and benefits. Cindi Catlin, director of University Presbyterian Children’s Center in San Antonio, Texas, told us:
I love having infants and toddlers in our program—they bring a different energy to the center. Parents, especially first-time parents, are concerned primarily about having their child in a trusting, loving environment, rather than one focused on academic readiness. There are challenges, however, such as finding the teacher with the right disposition and managing the higher cost of infant/toddler care.
In this article we speak to directors of programs already serving infants and toddlers and their families and those who may be thinking about adding them to existing group care settings. Very young children, birth to age 3, have care and education needs different from and more specialized than those of preschoolers, age 3 to 5. We describe practices, such as family-centered early childhood environments and policies, and individualized, sensitively responsive practices, that are beneficial to all young children. However, they are critical elements for infants and toddlers in group care, to ensure their healthy growth, development, learning, and well-being.... continue reading
About the Authors
Mary Benson McMullen, PhD, is a professor of early childhood education at Indiana University in Bloomington, and a former infant, toddler, and preschool teacher and director. She studies contributors to positive experiences for infants and toddlers and their families in child care, and perspectives on what quality means across cultures and contexts. Mary teaches early childhood curriculum and instruction. She is a research and review editor for Young Children.
Peggy Apple, is an assistant professor of early childhood education at Clarion University of Pennsylvania. Her teaching focuses on relationship-based care and education, emergent curriculum, and leadership. She is the former director of an NAEYC-Accredited program serving infants and preschoolers.
This collection of engaging articles from NAEYC's journal Young Children provides relevant and current information for anyone who works with or in support of infants and toddlers and their families. Authors offer practical, research-based strategies and observations of these very young children in action. The book includes study guides with many of the articles, as well as a comprehensive resource list.