07 October 2009

High-Quality Infant/Toddler Care: What Should Parents Look For?

The evidence keeps pouring in: the first years of life are a critical period of brain development, and a baby’s first care-givers can help to encourage – or impede – optimal social, emotional and cognitive growth.

In Shelby County and across the nation, the majority of young children will spend a significant amount of time every week-day in the care of non-family members while their parents are at work. And when it comes to their children, most parents want the same thing- They want their infant or toddler to have access to a high-quality early education setting. Parents spend a great deal of energy and time researching and trying to find an available slot in a high-quality, affordable child development center or family provider.

How can parents know when they have found the right child care setting? What are the markers of a superior infant or toddler classroom? The following list is comprised of some of the indicators that can confirm for parents that developmentally correct practices are being used in their child’s early education setting.

Continuity Of Teachers and Children In The Classroom. Known faces are critical to high-quality care for very young children. Continuity provides regularity and security- this eases children’s adaption to new environments and makes the departure and reunion process easier for both kids and parents.

Involvement Between Children and Staff Members. One of the most crucial elements of superb early education for infants and toddlers is the interactive setting- parents need to observe teachers actively engaging with children. Staff members should react swiftly to requests, comment on what children are doing and seeing, and check in often to see if assistance is needed.

Variations In Pace Throughout The Day. Because young children enrolled in early education can spend the majority of their week at the child care location, pace changes are essential, both for the children and the staff. Parents should look for evidence that infants and toddlers get opportunities to play outside and in the gym, to sing and respond to music, and to experience variations in the learning setting. Parents need to see the pace in the classroom elevate and become lively and brisk during some parts of the day, and then ease off to become cozy and softening during others.

Parents As A Fundamental Component Of The Early Education Setting. The knowledge that parents are a child’s primary and most important educators is the foundation for a positive parent-staff relationship. When families are incorporated as a principal component of a young child’s early school experience, the teachers, parents and children all prosper and flourish.

For more information on the well-being of children in Memphis and Shelby County, visit The Urban Child Institute at http://www.theurbanchildinstitute.org/.


Albrecht, K., & Miller, L. G. (2007). Quality for infants and toddlers: A view from the door. Early Childhood News- Excelligence Learning Corporation.

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