Early Care and Education

Parent teacher partnership: Parent-teacher conference

Woman helping childerens

  • Read together. Read with your children and let them see you and older children read. When adult family members read to their children or listen to them read regularly, achievement improves.Take your children to the library to get a library card and help them find books to suit their interests.
  • Establish a family routine. Routines generally include time for completing homework, doing chores, eating meals together, and going to bed at an established time. These daily events are important to make life predictable for children and satisfying for all family members. Encourage your child’s efforts and be available for questions while she is engaged in academic work and spend time discussing what she has learned.
  • Use television wisely. Limit the amount of time children spend watching television. Help them choose appropriate programs for viewing. Sit down and watch that program with them. When chosen carefully, some TV programs can help increase interest in learning.
  • Keep in touch with the school. Stay aware of what your children are learning, what their assignments are, and how they are doing. Visit the school and talk with teachers via parent/teacher conferences or family nights. If you can’t visit, schedule a telephone call to discuss your child’s progress.
  • Offer praise and encouragement. Parents and families play an important role in influencing a child’s confidence and motivation to become a successful learner. Encourage children to complete assignments and introduce them to outside experiences that will enhance their self-confidence and broaden their interests.

In the efforts to connect schools with parents, educators can:

    • Involve parents in classroom activities. Teachers can let families know how they can be helpful and can ask for their assistance with specific activities. Parents can participate by preparing classroom materials, serving on committees, or sharing information about their careers or hobbies. The more involved parents are in what goes on in the classroom, the more likely they will understand the teacher’s goals and practices.
    • Communicate to parents at the beginning of the school year or semester about school policies and services. Inform them about classroom goals and give a few examples of what the children will be learning.
    • Foster good communication during parent/teacher conferences. When meeting with family members, create a comfortable environment in which parents feel free to share information, ask questions, and make recommendations. Point out the projects that involved their child and share information in a way that encourages respectful two-way communication. Be careful not to make assumptions about a family member’s level of knowledge, understanding or interest. Schedule an adequate amount of time for the conference so parents do not feel rushed.

What education choices are available for my children?


When your children reach pre-kindergarten/kindergarten age, you are faced with the decision to send them to a public or private school.

Public schools are the most readily available option. Attendance to public schools is assigned by neighborhood, but there are instances when you can choose which school your children attend as long as you provide transportation. These schools are usually comprehensive, providing general education, services for exceptional students, as well as preparation for college and careers.

Private schools have many possibilities. You can choose alternative schools for at-risk children and children with particular needs and problems. Parochial schools provide religious focus in addition to academics. Accelerated schools are tailored to the needs of gifted children. Specialized private schools emphasize various subjects or goals, such as fine arts, academic, college preparation or technology. Depending on your children’s abilities and needs, these options can be very beneficial. But costs can be substantial, ranging from a few thousand dollars to $15,000 or more each year. Please also be prepared for the possibility of entrance exams and waiting lists.

Home schooling is increasingly popular. Many supports are available for parents who choose this alternative. Teaching materials and books are available for a cost, and children are required to take national standardized achievement tests. Home schooling is particularly appealing to parents of children who seem to have abilities in areas not measurable by report cards, who want to spend more time with their children, and who feel traditional education does not adequately fulfill their children’s as well as parent’s needs. You also could choose a combination of teaching your children at home while enrolling them in a couple of classes at your closest public or private school.

What should I look for in early care and education?

      • Good quality early care and education (child care) helps emotional and social growth and the process of acquiring knowledge.
      • Good quality early care and education should be both licensed and accredited ( known as Gold Seal in Florida).
      • The early care and education providers you select should take care of your baby as you would.
      • There should be good communication and interaction between care providers and your baby.
      • How much employee turnover does the center have? (The websites below will give you quite specific guidelines.)
      • www.naeyc.org
      • www.zerotothree.org

Child Find referral information and early intervention programs

Getting the right services at the right time can really make a difference for children with special developmental health care needs.

Early intervention programs help assure that early intervention services and supporting resources are available for young children with special needs from birth to age three. If your child has a disability, a developmental delay (i.e. was slow to begin crawling, walking or talking), or vision, hearing, feeding or other problems that place him/her at risk for developmental delay, your family may be eligible for services through these programs.

Any infant and toddler who meets the eligibility criteria defined in Part C of the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) can be referred by families, physicians, professionals or other people in the community. IDEA is a federal program that helps the State of Florida provide family-centered, early intervention services.

Remember that a child’s future can be brighter when necessary care and treatment is provided early in life.

Early child care

Woman helping childerens

The National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Study of Early Child Care is the most comprehensive child care study conducted to date to determine how variations in child care are related to children’s development. The goal sought to answer questions about the relationship between child care experiences and characteristics and children’s developmental outcomes. The study went beyond the question of whether child care was good or bad. Instead, it focused on how the different aspects of child care, such as quantity and quality of care vis-a-vis children’s cognitive and language development and mother-child interactions over the first three years of life. The study also examined such factors as family economic status, mother’s physiological well-being and intelligence, child gender and temperament.

The Early Child Care study enrolled more than 1,300 families and their children in 10 locales throughout the country, following them through their first seven years. Parents selected the type and timing of child care their children received, and families were enrolled in the study without regard to their plans for child care. Children were placed in a wide variety of child care settings: Care by fathers, other relatives, in-home care-givers, child care home providers and center-based care.

What are the characteristics of early child care?

      • Quality child care is defined as positive caregiving, interactions and language stimulation in small group sizes with adults who are adequately educated and trained.
      • Most child care centers do not meet the recommended guidelines for child-staff ratio, the group size, teacher training, and teacher education as recommended by professional organizations of educators, pediatricians and public professionals.
      • Children in centers that met more guidelines had better language comprehension and school readiness.

What is the role of family for children in early child care?

      • Family characteristics, including the family income and the mother’s education, were strong predictors of children’s outcomes.
      • For those children in nearly exclusive maternal care, and those children in extensive child care, the influence of families on children’s development was not significantly reduced or changed by extensive, non-parental care.
      • Family income accounted primarily for both the amount, age of entry into care and type and quality of care infants received.

What is the relationship of early child care to children’s development?

      • Child care quality was the most consistent predictor of children’s behavior.
      • The higher the quality of child care the greater the child’s language ability and better cognitive development at age 2 and showed more school readiness at age 3.
      • Children in care receiving more sensitive and responsive attention had fewer caregiver-reported problems at ages 2 and 3.
      • Children in care for more than 10 hours per week, those in center care and to a lesser extent, those in child care homes, performed better on cognitive and language measures when the quality of the caregiver-child interaction was taken into account.

What is the relationship between early child care and children’s relationship to their mothers?

        • Child care in and of itself neither adversely affects nor promotes the security of infants’ attachment to their mothers at 15 months.
        • Certain child care conditions, in combinations with certain home environments, did increase the probability that infants would be insecurely attached to their mothers.
        • Higher quality of care (positive provider-child interactions) modestly predicted greater involvement and sensitivity by the mother (at 15 and 36 months) and greater positive engagement with the mother (at 36 months).
        • Low-income mothers using full-time higher quality care had higher positive involvement at six months then low-income mothers not using care or those using lower-quality full-time care.

What was learned from the Study of Early Child Care?

Higher quality early care is related to:

        • better mother-child relationships.lower probability of insecure attachment in infants of mothers low in sensitivity.
        • fewer reports of children’s problem behaviors.
        • higher cognitive performance of children in child care.
        • higher children’s language ability.
        • greater level of school readiness
  • Before- and after-school care is provided on a limited basis at selected sites.
  • Parents should check with the social worker at the site for availability of such services.
  • Early Head Start provides services for infants and toddlers.
  • Transportation is provided on a limited basis.
  • Head Start does not make transportation provisions for children with a diagnosed disability.
  • Parents should register children in areas near their home to eliminate transportation barriers.

There is no cost for Head Start services, but there could be a small fee charged for before – and after-school care (if the service is available at the site and parents choose to enroll their child).

  • Yes, provided space is available at the site closest to where you are moving.
  • Call the center social worker at your current site to request a transfer.
  • The social worker at the site where you want to transfer will call you and the Head Start staff when a slot is available.

Head Start hours of operation vary by location. For more information , please visit http://www.floridaheadstart.org/preschool%20HS%20directory.html

  • Complete the application process
  • You need the following items to apply:
  • Child’s birth certificate.
  • A current physical examination for your child, including tuberculosis (TB) test results.
  • A current record of all required immunizations.
  • Your child’s Social Security card or documentation of a Social Security number.
  • Your child’s Medicaid card.
  • Proof of income of the past 12 months or last calendar year.Documents include an income tax return for the previous year, paycheck stub, statement of benefits reflecting length of eligibility for TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), Social Security or Supplemental Security Income, child support letter or check, or letter from your employer.
  • Picture identification such as driver’s license, state-issued picture identification, food stamp card or employer- issued ID.

Head Start is a comprehensive federally funded child development program for children ages 0-5. The program provides for both children and parents in the areas of education, nutrition, medical, dental, mental health and disabilities. Services provided through active parent involvement and self-sufficiency activities.

How to share and play with other children as well as a wholesome learning environment to develop pre-reading, writing and number concepts.

  • Applications are available at all Head Start centers.
  • The social worker or center director at each site can provide information about program requirements, selection criteria and the application process.
  • Program information also can be mailed if you’d like.
  • You can enroll your child in a neighboring school if there is an available slot at that school
  • If no school in your area has open slots for pre-kindergarten, contact your local Child Care Resource and Referral agency for subsidized child care.
  • While pre-kindergarten may be offered in a public school, it is not paid for through tax dollars, but rather financed through lottery dollars and minimal parent fees based on family income.
  • Community Education Pre-kindergarten is primarily paid through parent fees.
  • Title I Pre-K is paid with federal tax dollars; parents do not pay a fee.
  • Some pre-kindergarten programs require that the family demonstrate economic need by qualifying for free or reduced-price lunch.
  • One programs requires a parent to work or participate in the Work and Gain Economic Sufficiency (WAGES) program.
  • Parents in some programs must pay a small fee based on family income.
  • To determine if you qualify for these programs, complete the pre-kindergarten and/or free lunch application.
  • Other programs do not have any economic criteria. In these the parent pays the full cost of the program.
  • Florida Law says the entry age for kindergarten is 5 years old on or before Sept. 1.
  • If your child meets that requirement, he/she can enter kindergarten in public school.

Florida Law says the entry age for kindergarten is 5 years old on or before Sept. 1. Your child must meet that requirement to enter kindergarten in the public school here.

  • No test can be given for your daughter to enter school before she meets the age requirement.
  • All children who enter pre-kindergarten must be 4 years old on or before Sept. 1 of the school year in which the child is scheduled to enroll.
  • Enroll your child in a neighboring school if there is an available slot there.
  • If no school in your area has open slots for pre-kindergarten, call your local Child Care Resource and Referral agency for subsidized child care.

The requirements depend on the program. For all programs, the child must be 4 years old on or before Sept. 1 of the school year in which the child intends to enroll. In most programs, the child must live in the neighborhood of the school. Other programs require that the child meet economic need. Call your neighborhood school to get specific requirements.

  • Applications are available at each school with a pre-K program and generally accepted March through May.
  • Most schools make their selections by the end of May, and parents are notified no later than the first week of June.
  • You can register your child in school as soon as you have been notified
  • Check with your neighborhood school to get specific registration information.
  • Pre-K is not available for every 4 year old in the same way that kindergarten is available to every 5 year old because there is not enough funding for each school to have a program.
  • Even if there were enough funding for each school to have pre-kindergarten, some schools now do not have the classroom space for pre-kindergarten.

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  • Subsidies to assist with child care are based on family income.
  • To learn about eligibility requirements and find out more, contact your county’s early learning coalition. You can also call the Child Care Resource and Referral Network at 1-866-357-3239.
  • I live in one county and work in a neighboring county. Am I eligible for subsidized child care if I want child care near my workplace.
  • If you meet the eligibility requirements for subsidized child care, you can use the Voucher Certificate Program to receive care near your work place.
  • A number of child care centers and many family child care home providers offer weekend and/or evening care often known as “odd-hour” care.
  • Contact the Department of Children and Families at (866) 762-2237 or visit http://www.myflfamilies.com/ for further information. You can also call the Child Care Resource and Referral Network at 1-866-357-3239.
  • Always try to talk first with your child care provider or teacher.
  • For concerns about possible licensing violations, call the Department of Children and Families Licensing Unit at http://www.myflfamilies.com/service-programs/child-care/licensing-information
  • Your local Child Care Resource and Referral agencies also can help if you want to change child care providers.

Early learning and development clearly sets the stage for future success. According to researchers, a child’s ability to learn can increase or decrease by 25 percent or more, depending on whether or not the child grows up in a stimulating environment.

Child care facilities :

Accreditation is a seal of approval obtained from any of 14 associations or programs in the State of Florida. It tells you a child care facility has met certain standards and is considered high quality. Local Child Care Resource and Referral agencies can tell you which child care centers and family child care homes are accredited (called Gold Seal in Florida).

Center-based child care is provided in a group setting at a licensed facility. The number of children in the facility varies by the size of the facility. Family child care is in an individual’s home. In Florida the home must be licensed for no more than 10 children in care. A large family child care home can take up to 12 children with at least 2 adults in attendance.

Young children, including babies, are best cared for in a setting in which they are safe, yet able to be active. Young children should be in a care setting where the caregiver frequently talks to and with them, quite naturally as in having a conversation. Children need many different experiences to help their bodies, emotions, minds and spirits grow.


  • Do the teachers/caregivers seem to really like children?
  • Are children greeted when they arrive?
  • Are teachers/caregivers trained in CPR, first aid and early childhood education?
  • Are teachers/caregivers involved in continuing education programs?
  • Are children’s needs quickly met even when things get busy?
  • Does the program keep up with children’s changing interest?
  • Will the teachers/caregivers always be ready to answer your questions?
  • Will the teachers/caregivers tell you what your child is doing everyday?
  • Are parents’ ideas welcomed? Are there ways for you to get involved?
  • Is there enough staff to serve the children?
  • Do the teachers/caregivers and children enjoy being together?


  • Is the atmosphere bright and pleasant?
  • Is there a fenced-in outdoor play area with a variety of safe equipment?
  • Can the teachers/caregivers see the entire playground at all times?
  • Are there different areas for resting, quiet play and active play?
  • Is there enough space for children in all of these areas?


  • Is there a daily balance of playtime, story time, activity and naptime?
  • Are the activities right for each age group?
  • Are there enough toys and learning materials for the number of children?
  • Are toys clean, safe and within reach of the children?

In General

  • Do you agree with the discipline practices?
  • Do you hear sounds of happy children?
  • Are surprise visits by parents encouraged?
  • Is the program licensed or regulated?
  • Will your child be happy there?
  • Signs of school readiness include:
  • A sense of confidence and enough independence to begin doing tasks alone.
  • A desire to explore and have new experiences outside the home.
  • The ability to stay focused on an activity.
  • The beginnings of an ability to relate to other children.
  • Sufficient verbal skills to communicate with adults and peers.
  • The ability to separate from you comfortably for the length of the school day.
  • The ability to deal with the physical demands of a new environment, such as stairs and the toilet.
  • Children who turn 5 in the summer (particularly boys) are most at risk for not having a successful kindergarten experience. Younger children are more likely to experience difficulty, and boys are more likely not to be ready than girls. Children may not be ready for kindergarten if they are small for their age, have problems with small motor coordination, don’t want to play with other children and/or fall to pieces easily.
  • Kindergarten has changed from the play-oriented curriculum, which many children now experience in pre-school, to a first-grade-like experience, which is more academically oriented. Children entering kindergarten should be able to ask for help and accept it, negotiate and share with peers, solve problems, and have the stamina to make it through the day.

Babies and toddlers in child care

  • High quality group care for infants and toddlers can enrich a child’s early experience and also provide essential support to families. The key to quality child care for babies and toddlers is a high-quality relationship with caregivers. Through a close relationship with caring adults — both parents and caregivers — children flourish and learn about the world and themselves.
    Child care for babies and toddlers in this country is bleak. A national study found that in nearly half of the classrooms in centers serving children under 3, children’s health, safety and development were compromised.
  • In other studies, for babies and toddlers in family child care or by relatives, the care was no better.
  • Zero To Three’s publication, “Caring for Infant and Toddlers in Groups: Developmentally Appropriate Practices”, identifies nine key elements for quality care for babies and toddlers.
  • Small groups with high staff-to-child ratios create a sense of intimacy and safety. Small groups build strong relationships with individual children and also meet the changing interests, development and needs of the group.
  • Staff trained in childhood development and program licensed and accredited. Ongoing training, good salaries and benefits are essential to attracting and retaining quality caregivers.
  • A continuous primary caregiver for each child helps build a positive, continuing intimate relationship with the child.
  • Continuity of care with one primary caregiver for more than a year is important to the child’s emotional development. Infants should not be moved from caregiver to caregiver.
  • Responsive caregiving involves knowing each child and taking cues from the child about when to guide, when to teach and when to intervene.
  • Caregivers who are culturally sensitive and recognize their own values and how they are transmitted to children support cultural, linguistic and family continuity. Programs that employ staff that are of the same language and culture support the early development and respect the child-rearing values and beliefs of the child’s family.
  • Meeting the needs of the individual within the group context by caregivers means being respectful and responsive to the needs, temperament, moods and preferences of each child and providing care to meet those individual needs.
  • Promotion of health and safety requires that group child care maintain high standards in sanitary practices and environments. Staff plans carefully for food preparation and diapering and toileting; have detailed health policies, emergency and injury procedures, child and staff health records and concise policies and staff procedures. Staff shares current health and safety information with each other and with family members.
  • Age-appropriate physical environment promotes intimate, satisfying relationships with spaces for growing babies and toddlers. A wide variety of interesting objects, textures and physical challenges are age-appropriate and safe.
  • What training do staff have in infant/toddler development?
  • Does the caregiver use simple words to talk with my child?
  • Does the caregiver enjoy children?
  • Am I welcome to drop in at any time?
  • Will my child feel good about coming here?
  • Is the environment sanitary and safe?
  • Is the child care program or family child care provider licensed?
  • It the child care program accredited? Examples include the National Association for the Education of Young Children or the National Association of Family Child Care?
  • Does this caregiver respect the language, culture and values of my family?
  • Is there a primary caregiver for my child?
  • Are the ratios and group size appropriate for my child’s age?
  • Are toys and materials well organized so my child can choose what interests him or her?
  • Is this caregiver and environment able to accommodate the special needs of my child?
  • Do the caregiver and I agree on discipline? Weaning? Toileting? Feeding?
  • Early reading success is a strong predictor of academic success in later grades, and the early childhood years (birth through age 8) are critical ones for literacy development. After grade three, demands on the student change from “learning to read” to “reading to learn,” as reading becomes a fundamental means to acquire new knowledge about all subjects.
  • Based on current research, literacy development begins long before children begin formal instruction in elementary school. It develops on a path where children acquire literacy skills in a variety of ways and at different ages. Early behaviors such as “reading” from pictures and “writing” scribbles are an important part of children’s literacy development. Social interactions with caring adults and consistent exposure to literacy materials such as storybooks nourish literacy development. “Literacy-rich environments” offer daily, extended conversations with adults about topics that are meaningful and of interest to children
  • One of every three kindergarteners comes to school unprepared to learn. More importantly, parents routinely read to only 50 percent of infants and toddlers. For children to be successful in school, they must have early experiences with language. Research clearly shows that the child’s experiences with oral language development and literacy in the first months of life begin the foundation for later reading success.
  • We know that children need three skills to become good readers. Good readers have an understanding of how the alphabet works, an awareness that reading is about meaning, and sufficient fluency in reading. Some children acquire these skills quickly, Other children need to be taught about the relationship among letters, that letters represent small sounds in words, and about the relationship of specific letters to specific sounds, Often, parents, caregivers and teachers need to help children understand that the reason they read is to uncover a message. The most effective way to support children’s ability to provide literacy-rich environments.

In a literacy-rich environment, adults ensure that children engage in one-to-one conversations about everyday life-about people, events and activities that children find interesting. Environments include daily reading, talking, experimentation with reading materials, book talk (characters, action and plot), and dramatic play. In this environment there are many opportunities for children to see how print is used for many purposes. Print and language become a functional part of daily play and practice.

What are the characteristics of a print rich-literacy environment?

  • Children are surrounded by oral language, books and print. Various reading and writing materials are available for children and adults.
  • Adults share their ideas and feelings with children and encourage them to express themselves.
  • Children see adults reading for pleasure and a function of their daily routine and activities.
  • Adults value children’s emergent reading and writing experiences. They accept children’s efforts without correcting mistakes or providing direct instruction.
  • Children learn about the world through talking and reading, refining these skills as children develop.
  • Children’s knowledge of language is built on their own exploratory skills to interesting topics that is supported by skilled teachers and a well thought out curriculum.
  • Raise public awareness to help parents realize the importance of their being a child’s first teacher.
  • Provide resources and information about how to support and develop literacy in children and the importance of providing a print-rich environment.
  • Improve professional development in child care settings, pre-school and primary grades in literacy development and teaching reading. Special emphasis should be placed on child care and pre-school settings.
  • Increase access to literacy-rich environments by increasing children’s access to quality early education.


Jerlean Daniels, Theresa Clarke and Mark Ouellette. Issue Brief, National Governors Association Center for
Best Practices, 2000

The Incredible Years: Parents and Children Training Series was designed as prevention/intervention programs for parents and teachers of children ages 3-12 years. The initial goal is to increase parent and teacher competencies in positive communication, child-directed play skills, consistent and clear limit setting and nonviolent discipline strategies. Goals for children include strengthening social and academic competence, reducing behavior problems and increasing positive interactions with peers, teachers and parents.

The long-range goals are:

  1. develop comprehensive treatment programs for young children with early conduct problems and
  2. develop cost-effective, community-based, universal prevention programs that all families and teachers of young children can use to promote social competence.

How does the program work?

There are three components of training:

The first is the BASIC Training Program, offered to parent in groups to foster support, problem solving and self-management. The BASIC program topics include: play, helping children learn, the value of praise and encouragement, use of incentives to motivate children, effective limit setting and handling misbehavior. One version of the BASIC program is for young children

2-7 years; the other is for school-age children 5-12 years.

The second component is the ADVANCED Parent-Training Program with children 4-10 years. It supplements the BASIC training that addresses other family risk factors such as depression, marital discord, poor coping skills, poor anger management and lack of support.

EDUCATION Parent Training Program is the third component and supplements either the early childhood or school-age BASIC program by focusing on ways to foster children’s academic competence. It is designed to teach parents to strengthen their children’s reading and academic readiness and promote strong connections between home and school.

Is there a children’s component to this model?

The Incredible Years has a children’s program, Dina Dinosaur’s Social Skills and Problem-Solving Curriculum, designed to teach groups of children friendship skills, appropriate conflict-management strategies, successful classroom behaviors and empathy skills. This can be used as a “pull out” for small groups of children with conduct problems or as a classroom-based preventive program designed to be delivered to all students two or three times a week in 20-minute circle discussions. Video vignettes stimulate children’s discussions and role-playing and practice activities.

How are teachers trained?

Teacher training is offered to groups of teachers and can be delivered in a week-long workshop or shorter periods each week. Videotaped vignettes of teachers managing common and difficult situations in the classroom stimulate discussion and problem-solving.

What has been the research conducted on this program?

The Incredible Years Parent, Child and Teacher Training Programs have been researched and extensively field-tested in randomized trials over the past 18 years with more than 1,000 families with young children who have aggressive behavior problems. The BASIC program also been evaluated with more than 700 high-risk Head Start families as a prevention program, The Teacher Training Program has been evaluated in two independent, randomized trials with Head Start teachers as well as in studies with teachers of students in kindergarten through grade three. Parents and teachers were able to significantly reduce children’s problem behaviors and increase their social competence and academic engagement.

Special Considerations:

It is essential to be able to offer transportation, child care and dinners, particularly when working with low-income families. Programs need to be offered at a variety of times of day and evening in order to accommodate parent work schedules.

This powerful and comprehensive program has demonstrated results in these areas:

  • Improving family relations.
  • Expanding parental knowledge of appropriate child rearing.
  • Enhancing children’s protective factors.


Carolyn Webster-Stratton, Ph.D.

University of Washington

1411 Eighth Ave. W.

Seattle, Wash. 98119


Fax: 206-285-7565

Many communities have begun to develop programs and services that enhance school readiness. This brief considers not only child readiness but also the factors of readiness related to the child’s family, early care and education, schools and communities.

According to National Educational Goals Panel, the definition of readiness includes the physical, social and emotional well-being and intellectual development of children. These are five dimensions of readiness:

  • Physical well-being and motor development. This includes health, growth, large and small motor skills and the conditions before, at and after birth, such as exposure to toxic substances.
  • Social and emotional development. Social development is a child’s ability to interact socially and to exhibit positive social skills with peers and adults. Emotional development is how a child feels about him/herself and the ability to understand the emotions of others.
  • Approaches to learning. This is demonstrated by children in how they use skills, knowledge and capacities. Critical components are curiosity, enthusiasm and ability to stay with a task. Temperament and culture.
  • Language development. Children’s verbal and emerging literacy, including print awareness, story sense and the writing process.
  • Cognition and general knowledge. Children have the ability to understand similarities, differences and associations from direct experiences with objects, peoples and events. They also can understand and recognize shapes, match certain sounds to letters and number concepts, e.g., counting with objects and one-to-one correspondence.
  • Confident.
  • Cooperative.
  • Curious.
  • Intentional. Able to complete tasks on time.
  • Self-control. Able to monitor one’s own behavior.
  • Capacity to communicate.
  • Able to concentrate.
  • Accepts school routines and curriculum.
  • Willingness to engage in tasks and master skills.
  • Willingness to accept school rules and authority.
  • Ability to work alone and in groups.
  • Ability to attend to detail and to the quality of one’s work.
  • Smooth transitions between home and school that reflect respect and sensitivity to families, culture and language.
  • Continuity between early care and education programs and elementary schools.
  • Committed to the success of every child, teacher and every adult who interacts with children during the school day.
  • Researched-based approaches that raise achievement and are appropriate for children.
  • Responsibility for results.
  • Learning communities that alter practices and programs if they do not benefit children.
  • Strong leadership and resources to follow through on goals, visibility and accessibility.

The National Educational Goals Panel recommends that assessment should be age and linguistically appropriate and should include multiple sources of information from parents and teachers as well as direct assessment of children.

  • Shape instruction by identifying what they know and what they need more help with.
  • Identify children who may need health or other special services.
  • Examine trends and evaluate programs services to inform collective decisions.
  • Evaluate the academic accomplishment to hold individual students, teachers and school accountable for desired learning outcomes.
  • Benefit children and the adults who work with children.
  • Used for the purpose for which they are designed.
  • Valid and reliable.
  • Age appropriate, using naturalistic observations to collect information as children interact in “real life” ituations.
  • Holistic, collecting information on all developmental domains (physical, social, emotional and cognitive).
  • Linguistically and culturally appropriate.
  • Collect information through a variety of processes and multiple sources (collection of children’s work, observations of children, interviews with children, parent reports, etc.)
  • Guide instruction not to determine children’s placement in school. (Saluja, G., Scott-Little, C.,
    Clifford, R.M, (in press)

Communities that want school readiness as a priority recognize the extensive body of research on child development that contributes to the framework for investment. Based on the meticulously evaluated programs or which longitudinal data is available, are components of promoting school readiness.

Child Health:

  • Physical and mental health are critical elements to school readiness and school success. Children and families must have access to:
  • Quality health care.
  • Pediatric monitoring.
  • Appropriate referrals and follow-ups.
  • Home visits as appropriate and on a voluntary basis.
  • Immunizations.

Children need:

    • Appropriate nutrition.
    • Safe from unintentional injury.
    • Healthy physical and mental health of parents and families.

Family Factors:

      • Family environment shapes children’s early development:
      • Parent and child bonding and attachment and positive as well as sustaining parenting practices.
      • Most of what children learn early comes from their families
      • Parents are essential to child development: they design the home environment, organize the child’s experiences, and are the child’s primary source of information and support.
      • A child’s parents are him/her first and most important teachers.
      • To foster the desire to learn parents should:
        • Display confidence in their child’s ability.
        • Value education.
        • Encourage natural curiosity and stimulate it when they can.
        • Provide variety of new experiences.
        • Set goals for their child that are challenging but obtainable.
        • Help their child realize that mistakes are part of learning.
        • Teach by example.
        • Promote language and bonding by reading to their children, beginning from birth.

Quality early care and education programs enhance children’s cognitive, social and emotional development. Characteristics of high quality environments:

  • Promote and support all developmental domains.
  • Higher standard of health and safety practices.
  • Adults that support and provide stimulating environments.
  • Age-appropriate practices in curriculum and assessment and inclusive of culture and language.
  • Trained staff are adequately compensated
  • Responsive environments sensitive to the child as an individual and as part of the group.
  • Lower staff-child ratios.
  • Small group size.
  • Family-focused programs where parent relationships are important.


Boyer, E.L. (1991). Ready to Learn: A Mandate for the Nation. Princeton, N.J. The Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching.

Cataldo, C.Z. (1987). Parent Education for Early Childhood. New York: Teachers College Press.

Child Trends: Executive Summary Community-Level Work on School Readiness: A Review of Definitions, Assessments and Investment Strategies. 2000. Washington D.C.: National Education Goals Panel.

Doherty, G. (1997). Zero to Six: The Basics for School Readiness. Ottawa: Human Resources Development Canada, Applied Research Branch, Strategic Policy.

Saluja, G., Scott-Little, C., Clifford, R.M. (in press) Readiness for School: A Survey of State Policies and Definitions. Early Childhood Research and Practice.

In recent years, three major trends have put young children’s care and education as a major priority in this country.

  • The majority of women in the work force, creating an unprecedented demand for child care.
  • Consensus with professionals and parents that young children should be provided educational experiences.
  • Evidenced-based research on the capacity of young children’s learning, especially in quality pre-school environments.

What is more revealing from the research is how children learn, construct knowledge and develop skills. The research also underscores the need for children to have learning environments outside the home that support the full range of capacities that serve as the foundation of learning. This foundation must be grounded in the strengths and support of sensitive and responsive environments that build on culture, language and family.

  • Children’s individual differences, their past experiences and their present context impacts their exposure to learning opportunities.
  • Stimulation from the environment can change the composition of the brain, interconnecting nature and nurture.
  • Supportive and responsible adults are critical to supportive learning environments.
  • Social skills and physical skills influence intellectual development and emotional development.
  • Social development and competence are developed and enhanced by nurturing relationships with teachers.
  • Group size and adult-child ratios have importance in children’s learning, language development, exploration and problem-solving.
  • Learning is best achieved in young children in environments where children have a broad base of experiences rich in language and a variety of whole class, small group and individual interactions with peers and adults.
  • A child’s development changes rapidly. Assessment of children’s learning and development must be used carefully and appropriately.
  • Professional development of teachers is important to the quality of early childhood environments.
  • Programs that actively engage teachers and provide high quality supervision have been highly effective.
  • Young children who live in poverty, low level of maternal education and depression are at greater risk of school failure.
  • Teaching and learning are most effective when they engage, and build on, children’s existing knowledge and understanding.
  • Key concepts involved in each area of pre-school learning must go hand in hand with acquiring information and skills.
  • Emergent literacy, print-rich environments where curricula focus on children’s emergent understanding and provide concepts and knowledge lead to greater satisfaction and learning.
  • Daily experiences should allow children to learn more deliberately — reflection, predicting, questioning and imagining.
  • Good teachers in the context of play and structured activities acknowledge and encourage children’s efforts while they also model and demonstrate and provide direction and instruction.
  • Environments are based on child-initiative activities and activities planned by the teacher that also integrate educational goals for individual children.
  • Balance of child-initiated and teacher-initiated learning and good teachers support children in both types of learning.
  • Curriculum and assessment are inseparable to build quality. Learning and development are guided by a teacher’s ability to use multiple sources to understanding what children bring to the interactions — cognitively, culturally and developmentally.

All families have the right to child care that serves the child and the family. When looking for a child care provider to support the entire family, watch for these values:

  • Families are vital resources in making programming decisions. Programs are built on family strengths. For example, if the families being served have a strong tradition of storytelling, storytelling concepts are integrated into the daily program.
  • The culture and structure of each family is recognized and respected. Programs and components are culturally and socially relevant to the families they serve. Programs are based on neighborhood and community needs.
  • Power is shared with families. Opinions are solicited when making decisions about a child’s care or program services. Empowered families will encourage confident and competent children.
  • Relationships between child care providers and families reflect equality and respect.
  • Social support is available. Social support networks promote the well-being of the child, the family and the community by creating connections.
  • Supportive programs build connections and relationships with and among neighborhood businesses and organizations.
  • Joy, hope and fun are essential for family and community well-being.
  • Advocacy for services that are fair, responsive and accountable.
  • Indications that child care providers respect families

A parent bulletin board is set up in a prominent place. Items posted are easy to read and updated regularly. Materials are in the languages spoken by the center’s families.
Refreshments are available occasionally for family members to enjoy on their way out.
A place is created for parents to hang out – perhaps an adult sofa or chairs in the center, a picnic bench outdoors.
Photos and posters showing parents with children, parents with teachers, parents taking active roles in the center and families playing together are displayed throughout the center. Photos of staff and their families also are displayed.
Staff know the names of family members and greet the adults as well as the children during drop-off and pick-up times.
A communication system is in place where parents can interact with all members of the school or community — parent and staff mailboxes, phone trees, designated times for staff to talk informally with parents.
Your child care provider recognizes special happenings in the lives of families such as birthdays, anniversaries, new jobs, promotions and births.
Parents and staff are encouraged to share items reflecting their culture and interests.
Parent-to-parent support is encouraged from the first day. Parents welcome new families or give tours of the center. Staff refer parents to one another for help and friendship.
Staff willingness to reach out is evident. They share something of themselves reflecting their values and family experience.
The language, the style of being with one another, the culture of how people work is intimate, casual and relaxed so that people can get to know each other.