High-quality early learning is critical to a child’s development, but what does high-quality really mean? Experts in the field of early education agree on certain standards they feel child care programs should provide.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) sets national standards for child care, which serve as the foundation for its accreditation program. Understanding the NAEYC standards can help families learn what high-quality means, and what to look for in their child care program.
The relationships among children with each other and children with staff are warm, sensitive and responsive. Children feel welcomed, nurtured and engaged. In a high-quality program, positive relationships are promoted and a child’s contributions to the community are encouraged and valued.
While specific curriculum can vary from program to program, a high-quality program implements a curriculum that promotes social, emotional, physical, language and cognitive learning and development. The children’s planned activities are linked to curriculum goals. Children have the opportunity to learn through exploration and play, with appropriate materials and toys that support their development.
A high-quality program uses teaching approaches that support a child’s learning and curriculum goals. Teachers modify strategies to respond to the needs of individual children, and provide learning opportunities through both indoor and outdoor play. The interactions between the teachers and the children are active, stimulating and engaging.
Assessment of Child Progress
The program uses appropriate assessments such as observations, checklists and rating scales to assess children’s learning and development. Teachers use assessment information to tailor their teaching and activities to a child’s particular needs, and regularly shares the information with the child’s family.
The child care program promotes the nutrition and health of children and acts proactively to protect children from illness or injury. Staff is trained in first aid, and the program implements clear policies around health, safety and sanitation.
In a high-quality child care program, teachers are well educated in early childhood development and many will have education beyond minimum standards. Qualifications may include Child Development Associate (CDA) credentials, associate’s or bachelor’s degrees, or higher degrees. Staff engage in ongoing professional development.
The program works to develop and maintain relationships with the children’s families. Families feel welcome and encouraged to participate in their child’s learning. The program uses a variety of methods to communicate regularly with families. The family feels it and the child care provider are working together as partners in their child’s care.
The program establishes and utilizes the resources in its community to further enhance children’s learning and program goals. Representatives from community programs and other community members are invited to share their talents with the children and create additional stimulating experiences.
The program operates in a safe and well-maintained environment designed to promote safety and learning. The program has necessary furnishings and equipment to maintain a healthy and safe environment. The program also has ample quantities of age-appropriate materials and toys within children’s reach.
Leadership and Management
The program maintains appropriate group sizes and ratios of staff to children. The program administrator is well educated in early childhood education. The program possesses and implements policies and procedures that support safety, staff members and children’s learning and development, and policies are well communicated to families.
The National Association for the Education of Young Children is an excellent source of information on child care quality standards. Read more about the 10 NAEYC Program Standards here.
Excerpted from NAEYC