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Characteristics Of Developmentally Suitable Infant And Toddler Child Care

The demand for child care has been increasing over time. With more and more child care centers popping up, it can be difficult to find out what child care center is best for your little one(s). A child normally spends a lot of time in child care throughout the day, so you want to make sure it is of high quality and mentally stimulating for that time that you cannot be with your little one. Research supports that children score lower on measures of cognitive, language, academic, and social skills when children are exposed to low-quality child care for a long period of time throughout their early development (Berk, 2016, p. 229). If you are a parent currently looking for child care, here are some child care characteristics to look for in quality care:

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1. Physical Setting and Appearance


The physical setting is something you can determine by just taking a tour of the child care center. Physical setting entails the physical appearance of indoor and outdoor environment, cleanliness, open space for children, and organization (Berk, 2016, p. 229). The physical appearance needs to be welcoming to children to make them feel safe and comfortable. Cleanliness should also be practiced immensely and visible in order to ensure that children develop habits regarding cleanliness and health. Cleanliness can also decrease the chances of spreading germs, which can be much higher in child care centers with all the teachers, parents, and children walking through the doors every day.

2. Toys and Equipment

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A child care center would not be any good without toys and objects for children to play with. The toys should be clean, safe, age-appropriate, and easy for children to use (Berk, 2016, p. 229). The child care center should also have high quality equipment that is needed for children of the given ages. Some equipment that children need: cribs, highchairs, infant seats, child-size everything, etc.

3. Diversity

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Research shows that children can benefit socially by being exposed to diverse children and teachers in early childhood (Reid & Kagan, 2015). Social benefits can be offered to children when exposed to a diverse child care center by making social comparisons and being able to identify different races and ethnicities (Reid & Kagan, 2015). Since children during early childhood will mostly either be with family or at the child care center, the child care center can be a great place to get that exposure since a child will not really get it from the family.

4. Caregiver-child Ratio


In appropriate child care centers, there should not be no more than a 1 to 3 caregiver-child ratio for infants and no more than a 1 to 6 caregiver-child ratio for toddlers (Beck, 2016, p.229). This can be beneficial to the children because they will receive the attention they need. More attention can be more developmentally stable for the children so they are not often left alone while caregiver attends to other children in room. Lastly, when consistent staffing is also available, children are able to form relationships with the caregivers. You don’t want your child feeling like they are dealing with strangers all the time at a place where they should feel very comfortable!

5. Daily Activities

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Children are stimulated constantly as they are developing. Therefore, appropriate time to nap should be included in the daily activities to rest those little minds. Daily activities should also include everything else that is needed for young children: eat, play, nap, etc. It is hard to conduct structured activities for children, but caregivers should be flexible and creative to ensure constant stimulation, even by just constantly talking to the children! (Berk, 2016, p. 227)

6. Caregiver/facility qualification

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You don’t want some random person taking care of your child! Which is why you need to find child care centers that have all their caregivers qualified. At the very least, make sure that there will always be a qualified caregiver in the room at all times. Qualifications ensure that the people that will be with your children have training in child development. These qualifications will put you at ease because your child will be with experts!

7. Relationships with Parents

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Caregivers should be welcoming to parents and any question and/or concerns they might have about their child. Caregivers should also share the progress, activities, and highlights of the child to their parents. Caregivers should also report the children’s behavior and development to parents to ensure that the parents stay informed. (Berk, 2016, p. 227)

8. Licensing and Accreditation

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Licensing and accreditation is a fast way of knowing if a child care program is of high quality (Berk, 2016, p. 227). This can be beneficial to parents who do no have the time to look into each and every of these characteristics of developmentally appropriate infant and toddler child care centers. The accreditation provided by the National Association for the Education of Young Children is voluntary, which is evidence that the child care center is top of the line (Berk, 2016, p. 227).

9. Interactions between adults and children

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Caregivers should be responsive to the needs of the infants and toddlers by including holding, talking, singing, reading, and much more! The interactions should respect the tolerance of stimulation based on the age of the child for a healthy development (Berk, 2016, p. 227). Caregivers should also try to meet the needs and interests of the children day-to-day.

10. Safety

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This last one is more focused on the well-being of the child versus a positive development of the child. The child care center should be in a safe area in the community. Additionally, the center should practice rules and safety for younger children so they develop habits on how to be safe. Lastly, the center should have standard procedures for day-to-day operation and emergencies. An example includes having a procedure for when parents are picking up children, taking children outside, etc.

11. Additional Resources

National Association for Family Child Care

Learn more about some of the required training in child care accreditation.

National Association for the Education of the Young

Learn more about the public policy and research in child care

Office of Child Care – U.S. Department of Health and Human Services

Learn more about resources for parents about children and child care and government initiatives in aiding families

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