Infant and toddler care should not look or feel just like preschool. Infants and toddlers need individualized care from a primary caregiver with whom they can form a strong, secure attachment. This can happen in a group care setting, provided that:
• The group size is small (twelve or fewer children; six or fewer is best for infants younger than one year).
• The teacher: child ratio is low (for example, 1:3 for infants under one year; 1:4 for 13-30-month-olds; and 1:5 for 31-36-month-olds).
• If there are multiple caregivers, your child’s primary caregiver spends the most time with your child, including during personal care routines like feeding and diapering.
• The same primary caregiver works with your child and your family for at least a year (and ideally, much longer—this is known as continuity of care).
Infants and toddlers do not need highly structured curriculum, teacher-led instruction, or academic instruction in order to learn. They are naturally curious and learn through play and direct, multisensory experience. Look for a provider who believes in the importance of children’s play and supports their need for free exploration and discovery.
Early care and education should support the development of the whole child. Whether your provider is a family member, nanny, family daycare, or childcare center, consider how all of the following aspects of your child’s development are supported:
• Health, hygiene, and safety.
• Social-emotional development and relationships with both adults and other children.
• Cognitive development and learning.
• Language, culture, and identity.
• Motor and physical development.
• Spiritual development (it can take many forms, including spending time outdoors to appreciate nature).