One of the greatest challenges facing you, as parents today, is the search for quality early care and education. You are looking for the very best.  You are looking for a place where you know your child will be safe and where you know people will care for and nurture them. You are also looking for opportunities for play and activities which encourage your child to explore, discover and learn.  Recent research has shown that young children thrive in early care and education settings that meet a “quality” standard. This guide has been designed to highlight quality indicators in programs caring for infants and toddlers.  When choosing early care and education, it is important to visit the programs that you are considering.  Keep the following in mind:

▪ Arrange a tour of the program first. Make it clear that you would like the opportunity to observe as well as to ask questions about the program and speak with the caregivers.

▪ If you are interested in the program, arrange a visit with your child. Watch how your child responds to the program as well as how the caregivers respond to you and your child.

▪ Plan visits in the morning.  It is likely you will be able to observe caregivers and children interacting during meals, diapering/toileting and play.


What is Quality Care?

Even if parents provide all the security, nurturing and enrichment that promotes healthy brain development, child-care providers must support and complement parents’ care giving for the best outcomes. Where a child receives care is less important than the quality of care she receives. A lot of research has examined the necessary conditions in children’s care arrangements, whether by parents or child-care providers that help children grow up healthy and happy.  Although there are no guarantees, research has shown that the following conditions are necessary:

Small groups of children — No more than 6 to 8 babies, 6 to 10 toddlers, always with at least 2 adults in each group.

A primary caregiver — Infants and toddlers especially need nurturing from a consistent caregiver.

Scheduling that keeps children with the same caregiver — Rather than changing primary caregivers on an arbitrary schedule.

Low staff turnover — Again, to prevent children’s anxiety about changes in the very important adults in their lives.

Active parent participation — To help ensure trust, communication, and consistency between home and child care.

Training – Staff training in child development is often linked to higher quality care, along with clean, safe and stimulating environments.


Health and Safety

Is the program licensed by the State of California?

Does the program comply with the appropriate caregiver/child ratios? (At least 1 teacher: 4 babies)

Do caregivers and children wash hands before and after meals, diapering, toileting or contact with bodily fluid?

Do caregivers place infants under one year of age to sleep on their backs?

Do caregivers keep the environment free from hazards by using outlet covers, locking cabinets for storage and other appropriate safety precautions?

Do caregivers clean toys and materials daily?


Care Routines

Are the same caregivers in the program each day so that infants and toddlers can form relationships and feel secure?

Do caregivers respect and accommodate individual sleeping and eating patterns?

Do caregivers hold infants when feeding them a bottle?

Do caregivers encourage toddlers to be independent during meals, toileting and dressing?

Do caregivers support infants and toddlers during naptime in a positive manner through rocking, rubbing backs or playing soothing music?



Are caregivers trained in Infant/Child CPR and First Aid?

Do caregivers attend trainings and conferences focused on infant and toddler care?

Do caregivers seem knowledgeable about the specific needs of infants and toddlers in child care?


Observation and Assessment

Do caregivers keep written observations about the development and interests of the infants and toddlers in their care?

Do caregivers plan activities for infants and toddlers based on these observations?

Do caregivers share their observations with families on a regular basis?


Learning Environments

Do caregivers provide space for infants to play on the floor?

Do caregivers provide opportunities for infants and toddlers to climb, run, jump and dance?

Do caregivers provide a variety of materials for infants and toddlers to touch, look at, listen to, smell and taste?

Do caregivers read and sing with children?

Do caregivers encourage infants and toddlers to choose what they want to play with?

Do caregivers take infants and toddlers outside to play?



Do caregivers show warmth and affection with infants and toddlers through holding, hugging, playing and singing?

Do caregivers play and interact with infants and toddlers on the floor?

Do caregivers talk with infants and toddlers about what they are doing and how they feel during play and care routines?

Do caregivers quickly soothe infants and toddlers who are sad, hurt or upset?