Understanding What Quality Early Education Looks Like

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You’re searching for daycare, looking specifically for a program that includes a strong learning component, such as a full educational curriculum. What do you need to know?

First, not all daycare includes an education component — only those that mention “early childhood education” in their description will provide it.

Second, the fact that a program calls itself an education program doesn’t automatically make it high quality. In addition to providing all the health and safety elements of a quality child care program, a true high-quality early childhood education experience is based on a sound understanding of how young children learn, and provides engaging, hands-on experiences within a setting of comfort and trust.

What else should be on your radar to find a program beyond daycare?

What a Good Early Education Program Is and Isn’t

When evaluating early childhood education, it’s helpful to consider what it’s not. In short, early education is not a mini elementary school. Studies about early education and child development have found that the practice of adapting learning methods made for older children is ineffective and can be damaging to young children’s growth and development. 

What are things a good program should have?

Trained Teachers

Good programs recruit and retain qualified, passionate teachers. These programs are committed to training and development, they manage resources well, and they have a culture built on respect for children and families and all of those who care for them.

Age-Appropriate Teaching Methods

The best early education teachers understand children; they treat them with kindness and respect; and they are supported with training and continuing education to advance their knowledge and skills. Additionally, such teachers ensure that families feel they are both partners in their children’s care, and wholly involved in the decision-making process. 

Open-Ended Discovery

A quality program offers active, individualized learning with open-ended, hands-on discovery. Such discovery-driven learning requires teachers who have high expectations for every child, and who support children with nurturing, sensitive, individualized care.

An Intentional, Comprehensive Curriculum

A well-organized, written curriculum gives teachers the structure they need to ensure quality, and the flexibility to be able to meet individual needs. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) says class materials should be engaging and spark children’s interest to explore, ask questions, and discover. Activities and experiences should also be presented in a variety of ways, weaving curriculum areas together through interesting projects, activities, conversations, and daily routines.

A Whole-Child Approach

School readiness should address early literacy, math, and science within a larger framework of development. It should also take a “whole child” approach that factors in other critical developmental areas including social-emotional, physical, cognitive, and language development. In addition, children need opportunities to create, problem solve, work together, collaborate, and follow directions — skills that are absolutely critical for school and life success

Standards for Early Childhood Education

Want to learn more? Read about NAEYC’s 10 areas of program accreditation standards including relationships, curriculum, teaching, health and safety, assessment of child progress, teacher qualifications, family and community relationships, physical environment, and leadership management.

And be sure to read up on safety and other important elements that also make a high-quality early childhood education and care program.

What Child Care Looks Like Today

While there’s a lot about child care has evolved, the foundation remains the same: child care is a place for childhood. See what a day at Bright Horizons is like.

More Resources to Help You Understand Child Care

Written by: Bright Horizons Education Team

January 29, 2021

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Whether you’re looking for parenting advice, or trying to figure out how to bring learning from the classroom to the family room, let Bright Horizons early education experts be your trusted, knowledgeable resource. Get our weekly newsletter for all things early child development—from the benefits of pretend play to at-home STEM activities, and teaching kindness—along with encouragement for every stage of your parenting journey.