Babies & Toddlers

Overview

Babies and Toddlers

If learning begins at birth, then so does the education beat. Research shows the first three years are the most important period of development in what experts call “brain architecture.” This architecture "provides the foundation for all future learning, behavior, and health," according to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. 

If learning begins at birth, then so does the education beat. Research shows the first three years are the most important period of development in what experts call “brain architecture.” This architecture “provides the foundation for all future learning, behavior, and health,” according to the Center on the Developing Child at Harvard University. 

Understanding the issues and policies that affect babies and toddlers can better inform reporters’ coverage of early-childhood education and schools in general.  

The environments in which young children spend their earliest years — and the experiences they have with adults caring for them — have an impact on learning, social and emotional development, and school outcomes later in life. The serve-and-return interaction between babies and caregivers contributes to language and cognitive growth, but the lack of safe, warm and secure relationships, and prolonged stress and adversity can compromise later health and development.

While it’s important to understand the child care sector, multiple public policies impact very young children, from tax credits and home-visiting programs to developmental screenings and access to proper nutrition and health care. At both the state and federal levels, such programs have varying eligibility guidelines and often don’t reach some of the most disadvantaged families. 

Caring for the Caregivers

Most infants and toddlers spend part of their day with someone other than a parent, including relatives, neighbors and professional child care providers. Data shows that apart from parental care, young children are much more likely to be with home-based providers rather than in center-based programs. Surveys have shown parents often prefer a home-like environment for babies, and then shift toward preferring centers as children approach preschool age.

Reporting on infants and toddlers means paying attention to whether parents and caregivers have what they need to nurture and care for young children. A mother experiencing depression might withdraw from her baby. Families in poverty struggle to buy what children need to be safe and healthy, and a child care center with high teacher turnover might not be able to give young children the stability they need to thrive. 

Highlight

Data/Research: Babies and Toddlers

In the earliest years, learning and development is intertwined with health, nutrition, and family income and stability. Essential data sources and reports offer a comprehensive picture of the extent to which babies and toddlers have access to what they need for a healthy start in life. 

General

Harvard’s Center on the Developing Child breaks down the research on early development into accessible language, bridging the gap between science and general audiences. 

Highlight

History and Background: Babies and Toddlers

Publicly funded child care in the U.S. primarily functions as a support for low-income families, so they can work or go to school. But that wasn’t always the case. During World War II, Congress passed the Lanham Act to provide universal child care, so mothers could join the workforce and support the war effort. Eligibility for the program wasn’t based on family income, but when the war ended, so did funding for the centers.

Latest News

How Child Care Became the Most Broken Business in America

Child care doesn’t work like a normal business. Looking after young children comes with a litany of regulations to ensure the programs are safe. There are square footage requirements, zoning restrictions, earthquake preparedness plans, fire safety codes, CPR certifications, nutritional guidelines, rules about parking and outdoor space, liability insurance.

EWA Radio

Home Ec’s ‘Secret History’
New book explores how home economics influenced American life and public education beyond 'stitching and stirring' (EWA Radio Episode 276)

Often overlooked and misunderstood, home economics is about far more than learning to bake cakes or sew lopsided oven mitts, argues education journalist Danielle Dreilinger. She discusses her new book, “The Secret History of Home Economics: How Trailblazing Women Harnessed the Power of Home and Changed the Way We Live.”