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Quality child care has universal characterisitics

Quality is a hard concept to define in child care. There are so many factors to consider. It's different for everyone. But, I think we would all agree that quality includes things like: a nurturing environment, kind and caring staff, activities that offer creativity and social interaction. With that said, there are, however, some universal characteristics of good, reliable child care programs.

When my son's were young, I had the luxury of them attending an accredited child care program right at my work. To be honest, at that time, I didn't know what accredited meant. I knew it sounded good. Accredited child care centers and homes voluntarily go beyond minimum licensing standards. Their commitment to providing the highest level of quality care includes measuring up to national standards of quality that have been established by national child care organizations.

The principles and methods of early childhood education is largely child-centered education. An understanding of child development is important in designing curriculums that blend play with creativity and discovery to expand a child's sense of belonging and understanding of their world. The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) reports that research clearly shows that one key step in raising the quality of early child care programs is improving preparation and support for early childhood teachers. Caregivers in accredited programs take part in ongoing child development training. Parents can feel confident that trained caregivers are more likely to understand children's needs at different ages.

Strategies for meeting the needs of children in early childhood programs are constantly evolving. Research continues to provide information for child care professionals on how to better understand the social-emotional development of infant, toddlers and young children. Children need to learn effective problem-solving skills, and a means for understanding the cultural diversity of our world. When a child's ability to view themselves and how they fit in their community is approached holistically, on multiple levels, a foundation of learning and confidence begins.

In order for child care professionals to maintain this level of quality in early childhood education, they must participate in continuing education programs. While many centers provide trainings on-site, there are other avenues for professionals to participate in advanced learning. Many of our local colleges offer programs not only for experienced child care teachers, but also for individuals interested in becoming a child care provider.

On March 27, child care professionals in our community and surrounding communities, have a unique opportunity to participate in an early childhood conference offered annually by The Preschool Enrichment Team, Inc. (P.E.T.).

This conference features nationally and locally acclaimed speakers and exhibitors. Eleven lively, interactive workshops will be highlighted. Literacy, autism, art, social awareness, music, sexual development and "Accreditation 101", an overview of the new NAEYC Accreditation system, are just a sampling of some of the workshops to be offered. There are discounts and a scholarship available for providers. More information about the conference or other training opportunities can be obtained by contacting P.E.T. at 736-3900 or by logging onto their web site at

Quality child care can make a big difference in the future of your child, your community, and even the world. And, living in a country where economics plays such a key role in the quality of education as a whole, the more we can do within our communities to support early child care professionals, the better off our children will be. By choosing quality child care early on, parents will provide their children with a head start on a strong mind, body, and spirit.

Check out these organizations for additional information about quality child care for parents, providers and individuals interested in becoming a provider:, Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care;, Child Care Aware;, National Network for Child Care;, National Association for the Education of Young Children.

Also, child care resource and referral agencies are located regionally, statewide and nationally. The Preschool Enrichment Team is the agency that services all of our local cities and towns. They can be reached at

Carla M. Girmaldi is a health educator with The Preschool Enrichment Team, 293 Bridge Street, Springfield, MA.