This summary comes from a research report from the Center for the Developing Child at Harvard University. At the same time, personal ideas about quality child care can vary depending on values, beliefs and cultural or social context and also on who is making the judgment.
Through the eyes of children
For children, a high-quality program may mean feeling accepted for who they are no matter what their ability or culture. It means having friends and responsive adults, being emotionally and physically comfortable and the possibility of having a variety of fun, interesting and engaging activities.
Through the eyes of parents
For most parents, quality child care safeguards a child’s health and safety; the child is happy, and the program is conveniently located and affordable.
For many parents, quality child care is key to balancing work and family, so that parents have peace of mind while they are at work.
Other parents may define a high quality program as incorporating tangible school readiness activities, such as pre- or early reading or learning to count, or highlighting learning social skills such as cooperation. Or they may define a quality environment as one in which their families’ culture and their child’s abilities are respected.
Or parents may define high quality child care as an environment in which their child is happy, makes friends, has interesting and positive experiences, and learns about a wide variety of things.
Or… all of the above…and more.
Overall elements of quality
While there is no single definition of quality in child care, there are some overall elements of child care that are identified as critical to the well-being of children. These include:
- Health, safety and good hygiene
- Good nutrition
- A well-maintained environment set up for children
- An adequate number of staff who are sensitive and responsive to children
- Opportunities for active play—especially outdoors
- Opportunities for quiet play and rest
- Opportunities for developing motor, social, language and cognitive skills through play
- Positive interactions with adults
- Practices that support positive interaction amongst children
- Facilitation of emotional growth
- Participation of, support for and communication with parents
- Respect for diversity and difference, gender equality and inclusion of children with disabilities
As well, high quality child care is generally understood to have
- Broad learning and development goals for children, going beyond narrow academic aims like early literacy and numeracy to social, emotional, cultural, artistic and physical goals
- An approach that “lets children be children”, which means learning through play and experiencing a wide range of artistic, cultural, cognitive, social and physical activities.