Choosing a quality early learning and care environment is critical to your child’s future. To help you choose the best program for your family, below are the different types of programs available and the quality characteristics they should employ to benefit your child’s development.

Types of Learning and Care Environments

Family Child Care Home

This type of early learning and care program is offered in the home of the provider, who is often a parent, is the owner, and is licensed by the state. A family child care professional often cares for children of different ages. The number of children a family child care provider can care for at one time varies depending on the ages of the children and the presence of an assistant or a second professional.

Child Care Center

This type of early learning and care program is often a facility that serves infants, toddlers, preschoolers, and school-age children on a part-day or full-day schedule. These centers are sometimes called “preschool programs” that are licensed by the state and include teachers with higher education in child development. Centers vary in size but are usually larger than family child care homes. Centers can be operated independently by an elementary school or another organization.

Family, Friend, and Neighbor Care

This type of early learning and care setting is typically provided by a relative, friend, or neighbor on a part-day or full-day schedule. Child care can be provided for children from only one family in addition to the provider’s own family. This type of environment is not licensed.

Quality Characteristics of Early Learning and Care Environments

Look for the following characteristics in the early learning and care programs you research and visit:

  • Relationships between adults and children are loving and nurturing.
  • Teachers, directors, family child care providers, and other early educators are trained in child development.
  • The environment is safe and healthy.
  • Learning activities support each child’s interests, growth, and needs.
  • Families have relationships with the program and staff.