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10 Standards of High-Quality Early Childhood Education ( NAEYC)

The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC) is helping families make the right choice for their kids by giving them a tool to know whether child care programs, preschools, and kindergartens meet the mark of quality. NAEYC has 10 standards that define excellent programs for young children and an accreditation system to measure whether programs meet those standards. Now NAEYC has created a Quality Checklist of characteristics parents can look for when choosing a program.

“Choosing the right child care program or preschool can seem overwhelming,” says Mark Ginsberg, Ph.D., executive director of NAEYC. “NAEYC wants to help families feel good about the choices they make. The Quality Checklist is a helpful tool for parents as they begin their search.”

NAEYC’s Quality Checklist provides families with a shorthand way to know whether or not a program provides excellent care and education. High-quality programs should meet the following standards, as outlined in the NAEYC Accreditation system:

  1. Promote positive relationships for all children and adults
  2. Implement a curriculum that fosters all areas of child development – cognitive, emotional, language, physical, and social
  3. Use developmentally, culturally, and linguistically appropriate and effective teaching approaches
  4. Provide ongoing assessments of child progress
  5. Promote the nutrition and health of children and staff
  6. Employ and support qualified teaching staff
  7. Establish and maintain collaborative relationships with families
  8. Establish and maintain relationships and use resources of the community
  9. Provide a safe and healthy physical environment
  10. Implement strong program management policies that result in high-quality service

For more than 20 years, NAEYC has measured the quality of early childhood centers and schools through its voluntary accreditation system. Child care centers, preschools, kindergartens, and other programs serving children from birth through five years are eligible to earn NAEYC Accreditation.

In 2004, NAEYC began a thorough process to revamp its accreditation system to reflect new research and understanding of high quality early learning and to better meet the needs of centers and families. As a result, NAEYC’s new system is more effective, more credible, and more reliable than ever before.

“For decades, NAEYC worked tirelessly to help programs improve,” says Kim McClennahan Means, Senior Director of the NAEYC Academy for Early Childhood Program Accreditation. “Our new accreditation system has been improved as well, responding to programs that wanted a more clear and efficient structure and families that wanted a way to feel comfortable that they were choosing a good place for their kids.”

To earn NAEYC Accreditation, child care centers, preschools, and kindergartens must complete a rigorous four-step review process to prove that they are meeting the NAEYC standards, including an on-site visit by a highly-trained NAEYC assessor. There are more than 400 criteria that programs use to demonstrate that they are meeting the standards. NAEYC Accreditation lasts for five years, during which programs must submit annual reports and are subject to unannounced visits to ensure they remain in compliance.

The National Association for the Education of Young Children is the largest and most influential organization of early childhood educators and others dedicated to improving the quality of programs for children from birth through age eight. Founded in 1926, the organization now has nearly 100,000 members, and a national network of over 300 local, state, and regional affiliates. NAEYC and its affiliates work to improve professional practice and working conditions in early childhood education, and to build public support for high-quality early childhood programs.


Easing First Day Anxieties
New experiences are a part of growing up. But the experience of getting to know new people, new places, new routines, new rules, new food, new napping arrangements, in short, almost new "everything" can be overwhelming and anxiety producing. However, if the change is handled well, your child’s anxiety can be reduced by:

  • Acting positively about the new experience. Your child will pick up on your feelings.
  • Talking about and practicing the new departure routine by role playing.
  • Asking your child to choose a favorite toy, blanket, or family photo to take along.
  • Transitioning slowly by planning a few short visits before you begin full-time.
  • Saying good-bye the same way each day. Sneaking out is not advised. Explain that you are leaving and when you are expecting to return. It is common for a child to cry or fuss when you leave. To feel more at ease, call for a status report when you get to work.

Some children will adjust to a new child care situation almost immediately. Others will take several months. If your child is having difficulty adjusting, yet you feel confident in the provider, keep working with the provider to make your child’s day as comfortable as possible.


Keeping Your Child Healthy
Children in child care have the right to a healthy and safe environment. Unfortunately, when children are in close and constant contact, one child’s germs can easily affect others. Young children are especially vulnerable because of their immature immune systems. This means that they are more likely to acquire and pass on illnesses to their own parents and siblings, caregivers and peers at the child care program. They can average 8-10 colds per year.

Because children will become ill, it is important that a plan for alternative child care be arranged in advance. Recruitment of friends or families who can pick up and care for an ill child will give you and the provider peace of mind. Parents must understand the program’s policies on ill children and the exclusion guidelines identified by public health authorities.

Parents have the responsibility to:

  • Know and follow the program’s illness exclusion guidelines. The provider should supply you with a copy at enrollment.
  • Assess their child before they are taken to child care for symptoms of illness.
  • Be available (or have a friend or family member as a back-up) if called by the provider to pick up an ill child.
  • Report contagious diseases within 24 hours of diagnosis to your child care provider (even if the child is kept at home)
  • Keep your child's immunizations current. For children in child care, the chickenpox and pneumococcal vaccines are recommended to prevent the risk of complications or the loss of the parent's work time.

Providers have the responsibility to:

  • Follow the highest standards for diapering, food preparation, disinfection of toys and equipment and routine cleaning.
  • Wash their hands before food preparation, after diapering or toileting a child, after wiping a runny nose and after handling pets, etc.
  • Oversee the children’s hand washing as the children start the day in the child care setting, after toileting and before meals.
  • Distribute illness policies to all families upon enrollment.
  • Enforce the illness policies.
  • If a child in the program has been diagnosed with a contagious disease, alert other parents to watch for similar signs and seek medical advice when necessary.


Immunization Schedule
As mentioned above, it is important to keep your child's immunizations current. For children in child care, the chickenpox and pneumococcal vaccines are recommended to prevent the risk of complications or the loss of the parent's work time. SC Day Care Immunizations Guidelines can be found here:


Childhood Obesity
Obesity in children and adolescents is a serious issue with many health and social consequences that often continue into adulthood. Implementing prevention programs and getting a better understanding of treatment for youngsters is important to controlling the obesity epidemic.

Many parents are rightly concerned about their child's weight and how it affects them. What are the best strategies for prevention? For more information contact, the American Obesity Association

Color Me Healthy
( is a program developed to reach limited-resource children ages 4 - 5 with fun interactive learning opportunities on physical activity and healthy eating.


The Business Side of Child Care
When you enroll your child in care, the provider will ask you to review her program’s policies and procedures and sign a business contract that identifies financial obligations.

Policies and contracts might cover:

  • Policies regarding child rearing, discipline, transportation, nutrition and field trips.
  • Hours of care, fees, payment dates, overtime fees and vacation payment policies.
  • Exclusion guidelines for ill children.
  • How to terminate care arrangements.
  • Permission for transporting children.
  • Read all contract terms carefully and make sure you understand everything before signing. You may suggest additional items to be added to the contract


Keeping Your Child Care Program
Once your child has adjusted to the new child care setting, you will want to build a trusting relationship with your caregiver with honest and open communication.

Establish good communication by:

  • Setting aside a few minutes at the beginning or end of each day to talk with the caregiver about your child’s day.
  • Sharing concerns as they arise. Noticing potential problem areas in the beginning makes it easier to discuss them and, if necessary, negotiate changes.
  • Sharing family events that may impact your child’s behavior such as a move, any change in sleeping or eating habits, exposure to contagious disease, or the death of a family member or pet.
  • Notifying the provider, in advance, of changes in your child’s schedule.
  • Showing the provider your appreciation for what she does for your child and your appreciation for the profession she has chosen.

Make sure things go smoothly by:

  • Arriving at the designated time or calling if you will be late.
  • Paying on time.
  • Bringing personal items (a change of clothing, diapers, formula, required forms, etc.) as requested by your provider.
  • Dressing your child appropriately for outdoor play.
  • Bringing medications in their original containers.
  • Arranging, in advance, back-up child care should your provider not be able to provide care due to vacation or illness.
  • Following your provider’s illness exclusion guidelines. If your child becomes ill at daycare, be prompt when making arrangements to pick up your ill child.

Show your support by:

  • Saying, "thank you" on a regular basis, particularly when the provider does extra—washes out soiled clothes, celebrates birthdays or gets your child off to school or special events.
  • Remembering her with candy, cards or small gifts on special occasions.
  • Donating services or time. Bring special snacks, assist on field trips, donate paper and art supplies, collect junk art supplies, etc.
  • Respect the provider’s policies and procedures.

By state law, a provider cannot do the following even if parents have requested it and have granted their permission:

  • Spank or physically punish a child
  • Withhold food or force feed
  • Place an infant on a waterbed or soft mattress
  • Leave children unattended at any time
  • Bite a child who is biting others
  • Put children to bed with their bottle


Concerns and Complaints of Licensed Child Care Programs
If a disagreement or a concern arises, set a specific time to meet with the provider to talk about it. It is best if children are not present. If complaints cannot be resolved, CCR&R will assist you in finding a new child care program.

If you suspect the program is violating licensing regulations, contact the child care licensing specialist in your area

If you feel your child or other children are in danger, immediately contact the county licensing specialist or the child protection office of your county social services office (

If in doubt about whether or not a situation is serious enough to report, call the licensing specialist with the information. County social service offices will respect your privacy, and they appreciate the opportunity to address parent complaints and concerns. You will not only be looking out for your own child, but all of the children in the child care setting.