Early Childhood Options

When it comes to raising kids, the very beginning of their education is very critical. The first thousand days of life are said to be the most formidable – it’s even considered the “brain’s window of opportunity” by UNICEF. Some believe this 1,000 days includes in utero (just under 2 years old), whereas others believe it begins at birth (almost 3 years old). Either way, early childhood education is involved.

Early childhood education is the umbrella term that includes all the varying types of programs intended to held kids younger than school age prepare for school.

Child care is the umbrella term that includes all the varying types of programs intended to care for children when they do not otherwise have adult supervision.

For the purpose of these definitions, because their left to be determined by each state, I’m using my home state of New Jersey as an example. New Jersey, even though it’s been branded less than kindly by some critics, is highly regarded by education professionals in terms of options. The metropolitan commuter state has seen and solved issues for many families through effective education policies.

Child Care Options:

  • Licensed Child Care Center (Daycare): “This facility is approved by the state Office of Licensing (OOL) for the care, development and supervision of six or more children under 13 years of age who are in care for less than 24 hours a day. Centers that are accredited by a national association are programs that have been recognized as high-quality programs.”
  • License Exempt Provider: “This is a facility that is deemed exempt from licensing regulation and not regulated by the Office of Licensing, such as:
    • Programs operated by the local public school districts, which are responsible for the implementation and management
    • Private schools which are solely run for educational purposes offering elementary education in grades kindergarten through, 6th, 7th or 8th and their kindergarten, pre-kindergarten or a child care center are an integral part of the private educational institution or system.”
  • Registered Family Child Care Provider (Nanny/Babysitter): “This is a provider who cares for no more than five children at any one time in his or her home and has received an initial, renewal or temporary Certification of Registration demonstrated to the satisfaction of the sponsoring organizations (Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies) and Office of Licensing.”
  • Family, Friend, Neighbor Provider (Nanny/Babysitter): “This provider is an individual who has been evaluated and approved by the NJ Division of Family Development (DFD) or its designee and serves no more than two unrelated children for fewer than 24 hours of care per day.”
  • In-Home Child Care (Stay at Home Parent): “These are individuals who have been evaluated and approved by DFD or its designee to care for the child in their own home for fewer than 24 hours of care per day.”
  • Youth Camp: “Youth camps are licensed under the Youth Camp Safety Act of New Jersey and possess a certificate issued by the New Jersey Department of Health and provide services wholly or in part for recreational and educational purposes to five or more children under the age of 18.”

Early Childhood Education Options:

  • Early Head Start: “Provides comprehensive early childhood development programs serving low-income pregnant women and children from ages birth to 3 and their families.”
  • Head Start: “Promotes the school readiness of young children through agencies in their local community for low-income families and children ages 3 to 5.”
  • Licensed Preschool: “Licensed early learning preschool programs provide early childhood education and care for children ages 6 weeks to 5 years.”
  • State Pre-Kindergarten: “Free preschool early learning and education programs for 3- and 4-year-olds are available in 25 school districts.”
  • Special Services: “These districts provide options for preschool students with special needs and were developed to address the educational and developmental needs of children ages 3 to 5. Typically, these districts are comprised of three types of classes: classes that educate 4-year-old students who have special needs in the same classroom as those students who do not have special needs; preschool classes for students with Individualized Educational Programs (IEPs) and the need for smaller group sizes and more individualized programming; and classes with highly specialized instruction for students with autism and students with hearing impairments.”

In the state of New Jersey, nothing before Kindergarten is considered mandatory. This gives parents the freedom to manage their own young families, but also puts the responsibility of early childhood education & child care on people that typically aren’t experts, especially first time parents. Luckily, there’s literally someone you can see to help you manage those uncharted waters.

Few things do more good than providing a safe and stimulating environment for young children to thrive. Early childhood policy consultants help make that happen…An early childhood policy consultant conducts research and analysis to develop effective policy for early childhood care and education (source).

Each child is a student & every student is an individual. Beyond the student, family is a huge influence on which early childhood education option will be the most effective for everyone involved. Parents & guardians are heavily involved in early childhood education because they are learning just as much about their child as the child is learning as a student. Therefore, it is very important to account for the parents’ wants as much as each student’s needs.


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