Working Toward a Definition of Infant/Toddler Curricula: Intentionally Furthering the Development of Individual Children within Responsive Relationships

OPRE Report #2017-15
Publisher: Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services,Administration for Children and Families, Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation
Mar 31, 2017
Rachel Chazan-Cohen, Martha Zaslow, Helen H. Raikes, James Elicker, Diane Paulsell, Allyson Dean, and Kerry Kriener-Althen
This brief is an effort to explore the meaning of the word “curriculum” when applied to working with infants and toddlers. The idea for the brief emerged from the early childhood community—specifically two groups of applied researchers funded by the Administration for Children and Families, INQUIRE and NITR. [See insert box on page 12 for more information on these groups]. These groups were getting questions from state policy makers and practitioners about the meaning of the term “empirically-based curricula for infants and toddlers,” a requirement for many accountability systems. Questions included concerns about how to conceptualize curriculum in the context of working with infants and toddlers—especially how to incorporate this concept in a way that provides sufficient focus on individualization and the supportive and responsive relationships that are the hallmark of infant/toddler care and education. There was concern that use of a curriculum would by definition be developmentally inappropriate for infants and toddlers. There were also questions about how stakeholders should verify the use of a curriculum for this age group. This brief begins a discussion about the meaning of the term when applied to early education and care programs serving families with infants and toddlers, and focuses especially on how the concept of a curriculum can be incorporated into and used in programs in a way that is developmentally appropriate for this age range.