Early Childhood Education Journal

, Volume 44, Issue 2, pp 147–153 | Cite as

The Context of Child Care for Toddlers: The “Experience Expectable Environment”

  • Karen M. La ParoEmail author
  • Lissy Gloeckler


An experience expectable environment in child care classrooms is one in which teachers consistently provide positive and nurturing interactions within daily routines and activities to enhance children’s learning. Growing numbers of children are being enrolled in child care at earlier ages and staying for longer periods of time each day which is heightening the need to attend to the context of child care for very young children. Several large scale studies in social policy, biology, and human development have confirmed the links between children’s early experiences and later outcomes, and recent brain research and research in child care classrooms has highlighted the importance of these consistent, responsive, and respectful patterns of interaction, especially for very young children’s development. Yet, examination of the quality of child care has indicated interactions in these classrooms that may not support optimal development and/or that could be considered harmful. Given toddlers’ need for consistent and nurturing care, coupled with the current substandard quality of care for very young children, discussing the context of child care in terms of an experience expectable environment provides a perspective to understand the context of toddler child care. This perspective underscores the connections of routines and interactions to children’s development of neural pathways, thus setting the foundation for optimizing learning and development.


Toddler Child care Teacher preparation Classroom quality Responsive interactions 


  1. Bagdi, A., & Vacca, J. (2005). Supporting early childhood social-emotional well-being: The building blocks for early learning and school success. Early Childhood Education Journal, 33(3), 145–150.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Bodrova, E., & Leong, D. (2008). Developing self-regulation skills in kindergarten. Beyond the Journal: Young Children on the Web, 63(2), 1–3.Google Scholar
  3. Bronfenbrenner, U., & Morris, P. A. (1998). The ecology of developmental processes. In W. Damon (Ed. in chief), & R. M. Lerner (Vol. Ed.), Handbook of child psychology, Vol. 1: Theoretical models of human development (5th ed.). (pp. 993–1028). New York: Wiley.Google Scholar
  4. Butterfield, P. M. (2002). Child care is rich in routines. Zero to Three, 22(4), 29–32.Google Scholar
  5. Children’s Defense Fund (2005). Child care basics. Retrieved from
  6. Copple, C. A., & Bredekamp, S. (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8 (3rd ed.). Washington, DC: NAEYC.Google Scholar
  7. Cost, Quality, and Outcomes Study Team. (1995). Cost, quality and child outcomes in child care centers: Key findings and recommendations. Young Children, 50(4), 40–44.Google Scholar
  8. Daw, N. W. (1997). Critical periods and strabismus: What questions remain? Optometry and Vision Science, 74, 690–694.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Edwards, C. P., & Raike, H. (2002). Extending the dance: Relationship-based approaches to infant/toddler care and education. Young Children, 57(4), 10–17.Google Scholar
  10. Feldman, R., Eidleman, A. I., & Rotenberg, N. (2004). Parenting stress, infant emotional regulation, maternal sensitivity, and the cognitive development of triplets: A model for parent and children influences in a unique ecology. Child Development, 75(6), 1774–1791.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Fox, S. E., Levitt, P., & Nelson, C. A. (2010). How the quality and timing of early experiences influence the development of brain architecture. Child Development, 81(1), 28–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Gloeckler, L. R., Cassell, J. M., & Malksu, A. J. (2014). An analysis of teacher practices with toddlers during social conflicts. Early Child Development and Care, 184(5), 749–765.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Greenough, W. T. (1986). What’s special about development? Thoughts on the bases of experience-sensitive plasticity. Developmental neuropsychobiology (pp. 387–407). Orlando: Florida Academic.Google Scholar
  14. Gunnar, M. R., Brodersen, L., Nachmias, M., Buss, K., & Rigatuso, J. (1996). Stress reactivity and attachment security. Developmental Psychobiology, 29(3), 191–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Gunnar, M. R., & Cheatham, C. L. (2003). Brain and behavior interfaces: Stress and the developing brain. Infant Mental Health Journal, 24(3), 195–211.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Hallam, R., Fouts, H., Bargreen, K., & Caudle, L. (2009). Quality from a toddler’s perspective: A bottom-up examination of classroom experiences. Early Childhood Research to Practice, 11(2). Retrieved from
  17. Harrison, L. J., Elwick, S., Vallotton, C. D., & Kappler, G. (2014). Spending time with others: A time use diary for infant-toddler child care. In L. J. Harrison & J. Sumsion (Eds.), Lived spaces of infant-toddler care and education (pp. 59–74). New York: Springer.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Hestenes, L., Cassidy, D., Hedge, A., & Lower, J. (2007). Quality in inclusive and toddler classrooms. Journal of Research in Childhood Education, 22(1), 69–84.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Honig, A. S., & Wittmer, D. S. (1982). Teachers’ questions to male and female toddlers. Early Child Development and Care, 9(1), 19–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Howes, C., Burchinal, M., Pianta, R. C., Bryant, D., Early, D., Clifford, R. M., & Barbarin, O. (2008). Ready to learn? Children’s pre-academic achievement in pre-kindergarten programs. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 23, 27–50.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hyson, M. (2004). The emotional development of young children: Building an emotion-centered curriculum. New York, NY: The Teachers College Press.Google Scholar
  22. Knudsen, E. I. (2004). Sensitive periods in the development of the brain and behavior. Journal of Cognitive Neuroscience, 16, 1412–1425.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Kochanska, G., Coy, K. C., & Murray, K. T. (2001). The development of self-regulation in the first four years of life. Child Development, 72(4), 1091–1111.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Kostelink, M. J., Stein, L. C., & Whiren, A. P. (1989). Children’s self-esteem: The verbal environment. Childhood Education, 65(1), 29–32.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Landry, S. H., Zucker, T. A., Taylor, H., Swank, P. R., Williams, J. M., Assel, M., & Klein, A. (2014). Enhancing early child care quality and learning for toddlers at risk: The responsive early childhood program. Developmental Psychology, 50(2), 526–541.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Lubeck, S. (1996). Deconstructing “child development knowledge” and “teacher preparation”. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 11(2), 147–167.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Mahler, M., Pine, F., & Bergman, A. (1967). The psychological birth of the human infant. New York: Basic Books.Google Scholar
  28. Masataka, N. (1996). Perception of motherese in a signed language by 6-month old deaf infants. Developmental Psychology, 32(5), 874–879.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. National Association for the Education of Young Children (2009). Developmentally appropriate practice in early childhood programs serving children from birth through age 8: Position paper. Retrieved from
  30. National Association of Child Care Resource and Referral Agencies, Center for the Child Care Workforce (2012) NACCRA (
  31. National Institute of Child Health and Human Development (NICHD) Early Child Care Research Network (ECCRN). (2002). Early child care and children’s development prior to school entry: Results from the NICHD study of early child care. American Educational Research Journal, 39, 133–164.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2007). The timing and quality of early experiences combine to shape brain architecture: Working paper No. 5. Retrieved from
  33. National Scientific Council on the Developing Child (2010). Early experiences can alter gene expression and affect long-term development: Working paper No. 10. Retrieved from
  34. National Survey of Early Care and Education Project Team. (2013). Number and characteristics of early care and education (ECE) teachers and caregivers: Initial findings from the National Survey of Early Care and Education (NSECE (OPRE Report #2013-88). Washington DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Retrieved from
  35. Nelson, C. A., Zeanah, C. H., Fox, N. A., Marshall, P. J., Smyke, A., & Guthrie, D. (2007). Cognitive recovery in socially deprived young children: The Bucharest early intervention project. Science, 318, 1937–1940.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Phillips, D. A., & Lowenstein, A. E. (2011). Early care, education, and child development. Annual Review of Psychology, 62, 483–4500.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Pianta, R. C., Howes, C., Burchinal, M., Bryant, D., Clifford, R., Early, D., & Barbarin, O. (2005). Features of pre-kindergarten programs, classrooms, and teachers: Do they predict observed classroom quality and child-teacher interactions? Applied Development Science, 9(3), 144–159.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Sroufe, L. A., Carlson, E., & Schulman, S. (1993). Individuals in relationships: Development from infancy through adolescence. In D. C. Funder, R. D. Parke, C. Tomlinson Keasey, & K. Widaman (Eds.), Studying lives through time: Personality and development (pp. 315–342). Washington: American Psychological Association.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Thomason, A. C., & La Paro, K. M. (2009). Measuring the quality of teacher-child interactions in toddler child care. Early Education & Development, 20(2), 285–304.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Warren, S. L., & Simmens, S. J. (2005). Predicting toddler anxiety/depressive symptoms: Effects of caregiver sensitivity on temperamentally vulnerable children. Journal of Mental Health, 26(1), 40–55.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. White, D., & Howe, N. (1998). The socialization of children’s emotional and social behavior by day care educators. In D. Pushkar, et al. (Eds.), Improving competence across the lifespan (pp. 79–90). New York: Plenum Press.Google Scholar
  42. Whitebook, M., Howes, C., & Philips, D (1990). Who cares? Child care teachers and the quality of care in America. Oakland: CA; National Child Care Staffing Study, Child Care Employee Project. ED 323 031.Google Scholar
  43. Wittmer, D. S., & Petersen, S. H. (2014). Infant and toddler development and responsive program planning: A relationship approach. Boston, MA: Pearson.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media New York 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of North Carolina at GreensboroGreensboroUSA
  2. 2.The VillagesUSA

Personalised recommendations