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Developmental Programs

the Early Childhood Education Center (ECEC) offers four developmental programs based on the assumption that children learn by doing, especially when activities are self-initiated and self-regulated. Teachers encourage children to make choices, to act on those choices and to reflect on the consequences of their activities.

Young Infant Program (3-12 months)

The young infant program facilitates infants’ natural intellectual development and is designed to be an extension of the family unit. The program is modeled after collaborative research and guidelines developed by the California Department of Education and the WestEd educational laboratory.

Infant Program (11 months to 2 years and walking)

The ECEC Infant Room is often a child’s first experience outside the home. The program provides individual attention to help infants feel secure as they make this transition. This group care setting offers a rich environment for promoting interpersonal bonding and providing intellectual stimulation for infant development. The “caregiver-to-infant ratio” is kept low to provide as much individual attention as possible.

The daily schedule is designed to meet an infant’s physical needs (e.g., morning rest and afternoon nap, morning and afternoon snacks, lunch and regular diaper changes). An infant’s physical skills are coupled with rapid increases in cognitive and social skills. This program offers a wide range of experiences through art, language, movement, sensory play, and musical activities to meet an infant’s rapidly developing needs.

Within certain constraints, infants are encouraged to make choices about their day. Even at this early age, infants are excited about their increasing sense of independence. The infant program helps them use their freedom in ways that promote their development. They can move freely throughout the classroom, exploring activities that they find interesting. They can collaborate with others on projects or work alone. Teachers encourage infants to find their own way of doing things and to learn from the responses of their peers.

During daily learning/ play periods, children can move freely from indoor and outdoor activities such as:

  • Finger and easel painting
  • Singing before meals and dramatic play
  • Reading and creating stories with flannel board characters
  • Puppet play to encourage language expression
  • Outdoor play with sensory materials like sand, water, bubbles, and play dough or climbing and taking nature walks
  • Problem solving using puzzles, building blocks, and other small motor activities

Toddler Program (2-3 years)

Our toddler program provides a loving and secure atmosphere similar to the infant program, but with increasing emphasis on autonomy, self-motivation and self-selection of activity. The program offers a range of different experiences and allows young children to discover for themselves the pleasure of working together in small groups. Teachers create activities that invite children to join together to explore an idea, or experiment with color, or find a new way to climb. A daily meeting time provides children the opportunity to develop their language and social skills.

The daily schedule in our toddler program includes a choice of activities in a number of different locations:

  • Several indoor and outdoor work areas are available with a range of teacher-prepared activities and games to stimulate small muscle coordination and development of cognitive processes, language, mathematics, reading and writing skills. These include puzzles, clay, cutting and gluing tasks and scientific experiments. These work areas facilitate conversations on a range of topics between the children and teachers.
  • A creative play area encourages dramatic play with clothes and equipment to create different settings within a home, a store or other settings.
  • A block-building area with various styles of open-ended building materials and other items (e.g., animals, vehicles, recycled materials) helps children think about ways of constructing their own settings and experimenting with a variety of shapes, sizes and engineering methods.
  • Students have ready access to a variety of art materials to express themselves in creative ways.
  • Circle time provides an opportunity for movement and music, sharing and learning about new topics, and experiencing cultural diversity through song, rhyme and literature.
  • A reading corner provides a quiet place for individual children or small, adult-led groups to interact with books and ideas. It serves as the location of many quiet discussions on topics like how to handle feelings, what jobs children would like to have as adults or how animals act.
  • An active outdoor area contains equipment for large muscle development and motor coordination. There is also working space for sensory materials like sand, water, clay or paints and construction materials like wood, blocks and cardboard. The toddler program takes full advantage of the mild climate, moving many traditional indoor activities outdoors–often resulting in interesting variations. There is a strong emphasis on exploring nature and natural materials.

Teachers usually talk with one or a few children at a time and extend each child’s experience with a positive response, question, suggestion or explanation. Emphasis is placed on understanding the image a child has of self and helping the child develop a positive self-image.

Preschool Program (3–5 years)

As children grow, they need more space to explore and a wider set of activities to expand their interests. The preschool program uses a larger classroom and an outdoor play area to provide young children a range of challenging activities.

Groups of 4-5 children usually work with the support of an adult on a learning project. These intimate working groups allow for important social interaction among children and adults. Adults listen carefully to children, encouraging them to ask questions or make observations, direct reflections on actions and outcomes, and help children work cooperatively with their peers.

Through creative use of outdoor and indoor learning centers, preschoolers have much more space in which to work than is normally available in larger group care settings. During morning and afternoon learning sessions, children can choose from among 6–8 special projects that are prepared each day, indoors and outdoors.

The program curriculum is designed to provide for the many areas of growth in young children and includes these types of activities:

  • Pre-writing and writing projects: Children use scissors, paste, and a variety of writing and printing tools – including computers – to create books, labels, stories, captions, poems, signs and banners. These activities focus on fine motor control, eye/hand coordination and visual discrimination. Children develop an understanding and appreciation of early literacy skills.
  • Listening center tasks: Children listen to stories read to them by adults, participate in flannel board stories, and listen to recorded materials. They develop skills in verbal expression, listening, comprehension, vocabulary and auditory discrimination of words and rhymes.
  • Sensory experiences: Children have the opportunity to manipulate, mix, measure and experiment with a range of sensory materials, including clay, sand, flour, mud, salt and water. Cooking experiences help students understand the need for following directions, and making materials like play dough provides wonderful opportunities for innovative experimentation with materials. As children watch the transformation of materials as they are mixed, heated or cooled, they develop important observational and conceptual skills.
  • Creative expression: Children have access to a rich variety of media for artistic expression. In addition to teacher-prepared art experiences, a child may select materials for self-directed projects in painting, printing and drawing. These activities develop the child’s fine motor skills using a variety of media that include threading, gluing and 3-D construction.
  • Dramatic play: The dramatic play area provides children with props to explore various roles, relationships and interactive strategies through imaginative play. The area undergoes frequent changes–becoming a fire station, a pediatrician’s office, a restaurant, an office or an airliner–as children use their own actions to understand their world.
  • Cognitive tasks: Each day different types of puzzles, memory games, measurement tools, cubes, scales and other manipulative materials are set up for the children to explore. These tasks are designed to help children develop their concepts of size, position, color, shape, time, quantity and comparison. Adults are available to help children learn from their observations and to challenge them to use material in new ways.
  • Science experiments: Children participate in activities, such as sprouting seeds, growing plants, examining materials with magnification and microscopes, examining and building simple machines and experimenting with wheels and inclines. These tasks promote basic thinking skills and understanding of cause and effect relationships, sequence and predictions. Children’s curiosity about their physical world provides the direction for construction of these tasks.

In addition to these learning centers that change daily, a number of areas are always available to children, including a computer center, a block-building area, a dramatic play corner, a library area and shelves of art materials.

The large group meeting time at noon and a smaller meeting at the end of the day are dedicated to singing, rhyming and language development games that focus on the child’s importance as a member of the group. They provide a setting for children to learn to speak and listen to each other.


For more information, call (858) 246-0900, weekdays from 7:30 a.m. – 5 p.m.