What you want to see

Children remain with a primary teacher over time so they can form strong relationships. The teacher learns to respond to the toddler’s individual temperament, needs, and cues, and builds a strong relationship communication with the child’s family.

Teachers acknowledge children for their accomplishments and help them to feel more confident and in control of their actions.

Teachers recognize that toddlers are not yet able to communicate all of their needs through language; they promptly respond to children’s cries or other signs of distress.

Teachers communicate warmth through pats on the back and hugs or by holding toddlers in their laps.

Teachers set good examples for children by treating others with kindness and respect; they encourage toddlers’ language skills so children can express their wants and needs with words.

Teachers recognize that frequent testing of limits and saying No! are part of a toddler’s healthy development; they establish and maintain a few simple rules phrased to tell children what they can do, and offer children a few acceptable options or alternatives.

The physical space and activities allow all children to participate. For example, a child with a physical disability eats at the same table as other children.

Teachers frequently read to toddlers, individually on the adult’s lap or in groups of two or three. Teachers sing to toddlers (in English and children’s home languages), do finger-plays, and act out simple stories as children actively participate.

Toddlers can choose from a collection of sturdy picture books (in English and in the children's home language) depict people of different ages, racial and cultural groups, family types, and abilities/disabilities.

Teachers engage toddlers in everyday routines such as eating, toileting, and dressing so children can learn new skills and better control their own behavior. Teachers support toddlers’ attempts to take care of themselves and provide items (such as a box of tissues placed on a low shelf where children can reach them) that are easy for toddlers to use.

Children have many opportunities for active, large-muscle play both indoors and outdoors. Play equipment is safe and challenging for toddlers.

Teachers see parents as the primary source of affection and care for children. Parents are always welcome in the home or center.

Teachers have training in child development or early education specific to the toddler age group. They are warm and responsive to children’s needs and patient in supporting children as they become more independent.


What you don’t want to see

One-to-one relationships between children and teachers are not a top priority. Toddlers are shifted from group to group or cared for by whichever teacher is available the given time.

Toddlers are criticized for their clumsy attempts to master skills. –OR– Teachers are overly protective, making toddlers feel that they cannot do things for themselves.

Crying is ignored; teachers do not respond consistently, or they respond to children only at their own convenience.

The home or center has “no-touch policies” that ignore the importance of touch to children’s healthy development.

Adults are harsh to children who act out. They punish or control aggressive toddlers, leading to even more aggressive behavior.

Teachers constantly say No! to children even when there is no threat to their well-being. Children are punished for asserting themselves. –OR– Teachers ignore children and allow aggressive or destructive behavior to escalate.

Teachers do not include children with special needs in everyday activities such as eating or playing with other children.

Teachers expect children to sit in large groups and watch activities, having little opportunity to participate.

Toddlers do not have access to books because they may tear or mess them up. Images in books are highly stereotyped.

Children feel dependent and incompetent because teachers do everyday tasks for them. Eating utensils, for instance, are not designed for children’s easy use.

Indoor space is cramped and unsafe for toddlers who are just learning how to move their bodies and need to run more than walk. Teachers spend time trying to control toddlers’ movements.

Health and safety procedures have not been clearly thought through and are not written or displayed. Consequently, adults forget hand washing or other essential precautions.

Teachers leave children unattended when they are playing or sleeping.

Teachers make parents feel in the way or isolated from their child’s experience. They may demonstrate competitive or patronizing attitudes toward parents.

Teachers have little training with toddlers. They expect too much or too little of toddlers and view working with this age group as a chore or merely as “babysitting.”

Both group size and the child-staff ratio are too large to allow for adequate supervision and individual attention to each child. The staffing schedule results in toddlers relating to several adults over the course of the day.

Teachers shift often from child to child or group to group. –OR– Poor working conditions and/or compensation cause a high rate of staff turnover.

© National Association for the Education of Young Children — Promoting excellence in early childhood education