Teaching and Relationships


What is a “curriculum” and what can it offer you?  A curriculum is a plan for your program.  It helps you understand how children grow and offers practical ideas for organizing your home or center and planning things to do with children that will help them develop.  It is a framework for what actually happens in a planned environment when children interact with materials, with other children, and adults.  The right curriculum will make your job as a Child Care Professional easier and more rewarding. – Excerpted from Creative Curriculum for Family Child Care by Diane Trister Dodge and Laura J. Colker, available from the Debra S. Fish Library
How do you know if your curriculum is effective?  According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children, indicators of an effective curriculum include:

  • Children are active and engaged.
  • Goals are clear and shared by all.
  • Curriculum is evidence-based.
  • Valued content is learned through investigation and focused, intentional teaching.
  • Curriculum builds on prior learning and experiences.
  • Curriculum is comprehensive.
  • Professional standards validate the curriculum’s subject-matter content.
  • The curriculum is likely to benefit children.


What is an “environment”?  What is meant by a “planned environment”?  Does every child care home and center need to look the same?  Any place where children spend their time in child care can be called an “environment”.  Every child care home and center will have a different environment – they do not all need to be the same.  A place is good for children if it is arranged in a way that helps children learn, get along with others, and become independent.

A “planned environment” is a space that has been set up to make children feel safe, secure, and comfortable.  Toys and materials are placed where children can get them, and children know which spaces and things are meant for them.  There are a variety of interesting toys that are right for the children’s ages.  In some areas, children can be active and other spaces are for quiet activities.  These may change throughout the day, especially in a Family Child Care home, where one area may be used for different kinds of activities during the day.  It may sound like a lot of work, but the result of a well-planned environment is that children are happier, they behave better, and they learn more!   For child care environment ideas and guidance, check out the many resources available from the Debra S. Fish Library.

For classes on Learning Environment and Curriculum, consult the Think Small Catalogue or MNSTREAMS and look for Content Area II.

ECIPs – Early Childhood Indicators of Progress

What is an “ECIP”?  ECIP stands for Early Childhood Indicators of Progress.  These are Minnesota’s early learning standards for young children.  They provide a common set of standards to help families, early childhood professionals, community members and policy makers know what young children generally should know and be able to do as they develop from birth to age 5.   The ECIPs cover all areas of children’s development, including Social and Emotional, Approaches to Learning, Language and Literacy, Creativity and the Arts, Cognitive, and Physical and Motor development.  These six areas are called “domains” and each domain includes many indicators of children’s progress in gaining concepts, knowledge and skills. The ECIPs can help Child Care professionals and parents understand what to expect from children at different ages and stages of development. For example, for preschoolers age 3 – 5 years, one of the indicators under the Language and Literacy domain is “Children show progress in emergent writing when they begin to copy or write their own name”.   For babies and toddlers, the same domain of Language and Literacy contains an indicator for babies 8 to 18 months that says “Makes marks on a paper with a large crayon or marker”.

Child Care professionals can use the ECIPs to recognize developmental markers and plan appropriate programming and activities for the children in their care.   When planning activities, teachers and caregivers can look to the six domains to make sure they are supporting children’s development across all areas.  If a child needs extra support in one area, the ECIPs includes strategies for providers and parents to help the child to develop to their full potential.

To read more or download a copy of the Early Childhood Indicators of Progress, Visit the Minnesota Department of Education Web page

For Training on understanding and using the ECIPs visit MNStreams or the Think Small Catalogue and look for the class called “Not by Chance”.

CLASS Assessment

The Classroom Assessment Scoring System (CLASS) is an observation tool that focuses on the effectiveness of classroom interactions among teachers and children, because it is these daily interactions that promote children’s social and cognitive development.  Children thrive when teachers create nurturing, well-managed settings and provide frequent and engaging opportunities to learn.
The CLASS observation is used only for Child Care Center preschool and toddler classrooms at this time.  For more information about the CLASS, visit the Teachstone Web page.  Or look for a CLASS training on MNStreams or the Think Small Catalogue

Partnering With Parents

The best way to prevent problems before they happen is to establish caring relationships with parents.  It is very important to create situations in which parents want to partner with Early Childhood Professionals.  Children’s achievement is optimized when parents and educators work in partnership to help children. (from How to Handle the Hard to Handle Parent, by Maryln Applebaum)  We know this is true but often feel so burdened by the daily responsibilities of caretaking that the challenge of partnering with parents is put off until there is a serious problem.  Think Small has several resources to help Early Childhood Professionals learn to build parent partnerships:

  • Classes in Content Area V; Families and Communities – search MNSTREAMS
  • Books from the Debra S. Fish Library, including How to Handle Hard to Handle Parents, by Maryln Applebaum and Parents to Partners: Building a Family Centered Early Childhood Program, by Janis Keyser
  • Book for parents and families, including books in multiple languages, are available at the Debra S. Fish Library and can be checked out through any Library in Minnesota
  • Classes suited to parents; Look for the triangle “P” symbol in the Think Small training catalogue for classes that are “Parent Friendly”
  • Language Line-  Parents and child care providers may call 1-888-291-9811 (651-665-0150 in the metro area) for personal support in their home language.