Our History

Since 1971, when mothers of young children were entering the workforce in record numbers, Think Small has stood out as leaders supporting and adapting to the needs of our community while advancing the quality of care and education for children in their crucial early years.

The world and our work look significantly different than it did 50 years ago but Think Small continues to answer the call to innovate ways of supporting families, early childhood professionals, policymakers and other influential people—making the best choices for children. Our trusted relationships with early childhood educators, families, policymakers, and community leaders means our reach is vast and effective.

Our Purpose

Minnesota’s achievement gap between white children and children of color, one of the worst in the nation.

Top-down approach to policy recommendations has not yet moved the needle on school readiness for Black, Indigenous and People of color (BIPOC) children and ELL children. The widening of our achievement gap is happening at the same time Minnesota is becoming increasingly more ethnically and linguistically diverse, especially amongst our youngest citizens. And even though this change has been well-documented and discussed, Minnesota has no coordinated efforts or strategies to educate this population. We need to create a system collectively working to end systemic racism and equipping the early childhood workforce with the knowledge, skills, and competencies they need to produce the best outcomes for children beyond kindergarten. Enter Project 1825.

From a child’s birth until age five, there are 1,825 days to prepare them for kindergarten.

At Think Small, we have made it our mission to ensure EVERY child’s life counts. that is why we created Project 1,825 so we never lose focus of the urgency of the first five years-a constant reminder that we have a limited amount of time to maximize opportunities for all children.

Think Small are innovators of the Minnesota model combining high quality early childhood with access for low-income families. They are ready to take on Project 1825 to ensure all children in MN succeed.


Early Childhood Educators

Think Small supports excellence in early learning for all types of professionals–providers, parent educators, and teachers.

Think Small’s Build Your Own: Child Care Program offers up to 20 hours of FREE individualized service. Our team helps assess your needs and design a plan, set goals, and create a timeline unique to the individual program needs.

Pathways to Quality (P2Q), was a three-year initiative undertaken by Think Small in collaboration with Generation Next and the Bush Foundation, aimed to close the opportunity gap through quality improvements in early childhood development programs.

Goal: Create 1,700 high-quality childcare slots for high-needs children by supporting educators serving culturally diverse children through various opportunities including learning communities, business coaching, training on social-emotional development issues and/or early literacy.

Outcomes: Exceeded goal with 6,536 high-quality early learning slots. Participating programs 3x less likely to go out of business, 6x more likely to receive quality rating. Minnesota now funds similar support for all childcare programs.

The Think Small Institute is a unique and innovative community offering training and tools to elevate the early childhood experience. Recent trainings include:

  • “Granting Children Their Emotions: How Children Can Learn About Them Throughout Each Day,”
  • “Desarrollar relaciones positivas con niños, familias, y colegas en la época de COVID 19 (Developing Relationships with Children, Families and Colleagues in the Time of COVID-19),”
  • “Early Childhood Trauma: Understanding and Developing Strategies to Support Children and Families.”
  • “Advocating for Young Children” explores ways that you can use your voice to influence and shape policies that affect children in your care.
  • Visit the training calendar here.

When COVID-19 began, common cleaning supplies were difficult, if not impossible for child care programs to find. Through a partnership with local businesses and organizations, Think Small was able to distribute emergency supplies to providers in the seven-county metro area and through a collaboration with Child Care Aware of Minnesota to distribute supplies to providers in Greater Minnesota. To date Think Small has distributed XXXX gallons of bleach, XXX boxes of masks, and XXX boxes of gloves.

Watch this video of one of the Emergency Supplies Distribution events.

Project Inclusion’s goal was to remove the option to expel children through training and coaching.

Outcomes: Increased educators’ confidence and competence by setting behavioral expectations, identifying opportunities to support development and self-regulation, and establishing expulsion policies.

Project Inclusion exceeded its goals

  • by supporting 126 early childhood professionals through training and coaching
  • with 53% of childcare providers reporting feeling “extremely” confident in their skills for redirecting challenging behaviors
  • with more than 50% of childcare providers reporting they felt confident in their ability to calm a distressed child 75% of the time

Within three weeks of the Governor’s stay-at-home order being issued, we raised and allocated funds to make $1,000 grants to more than 300 providers. About 30% of the providers identified as people of color and about 50% work in high-poverty neighborhoods. Collectively, they serve more than 2,200 children of essential workers. Through this work, we demonstrated not only the high degree of need for financial support in our community, but also how to efficiently run such a program.

These results, along with our participation in advocacy efforts, led to the approval of $86 million in state funding awarded through multiple rounds of state grant funding.

Established in 1973, Redleaf Press is a leading nonprofit publisher of curriculum, management, and business resources for early childhood professionals. Redleaf Press’ exceptional educational and instructional resources improve the lives of children by strengthening and supporting the teachers, trainers, and families who care for them. With XXXX numbers of resources in print XXXX of Redleaf Press books have been translated to XXXX languages in XXXX countries.

Redleaf Press began offering free webinars in April 2019. Since then, more than 7,500 early childhood educators and advocates from 29 countries including Australia, Chile, China, Egypt, Jamaica, Pakistan, South Africa, and Thailand have had the opportunity to hear from leaders like Valora Washington on her book Changing the Game for Generation Alpha and Angèle Sancho Passe on Creating Diversity-Rich Environments.

View all the Redleaf Press webinars here.

Redleaf Press publishes a diverse list of voices from the early childhood field and several bilingual and Spanish resources including,

The Debra S. Fish Early Childhood Resource Library supports early childhood trainers, child care providers, and parents of young children with over 6,000 exceptional early childhood materials on a variety of topics: positive guidance, play, developmentally appropriate practice, anti-bias education, nature, ethics, technology, family engagement, and as well as story-kits and children’s books in English, Spanish, Hmong, Vietnamese, Karen, Somali, Cambodian, and Chinese.


Think Small is focused on strengthening Minnesota families, especially those in underserved communities.

More than 10,000 families have enrolled in Think Small ParentPowered Texts—a free, research-based program supports kindergarten readiness. Think Small has worked to have the messages translated into Spanish, Somali, Arabic, and Dakota.

Think Small has carefully crafted text messages focusing on equity. Using evidence-informed research, these messages focus on real-life strategies parents can use to explore topics with their children about equity and inclusion. By being informed about what positive messages children need to hear repeatedly throughout their life, these Equity texts will empower parents with the tools they need to raise anti-racist children.

Watch a video testimonial about the effects of the Think Small ParentPowered Texts.

The LENA Start curriculum is a 13-week parent education program designed to promote parent–child interaction and early language development. Pathways to Quality adapted the curriculum to include early childhood education providers in addition to parents. Trained by the LENA Research Foundation, Think Small staff used a LENA recorder, a device that records and analyzes the language vocalized around it, to measure the quantity and quality of verbal communication between adults and the child wearing the device over an entire day (usually around 16 hours). After each recording, providers and parents received reports of their progress and were taught strategies to promote language interactions with children.

Think Small conducted four 13-week cohorts between fall 2016 and spring 2017 and included one Spanish-speaking cohort and one Hmong-speaking cohort.

Results: The children that participated in LENA Start showed great progress during each 13-week session. We saw an increase from 559 to 737 words in the average number of words spoken near a child over an entire day by an adult (not counting TV and other media) after parents received family supports.

These results suggest that the LENA Start curriculum may be an effective intervention to help close the word gap through quality early childhood education programs. The biggest challenge to implementing this program is the cost. Substantial subsidies are necessary for providers and parents to participate in a 13-week cohort.

Full LENA Start report.

Think Small is committed to improving families’ access to high-quality care by administering early learning scholarships in Hennepin and Ramsey counties.

Goal: Help children in high-needs neighborhoods access high-quality childcare

Outcomes: More children attended high-quality programs, including children formerly at home or in lower-quality settings, and families experienced less stress, more stability

COMING SOON! – Amid the twin pandemics of systemic racism and COVID-19, both affecting people of color disproportionately, it’s never too early to start talking about race. Early Risers is a new podcast that welcomes a new dawn of cultural fluency by bringing race into the conversation with our littlest learners.

In this podcast, we’ll explore topics like the basics of equity and what it means to be “woke,” identifying implicit bias in in early childhood classrooms, and how to teach toddlers about cultural identity. Short, sweet, funny and relatable, each episode will help parents, caretakers and educators tackle a big topic with their little ones. From Little Moments Count and hosted by early childhood education expert Dianne Haulcy of Think Small.

Think Small is an innovative partner with NAZ. They put results of all children at the center of their work. They are the perfect partner to lead Project 1825.


Community Engagement / Community Leaders

Think Small is committed to championing policies and practices of equity that empower a just and equitable care and education system.

Small Talks features leaders who will share key insights on early childhood education and discuss innovative solutions to early learning issues in Minnesota. Watch past events like Addressing Implicit Bias in Early Childhood: Get Comfortable Being Uncomfortable.

February 1, 2021 — Think Small’s Dianne Haulcy testified before the House Education Policy Committee regarding the education sections of a recently published report from the House Select Committee on Racial Justice: “To close Minnesota’s achievement gap, we must close the child care opportunity gap by ensuring all children can participate in quality early care and education opportunities and start kindergarten ready to succeed in school. Early Learning Scholarships are a fundamental policy of an equitable childcare and education system.”

Think Small regularly convenes Hmong, Somali and Latino cultural advisory groups and grant recipients to understand their experiences, challenges, and find solutions together.

Candace Yates, Director of Equity and Quality Supports, was accepted into the 2021 cohort of the Embracing Equity Leadership Residency (EELR); a national leadership development program that builds the capacity and skills to be able to implement customized anti-bias, anti-racist organizational change.

STIR Charter: To improve on Think Small’s history of supporting a culture of trust, inclusion, and respect for our staff, clients, customers, and partners.

Purpose: To increase organization understanding, encourage cross-department and cross-agency interaction, and provide staff development opportunities on topics such as cultural competence, communication, conflict resolution, and customer service.

Past Events:

  • Wing Young Huie Presentation: How do photographs form us?
  • World Refugee Day Presentation
  • “Raising of America” viewing and discussion with Rob Grunewald
  • Black Hair: Culture, Politics, and Self-Expression presentation
  • Green Card Youth Voice book discussion
  • National Indian Child Welfare Association’s Positive Indian Parenting presentation
  • “Love Them First” viewing and discussion

Stories are powerful. Long Story Short was created to give child care providers a place to share stories about their work on behalf of young children, and to give families an opportunity to share their child care successes and challenges with the community.

View stories here.

February 8, 2021 — Minnesota Public Radio, “’A societal domino issue’: Advocates say help for child care providers key to economic recovery”, Dianne Haulcy, senior vice president for family engagement at Think Small, Interview.

December 23, 2020 — Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, “What works in supporting early care and education: Cross-sector partners deliver critical COVID-19 supplies”

June 4, 2020 — Think Small blog, “Wake Up Everybody” by Dianne Haulcy, Senior Vice President of Family Engagement at Think Small.

April 1, 2020 — Advancing Philanthropy, “Innovation: Trust-Based Philanthropy and Innovation in Early Education” by Kim Snyder and Barbara Yates.