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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Introduction Very young children are rapidly changing and discovering their worlds; their first three years set the stage for a lifetime of learning. As a responsive caregiver, you devise activities and experiences to help them develop. You help them acquire skills and master developmental milestones. And by engaging them, you foster the re- lationships that help them develop trust. In other words, how you care for young children dramatically affects their lifelong intellectual, emotional, social, and physi- cal development. Responsive Caregivers What exactly is a responsive caregiver? The term caregiver describes any adult who provides care for children. You might be a parent, grandparent, aunt, uncle, neigh- bor, family child care provider, or program staff member—whatever your relation- ship to a child, if it’s ongoing, you’re a caregiver. Responsive caregivers go further: You make a point of addressing each child’s individual needs in developmentally appropriate ways. You provide not only care tailored to each child—you also provide it in a loving, nurturing, stable setting. One of your chief responsibilities as a responsive caregiver is planning activities to help children become skilled across four learning domains: social-emotional, physi- cal, cognitive, and language. Another is using unplanned opportunities—what are often called teachable moments—to help children learn new things and build on their existing knowledge. As a responsive caregiver, you also design settings for learning, where children can explore, discover, and create their own ways of learning. You’re sensitive to how they learn, and you offer them lots of ways to do so at every stage of their growth and development. Components of High-Quality Early Care and Education High-quality early care programs provide children with activities that reinforce what they already know and then build on that knowledge. No single indicator for quality exists, but excellent programs consistently adhere to several principles: • Children and caregivers enjoy ongoing, nurturing relationships. • Children are assigned to individual primary caregivers. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL 1