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-
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.