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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL well-being, and they need you to respond to their needs quickly and in developmen- tally appropriate ways. What else characterizes you as a responsive caregiver? You plan activities that help children learn the skills they need to develop across the domains of social-emotional, physical, cognitive, and language development. You take advantage of unplanned opportunities—what are called teachable moments—to help children learn new things and build on existing knowledge. You create environments in which they can safely and joyfully explore, discover, and create their own meaning. The Importance of Relationships During infancy and toddlerhood, children learn almost everything through their relationships. They interact and observe other children and adults. To be an effec- tive ECE professional, you need to understand more about the healthy relationships that are cornerstones to children’s emotional well-being. (I discuss this further in chapter 3.) You need specific skills and knowledge so you can provide optimal care for each and every child. High-quality ECE programs hire highly qualified caregivers and adhere to the best practices of child development. You should be knowledgeable about early de- velopment and understand its impor- tance in the development of infants, toddlers, and twos. With such knowl- edge, you can provide the care and nurturing that very young children need. It’s through the relationships you build and the trusting environ- ment you provide that children can learn and build trust. Young children are cared for in a variety of settings: at home, where they are cared for by family members; in nonlicensed care in the homes of rela- tives, friends, or neighbors; in licensed ECE centers or licensed family child care homes. (In chapter 1, I describe the different kinds of care and the indicators of high-quality programs.) I call the settings that licensed ECE centers and family child care homes provide early care and learning environments. You can adapt the information I provide to any setting where you offer early care to infants, toddlers, and twos. For ease of reading, I use the terms caregiver and responsive caregiver interchange- ably. I’m assuming that you are striving to be a responsive caregiver (or perhaps you are one already). You teach and care for children and attend to their individual needs in warm, nurturing, loving ways. Your interactions with children are positive 2 Introduction COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL