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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL This practice allows children and primary caregivers to move together to the next level of care. Typically, centers offer three levels of care for children under age three: infant, toddler, and two-year-old care. When children turn three, they usually move to a new classroom structured to meet their new needs and skills. Continuity of care benefits children under age three in the following ways: • It supports relationship building by strengthening children’s attachment to their primary caregivers. • It builds trusting relationships between peers, allowing caregivers to focus on building children’s developing skills. • It maintains continuing relationships between families and caregivers. Communication between Home and Care Program Another critical component of high-quality programs is effective communication between children’s homes and the early care program. (I discuss partnerships be- tween parents and caregivers further in the closing thoughts at the end of the book.) Respecting each family’s cultural beliefs and providing children with a safe, bias-free environment helps children feel valued and respected. (I examine how cultures in- fluence the social-emotional development of young children in chapter 6.) When parents and caregivers work well together, their efforts help children grow and de- velop to their full potential. Low Adult-to-Child Ratios High-quality family child care and center-based programs offer children the care and attention they need. The youngest children need a higher adult-to-child ratio than older children. Although such care costs families more, the lower ratios are needed because of the intensity of caring for the youngest children. NAEYC (2008) recommends that the adult-to-child ratio vary with group size and age of children. According to NAEYC, quality care requires a 1:3 or 1:4 adult-to-infant (birth–12 months) ratio, a 1:4 or 1:5 adult-to-toddler (12–28 months) ratio, and a 1:5 or 1:6 adult-to-twos (21–36 months) ratio. Small groups and individualized care offer young children the chance to build healthy relationships with caregivers and other chil- dren. Individualized and continuous care also gives them chances to build on their existing strengths and knowledge. Caring for Infants, Toddlers, and Twos Deciding which age group to care for is an important decision for you. You need to think about which age group and learning environment suit you best. Under- standing each age group and stage will help you make your choice. Both caring and teaching are integral to your role, and in each, you need to be able to put the needs of children ahead of your own. 12 Chapter 1 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL