Teachers have noted that facilitating a high level of collaboration and cre-
ativity in early childhood environments can be very complicated. In particular,
teachers of toddlers and young preschoolers noticed a conspicuous absence of
students their age in the canon of project-based curriculum. In fact, in their book,
Katz and Chard (2000, 17) are frank: “As we use the term, we imply a level of
initiative and responsibility on the part of the children that would be difficult
with most groups of children under three years old.”
They were not alone in this view. Toddlers, in the eyes of many twentieth-century
developmental theorists, were still largely waiting for the ability to hypothesize,
not to mention negotiate, collaborate, sequence, and categorize. Although there
were a few important exceptions (Edwards and LeeKeenan 1992; Musatti and
Mayer 2001), most of the dialogue about and development of project-based cur-
riculum centered around four- and five-year-olds.
Who Are Toddlers?
The definition and ideas of infancy, toddlerhood, and childhood have been the
subject of much discussion, debate, and revision in the last two decades. The
trend in recent years has been toward separating stages of early childhood into
smaller substages, each with unique attributes and needs (Mangione, Lally, and
infants: birth to eight months
mobile infants: eight to eighteen months
toddlers: eighteen to thirty-six months
preschoolers: thirty-six to sixty months
This book focuses on toddlerhood and the months before and after—from the
beginnings of mobility and language, around ten to fourteen months, to the early
preschool period, thirty-eight to forty months.
Educators consider toddlerhood a unique stage because in each area of
development—motor, cognition, language, social, emotional—toddlers differ
from (but also overlap with) both infants and older preschoolers. Major theo-
rists of child development, such as Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky, have defined
key elements of toddlerhood.