Early Childhood Programs

High-quality early childhood education is essential. Early educational experiences can have well-documented long-term positive impacts on young children’s cognitive and social emotional development. Early childhood programs not only provide formative experiences for our nation’s youngest children but they also provide safe and high-quality care for children while parents and caregivers work.

Throughout the pandemic, early childhood providers continued to provide high-quality education and care in extraordinary times. Programs and providers in the fields of early childhood education, early intervention, and early childhood special education responded quickly to provide services in modified learning environments and meet the health, safety, social, emotional, and other needs of children and their families. Now, as early childhood programs and providers work to maintain safe in-person operations and help their communities recover from the impacts of the pandemic, these supports must remain responsive and ongoing.

The resources on this page share information for supporting the nation’s youngest children and their families; maintaining safe and healthy environments; and ensuring teacher, faculty, and staff well-being, professional development, and supports that are specific to early childhood education providers. Early childhood providers may use these best practices and lessons learned to inform their strategies for responding to young children’s and their families’ needs as children and their families continue to recover from the impacts of the pandemic.

Preschool children singing together
Image of an African American woman reading to her infant child.

A Resource Guide for Developing Integrated Strategies to Support the Social and Emotional Wellness of Children

This resource guide highlights strategies and provides information on how some Child Care and Development Fund grantees have leveraged partnerships and funding to support implementation. Topics include support for the social and emotional wellness of children, families, and providers; implementation considerations; social and emotional wellness initiatives and delivery strategies; promotion of social and emotional competence, as well as mental health, in infants and young children; and more.

Illustration collage of educating and teaching children through play in kindergarten.

An illustration collage of teachers in four different settings. The top-left is a teacher with a male and female student stacking building blocks. The top-right is a teacher holding a ball with three students sitting at a table. The bottom-left is a kneeling teacher with a standing student placing alphabet letters on a whiteboard. The bottom-right is a kneeling teacher holding a book teaching three students.

White House Toolkit: How State and Local Leaders Can Use American Rescue Plan State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to Address Students’ Academic and Mental Health Needs — Focus on Early Learning Providers

This toolkit shares information on how State and local leaders can complement American Rescue Plan (ARP) Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief (ESSER) funds with State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to support early learning. The toolkit reviews allowable uses of funds that can support State educational agencies, local educational agencies, and schools in working to address student needs.

Submit Your Lessons Learned and Best Practices

Have a lessons learned or best practice for helping early childhood centers continue to recover from the pandemic? Visit the Best Practices Submission page to view details on submission requirements, and then e-mail Bestpracticesclearinghouse@ed.gov to share your lessons learned or best practice.

Provide Feedback

Have feedback to share on a resource accessed on the Clearinghouse site? We want to hear from you. Select the button below to share your feedback with the U.S. Department of Education and the Clearinghouse team.

Image of an African-American male teacher holding a book with young African-American Students.

NCASE — Strengthening the OST Workforce: A Guide to Developing Apprenticeships

This guide shares how apprenticeships are a useful strategy for out-of-school-time staff, programs, and field leaders. The guide also identifies challenges to address, explores key elements of an apprenticeship program, and draws a connection to field practices from early learning programs in Maine, North Carolina, and West Virginia.

Image of a female teacher with young children plaing with toys

Institute of Education Sciences: Preparing Young Children for School

The What Works Clearinghouse has released a new practice guide, Preparing Young Children for School. Developed in conjunction with an expert panel, the guide distills contemporary early childhood and preschool education research into seven easily comprehensible and practical recommendations:

  1. Regularly provide intentional, engaging instruction and practice focused on social emotional skills.
  2. Strengthen children’s executive function skills using specific games and activities.
  3. Provide intentional instruction to build children’s understanding of mathematical ideas and skills.
  4. Engage children in conversations about mathematical ideas and support them in using mathematical language.
  5. Intentionally plan activities to build children’s vocabulary and language.
  6. Build children’s knowledge of letters and sounds.
  7. Use shared book reading to develop children’s language, knowledge of print features, and knowledge of the world.

Submit Your Lessons Learned and Best Practices

Have a lessons learned or best practice for helping early childhood centers continue to recover from the pandemic? Visit the Best Practices Submission page to view details on submission requirements, and then e-mail Bestpracticesclearinghouse@ed.gov to share your lessons learned or best practice.

Provide Feedback

Have feedback to share on a resource accessed on the Clearinghouse site? We want to hear from you. Select the button below to share your feedback with the U.S. Department of Education and the Clearinghouse team.