Infants & Toddlers

Our 10-year goal: Triple access to high quality early learning or home visitation programs for children living in poverty; all children have universal developmental screenings; and parents have access to supportive services and parental leave.

Why It Matters


During a child's first three years of life, their brains are being wired for future success. Brain development is more rapid during this period than at any other, with more than 700 neural connections created each second.1 Children are learning everything from smiling, walking and speaking, to making choices, exploring and developing relationships.2 During this critical time, babies and toddlers who have positive early learning experiences, language-rich environments and strong bonds with their parents and caregivers will have a strong foundation for later success. That is why investments during these early years have the greatest payoff.

Research Shows:

  • Infants and toddlers in Early Head Start score higher on cognitive, reading and math tests, have larger vocabularies and more positive interactions with their parents, who provide more learning support.3
  • Home visits for first-time expecting families increase children’s cognitive, behavioral, social, emotional, health and safety outcomes. 4
  • Developmental screenings can help identify – and lead to treatments that prevent – developmental disabilities or behavioral problems, which 1 in 7 children in the country face.5

How We’re Falling Short


After years of cuts and inadequate funding, far fewer of our vulnerable infants and toddlers are enrolled in programs; for example, just 10,000 of our state’s 1.5 million infants and toddlers are served in state center-based programs, down from 15,000 in 2010, and today just over 20,000 infants and toddlers are served through subsidized programs that provide an array of child care arrangements for working families in addition to center-based care such as in-home care and family child care.6 Although most children are supposed to receive developmental screenings, only about 1 in 5 currently receive them,7 and while there has been an expansion in home visitation, the need far outstrips the current investment.

Because of this, many children enter kindergarten already behind. By age 3, the average low-income child has a vocabulary of about 500 words, while the average high-income child has a vocabulary of more than 1,100 words. This same research shows that children’s academic success at nine and ten years old is greatly impacted by the amount of words they hear and talk from birth to age 3.8

What We Can Do>>

Early Edge California commissioned research by American Institutes for Research (AIR) to support our work to transform our birth through age 3 system and begin to outline the pillars of high-quality program design that. For the AIR birth through 3 presentation and more information, click here. 

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