critical early years.
Babies are born curious about the world, and their brains grow exponentially between birth and age 3 as they develop language, motor skills, and early literacy. The foundation for lifelong learning is built during these critical years.
Early learning happens wherever babies are—at home or in child care led by qualified early childhood education professionals.
Why It Matters
Parents and caregivers are looking for guidance on how to help children grow and learn during their first three years, when young children are building more than 1 million neural connections per second.
Babies and toddlers learn best through loving, consistent and responsive relationships that support play and exploration.
By the Numbers
Not enough babies get high-quality early learning—because families and educators lack access to the services and tools they need to make it happen.
Only 32 percent of babies receive developmental screenings to identify delays or areas of concern.
Forty-five states do not require minimum levels of training, like a child development associate credential, for early childhood educators of infants and toddlers. In fact, many states require nothing beyond a high school diploma.
Only 37 percent of parents read to their babies every day.
Source: ZERO TO THREE. State of Babies Yearbook: 2022.
I think I was probably wise enough to know that what kind of childhood you had made a difference in who you were. If you made a difference early on, you probably could help someone have a different life than they otherwise would.
Jeree Pawl, ZERO TO THREE Founding Member
ZERO TO THREE is the go-to resource for evidence-based early learning information.
We provide parents and professionals with a library of resources that encourage literacy, communication and early math and science skills.
Developmental screenings through pediatric primary care providers and early intervention programs help address concerns early, but families can’t access these screenings without knowing they exist. Our team of experts supports educators, parents, and caregivers with evidence-based tools they can use today to promote optimal early learning.
We have three short years to build relationships, nurture brain development and solve for the inequity issues that arise from lack of quality early learning opportunities.
Policymakers need to provide ongoing support to parents, including child development specialists in pediatric settings. This can help parents be their child’s best teacher, increase education requirements for early childhood educator staff while boosting compensation and support and improve access to developmental screenings and early intervention to ensure development is on track.
Make the most of early
The ZERO TO THREE Critical Competencies for Infant-Toddler Educators™ address three core learning areas that best support infants’ and toddlers’ growth (social-emotional, cognitive and language and literacy)—all while keeping diversity, inclusion, and fairness at the center.