A key aspect of the state of America’s babies is their early care and learning opportunities. With three in five mothers with an infant or toddler in the workforce prior to the pandemic, child care is a critical support for the economy. For infants and toddlers who are in child care, it is a prime setting in which foundational early brain development unfolds. Yet high costs and low quality floors, combined with insufficient public investment, means access to quality care that supports this foundational development is limited to far too few infants and toddlers.
The earliest years of a child’s life are the time of fastest brain development. As babies interact with their new environments during these critical years, their brains are making more than one million neural connections every second, building a foundation for all their future development and learning.
For infants and toddlers, child care is second only to the interactions with their families in shaping the foundation of babies’ early brain development. High-quality child care improves children’s early learning; cognitive and language development; social and emotional development; and school achievement; building the foundation children need to thrive as adults. Poorer quality child care does not provide this boost and can even be detrimental to development where children lack other resources. Too often families’ access to quality child care is limited by under-investment in the child care system.
Read our policy brief to learn more about the child care system and what policies will ensure healthy child development and security for babies and their families.