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ZERO TO THREE Critical Competencies for Infant-Toddler Educators™

Build Essential Knowledge and Earn CEUs

Infant-toddler educators have one of the most important jobs in the world, but they often lack the practical resources to support them.

The ZERO TO THREE Critical Competencies for Infant-Toddler Educators™ suite of professional development products and services helps educators build the essential knowledge and skills they need, in flexible and user-friendly formats.

Our competency model defines the specific knowledge and practices required for infant-toddler educators to be successful now, to support the future of our children.


The Critical Competencies:

  • Describe the recommended teaching methods and practices with easily understood guidance and examples
  • Feature considerations for working with high-needs populations and multi-language learners
  • Support educators who work in group settings (center-based and family child care homes) with infants, toddlers, or both
  • Build on professional criteria for the early childhood field

Competency Model

The Critical Competencies address three essential learning and development areas, depicted in the graphic below.

Critical Competencies

Suite of Products and Services

Continuing Education Units are available for all ZERO TO THREE training programs.

  • Critical Competencies Model eBook: The eBook defines the professional criteria and explains how educators can make the most of teacher-child interactions to support infants’ and toddlers’ social-emotional, cognitive, and language and literacy development. 
  • Professional Development: Explore all our Critical Competencies Professional Development options through the Learning Center, with a variety of options for group contracts, individual educators, professional development providers, higher education faculty, and more.
  • Faculty Institutes: Significantly build knowledge of and capacity to integrate the Critical Competencies into early childhood education coursework and programs of study. Our experts provide onsite, customized training that meets your goals and the needs of your faculty/staff. 
  • Coaching Program: This hybrid program (online and onsite) supports and enriches coaches’ knowledge of and capacity to integrate the Critical Competencies into their direct practice with early childhood educators and program leaders. Expert Faculty will guide a cohort of coaches through a five-part program which equips them to reflect on, practice, and advance the Critical Competencies.
  • Reflection Tool: This online tool uses the Critical Competencies to help infant-toddler educators examine areas of strength and opportunities for improving their daily interactions with children. Customized, aggregate reporting and consultation helps organizations make data-driven professional development decisions. 
  • Technical Assistance: ZERO TO THREE’s experts use the Critical Competencies as a framework to help organizations and agencies meet their infant-toddler workforce goals. A range of services are available, including presentations; analysis and recommendations; and support for leadership, coaching, and training skills. Find out more.
  • We Make Critical Connections: Infants, Toddlers, and Educators Built on the Critical Competencies, this day of learning is designed to inspire and inform early childhood professionals. Learners will explore why babies and toddlers are amazing and identify the competencies that educators can implement in their moment-to-moment interactions to support their healthy development and learning. This professional learning experience encourages educators and those who support them to see themselves as being on a continual learning journey, as a member of a learning community, intent on exploring the essential skills and competencies vital to promoting the healthy development and learning of babies and toddlers.

Take the next step to advance your career.

Next Up
Defining Competencies for the Early Childhood Workforce
Sarah LeMoine, ZERO TO THREE, Washington, DC Abstract Standards and competencies are critical structural supports for any professional workforce, including early childhood professionals. Workforce capacity building, career progression, and career longevity can be supported by the foundation of consistent competency expectations. Defining and embedding consistent, evidence-based competencies is a foundational step in realizing significant, sustainable improvements to infant–toddler services. Competencies […]