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    • Reflect on what program management means for an infant-toddler professional.
    • Describe roles and responsibilities that are associated with program management.
    • Describe the significance of program management for program quality.




    "Concentrate all your thoughts upon the work at hand. The sun's rays do not burn until brought to a focus." - Alexander Graham Bell

    In our daily lives, we all do things, assume roles, or participate in experiences that require management skills. Consider all the different activities you or your loved ones engage in on a day-to-day basis that reflect managing some kind of experience or event. These can include deciding what ingredients you need to gather for a recipe and planning a trip to the grocery store, managing busy family schedules, and planning vacations or family gatherings. Take a moment and think about a few things that come to mind from your daily life that involve some type of management.

    Now, think about what enables you to do these things well. Is it the fact that you plan ahead? Or the fact that you write down a set of steps or tasks that you need to follow? Is it perhaps that you work with others to get what you need done? Or that you take into consideration what is meaningful for the situation you are in? All of your descriptions and thoughts offer a window into your sense of management.

    Consider the following definitions that the Merriam-Webster Dictionaries website provides about management: "the act or process of deciding how to use something," "the act or skill of controlling and making decisions about a business, department, sports team, etc.," "the people who make decisions about a business, department, sports team, etc.," and "judicious use of means to accomplish an end." How do these definitions compare to your own definitions or ideas about management?

    In this course, you will learn about what program management means for an infant-toddler professional and about the roles and responsibilities you can assume that contribute to the overall quality of your program. Program management encompasses a variety of tasks: establishing and maintaining relationships with infants, toddlers, and their families, collaborating with others, planning and implementing curriculum, and evaluating program quality. This lesson provides a general overview of program management for infant-toddler professionals.

    What does Program Management Mean for Infant-Toddler Providers?

    As an infant and toddler care provider, you may not see yourself as a manager. Your program probably has a manager or director who engages in management tasks like hiring, scheduling, managing budgets, ordering materials and equipment, or providing needed support to staff. Nevertheless, you and your fellow infant-toddler care providers are also managers as you assume significant roles that impact those in your care and at the same time contribute to program quality. For example, you manage the day-to-day planning of experiences and activities that meet the needs of each infant or toddler in your group, as well as the planning of meaningful and intellectually stimulating environments that promote learning and growth. You initiate and manage the development of relationships between yourself and children, families, and coworkers in your program. And you manage infants' and toddlers' development by assessing their progress and making decisions that help promote and facilitate that development. With the guidance of Training and Curriculum specialists, program directors, or other mentors, you should strive to ensure high-quality developmentally appropriate practices that support positive experiences for all infants, toddlers, and their families in your care. When doing that, you also contribute to your classroom and program's success and growth.

    In your daily work, your utmost commitment should be to strive to create the best possible experiences for infants, toddlers, and their families. You assume a significant role in young children's development, and your daily encounters with children and their families leave a lasting impression on their lives. Infants' and toddlers' growth takes place over time, and each experience affects development. Who children become has everything to do with the experiences they have early in their lives, including the experiences they have while they are in your care. Outside of their families, you might be the person they spend the most time with during these critical years of development. Optimum development is strengthened when young children engage in meaningful interactions with adults who strive for the best and adhere to high-quality professional standards. Remember that your words and actions should reflect your program's mission when it comes to serving infants, toddlers, and their families.

    Think about some of the experiences you participate in in your daily work, such as:

    • Interacting with infants, toddlers, and their families
    • Planning and implementing experiences and activities
    • Interacting with supervisors and managers
    • Collaborating with fellow staff members
    • Interacting with community partners
    • Reflecting on your progress and contributing to program success and quality

    Establishing and maintaining high-quality practices is essential for every task you accomplish every day. This process continues to evolve and develop as you encounter new situations and as you become more experienced. This course will help you understand how your own management of these practices contributes to the growth and development of infants, toddlers, and families in your care that in turn contributes to overall program quality.

    Relationship-Based Care

    Program management means that all members of a team have specific roles and responsibilities within the program. It is important to build relationships with fellow staff members, T&Cs, and managers, so that there is an underlying basis of trust. Your relationships with your T&C or program manager are critical for your own professional growth and within these relationships you can receive advice and constructive feedback about your practice and guidance and support when you have difficulties. Building strong relationships with your T&C and program manager also facilitates the support you can provide children and families. When there is open and honest communication, you can easily strategize together the best ways to support children and families, especially when children and families face challenges. You also recognize that you, your T&C, and program manager have different roles and responsibilities in working together to support children and families, but that you complement each other’s efforts, and you value and recognize what each person brings to the team. You will learn more about working with others in upcoming lessons.

    Establishing and nurturing relationships should be at the core of your practice with infants, toddlers, families, colleagues, and supervisors in your program. When you build warm, trusting relationships with infants, toddlers, and their families, you lay the foundation for healthy development. You build this trust by taking the time to get to know each family and child in your care, honoring and incorporating their customs and cultures in your classroom, and inviting their input when planning activities and experiences.

    Along the same lines, when you establish trusting professional relationships with colleagues, T&Cs, or program managers, you set the stage for your own professional growth and development. Just as you focus on children’s strengths and talents, you should work with your T&C to strengthen and nurture your own strengths and talents that will enable you to be the best you can be and to provide high-quality professional care that also contributes to your program’s quality. Part of relationship-based care in your professional relationships is being able to ask for assistance, and being prepared to accept the guidance of your T&C or program manager.

    Culturally and Linguistically Sensitive Practices

    As an infant-toddler provider, you are likely to encounter children, families, and coworkers from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences. As a manager of your classroom, it is important for you to understand the significance of always striving for high-quality practices while at the same time acknowledging diversity and individual differences. For example, a family member may not share the same values as you when it comes to topics such as sleeping, toilet training, or eating independently. In your daily practice, you will need to be able to create welcoming, nurturing environments and provide infants, toddlers, and their families with culturally and developmentally sensitive care that will lay the foundation for their success. This success will also pave the way for your own classroom success and ultimately the quality of your program.

    As a dedicated provider, you will need to work with your fellow infant-toddler providers, T&Cs, and managers to learn about the cultural and linguistic practices of the children and families in your care and to access resources to assist you in working with culturally and linguistically diverse families. There are a variety of books, articles, DVDs, and webinars that address cultural and linguistically sensitive practices with children and families. Being sensitive to cultural practices and language differences demonstrates an openness to learning about an individual’s knowledge and beliefs. It is always best to ask questions rather than assume or do nothing, and your T&C can help facilitate that process.


    Program Management: An Introduction

    Watch this video to hear staff members share what program management means to them.


    Take time to review the following examples that reflect infant and toddler caregiver management roles and responsibilities. In your daily work as an infant-toddler caregiver, you can be an effective manager by:

    • Getting to know each infant, toddler, and family member in your care; you should learn about their background, culture, language, interests, skills, and needs
    • Learning about best practices in the field of early care and education
    • Collaborating with others as a team (coworkers, family members, T&Cs, managers, community partners) to design and implement high-quality developmentally appropriate practices for each infant, toddler, and their family member in your care
    • Keeping ongoing information about each infant and toddler's growing skills, changing interests, and experiences that might affect their learning and development
    • Using information and feedback from others to improve your practice and strengthen your program
    • Having a good attitude and being willing to learn new information that will help improve your practice

    All these practices help make you a better decision-maker within your own classroom or program. They arm you with the information and strategies necessary to be a strong manager of the kinds of activities and experiences you want the children and families in your classroom and program have. You should work with your T&C or manager to ensure high-quality practices for infants, toddlers, and families in your care. By supporting your professional growth, you will directly enhance the quality of the program for children and families.

    Completing this Course

    For more information on what to expect in this course, the Program Management Competency Reflection, and a list of the accompanying Learn, Explore and Apply resources and activities offered throughout the lessons, visit the Infant & Toddler Program Management Course Guide

    Please note the References & Resources section at the end of each lesson outlines reference sources and resources to find additional information on the topics covered. As you complete lessons, you are not expected to review all the online references available. However, you are welcome to explore the resources further if you have interest, or at the request of your trainer, coach, or administrator.



    What do you think makes a good leader? Download and print the handout Being a Leader in your Classroom. Read through the qualities of effective leaders and respond to the questions. Then, share and discuss your responses with a T&C or supervisor.



    Read the following articles about leadership and then use the handout Perspectives on Leadership to reflect about leadership in your early childhood setting.  




    True or false? As an infant-toddler professional, you manage the development of relationships between yourself and children, families, and coworkers in your program.


    You have several families in your infant-toddler program from a variety of backgrounds and life experiences. Which of the following can help you address cultural and linguistic practices with children and families?


    A coworker shares with you that she does not believe she has a very important role in your program. How do you respond?

    References & Resources

    Allred, K. W., & Hancock, C. L. (2015). Reconciling Leadership and Partnership: Strategies to empower professionals and families. Young Children, 70(2), 46-53.

    Bloom, P. J., Hentschel, A., & Bella, J. (2013). Inspiring Peak Performance: Competence, commitment, and collaboration. The Director's Toolbox Management Series. Lake Forest, IL: New Horizons.

    Derman-Sparks, L., Nimmo, J. , & LeeKeenan, D. (2015). Leadership Matters: Creating anti-bias change in early childhood programs. Exchange, 37 (6), 8-12.

    Division for Early Childhood. (2014). DEC Recommended Practices in Early Intervention/Early Childhood Special Education 2014. Retrieved from

    Feeney, S. (2012). Professionalism in Early Childhood Education: Doing our best for young children. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Education, Inc.

    Jablon, J., Dombro, A. L., & Johnson, S. (2014). Coaching with Powerful Interactions: A guide for partnering with early childhood teachers. Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children.

    Kouzes, J. M., & Posner, B. Z. (2012). The Leadership Challenge: How to make extraordinary things happen in organizations (5 th ed). San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass.

    National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2009). NAEYC Standards for Early Childhood Professional Preparation: A position statement of the National Association for the Education of Young Children. Retrieved from

    Neugebauer, R. (2015). Knowledge and Competence of Early Childhood Leaders: New insights from the National Academies of Science. Exchange, 37(6), 92-94.

    Simon, F. (2015). Look Up and Out to Lead: 20/20 vision for effective leadership. Young Children, 70(2), 18-24.

    Sullivan, D. R. (2010). Learning to Lead: Effective leadership skills for teachers of young children (2nd ed.). St. Paul MN: Redleaf Press.

    Wisconsin Early Childhood Collaborating Partners. (2014). Wisconsin Core Competencies for Professionals Working with Young Children & Their Families . Retrieved from