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May 31, 2023 8 min read

Daycare Age Ranges: Understanding the Differences

Procare By: Procare

This blog was originally posted on April 8, 2021, and updated with new information on March 15, 2024.

As days get busy, it can be easy to group children of different ages together for activities. This is especially true as child care centers struggle with staffing shortages and enrollment fluctuations. But thinking about the toddler age range or the infant age range, it’s important to remember that these ages, and others of course, require different approaches to child care.

Early Childhood Age Ranges

Let’s take a look at the four main early childhood age ranges and daycare ages you need to be aware of, appropriate care techniques for each and the ideal child ratios for every bracket. First up is the infant age range.

1. Infant Age Range: 0-18 Months

Infants can be defined as any child between the ages of 0 and 18 months. Children go through an incredible amount of development in this stage. Infants will learn to roll over, crawl, walk and smile. They may even begin talking.

Your center should encourage these important milestones via age-appropriate educational curriculum, social interaction with other children, new experiences and more.

At the same time, all this development takes a toll, which means your care center’s schedule for the infant age range needs to include plenty of time for babies to rest. Just keep in mind that young infants rarely keep to a consistent schedule and tend to sleep at all times of the day.

The Ideal Group Size: For infants, we recommend a 1:3 child ratio. That means that for every three infants your center cares for, you should employ at least one trained staff member. Check your local regulations to ensure this child ratio is adequate for your area and as a bonus, leverage child care management software to track ratios to ensure you’re always in compliance.

2. Toddler Age Range: 18 Months – 3yr

Toddlers are children between the ages of 18 months and 3 years old. Children at this stage work toward important milestones, too. Some of them include learning to speak, sharing with other kids and becoming potty trained.

Your center should help toddlers reach these milestones, as well as others, by planning engaging activities that stimulate their minds and ensure proper development.

Activities for the toddler age range can include story time, exercise, meal time or anything else that encourages the development of social skills, gross and fine motor skills and language skills.

Unlike infants, most (if not all) of the toddlers you watch should be able to keep to a daily schedule of planned activities. This means that you can plan a much more predictable day for yourself and your kids, which many family childcare providers appreciate.

a teacher helps two toddlers play with blocks and play food at a small table

The Ideal Group Size: For toddlers, we recommend a 1:4 child ratio. For every four toddlers your center cares for, you should employ at least one trained staff member. Connect with your local licensing agency to ensure this child ratio is adequate for your area.

3. Young Children Age Range: 3yr – 5yr

After toddlers comes the young children stage, which can be defined as kids between the ages of 3 and 5. Young children can be given more freedom than toddlers and infants. This independence often leads to increased confidence and skill sets.

For example, young children should be acquiring physical skills like jumping, climbing stairs with alternate feet and properly holding crayons. They should also learn social and mental skills like how to play with other kids, count five to 10 things and follow simple directions.

To help the young children you care for learn essential skills, plan activities such as story time, block play, creative art sessions, music time and more.

The Ideal Group Size: For young children, we recommend a 1:6 child ratio. So, for every six young children your center cares for, employ at least one trained staff member. Check your local child care agency to make sure this child ratio is in line with regulations.

4. School-Age Children: 5yr+

a STEAM teacher helping several students build a motorized car

Once kids reach 5, they are considered to be in the school-aged children stage.

This is also a major milestone for your child care center because it means you won’t be watching kids in this age bracket full-time. Instead, you’ll be caring for them before and/or after school and maybe during the summer if you host camps or other summer programs.

Programs for school-aged children should include structured time for homework, fun physical activities and games, healthy meals and the occasional field trip when possible.

Don’t forget, the school-aged children age group is quite large, as it includes kids between the ages of 5 and 12. And there aren’t many 12-year-olds who want to do the same things as 5-year-olds!

So it’s important to provide a wide range of activities for the children you care for and allow them to choose which ones they take part in based on their personal interests. Examples include STEM, art, physical education and community-building activities.

Note: You should still build in time for kids to do their homework, regardless of a child’s personal interests.

The Ideal Group Size: For school-aged children, we recommend a 1:8 child ratio. For every eight children your center cares for, you should plan to employ at least one trained staff member. And as always, check your local regulations to ensure this child ratio is adequate for your area.

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Every Child Is Different

seven kids stand with arms around each others shoulders leaning towards the camera smiling

It’s important to remember that no two children are the same. While the early childhood age ranges outlined above are good guidelines, not every kid fits perfectly into them. That’s why it’s so important to be in regular contact with the parents of the children you look after.

Give parents regular updates on the development of their child. If necessary, work out custom development plans for children with specific needs.

Daycare Age Range FAQs

How do child care centers handle situations where children fall within overlapping age ranges, and how are activities adjusted to accommodate their differing developmental needs?

Child care centers often handle situations where children fall within overlapping age ranges by employing flexible activity planning and individualized attention. Activities should be adapted to suit the varying developmental stages of the children, ensuring that each child is appropriately engaged and challenged. For example, a daycare may offer a mix of activities that cater to different skill levels within the group, allowing children to participate at their own pace while still fostering social interaction and growth.

What are the recommended strategies or resources for child care providers to address the diverse needs and abilities of children within each age range?

Try implementing differentiated instruction techniques, providing additional support for children with special needs, and offering access to educational materials and tools tailored to each child’s learning style. Collaboration with specialists such as occupational therapists or speech-language pathologists can also be beneficial in creating customized plans to support development.

What measures can early education centers take to ensure that they are effectively communicating and collaborating with parents to support the development and well-being of each child, especially those with specific needs or concerns?

Child care centers can establish regular channels of communication, such as parent-teacher conferences, weekly updates and by using a child care app for daily communication. Prioritize open and transparent communication, listening to parents’ concerns and insights while providing timely updates on their child’s progress and development. Creating a supportive and welcoming environment that encourages parental involvement can help strengthen partnerships between staff and families, ultimately benefiting the child’s development and well-being.

How do child care centers accommodate children with diverse cultural backgrounds and ensure their inclusion in activities and programs?

Teachers should accommodate children with diverse cultural backgrounds by fostering an inclusive environment that celebrates and respects cultural diversity. Try incorporating multicultural elements into the curriculum, such as books, music, and art from different cultures. Centers can also encourage families to share their cultural traditions and practices, allowing children to learn from each other and develop a sense of belonging.

Age-Appropriate Curriculum Can Help!

a screenshot showing Procare's early learning curriculum functionality

Think about how you can set the stage for intentional learning as you make lesson plans. A solid curriculum designed for early childhood education can ensure your children are getting developmentally appropriate activities and learning at the correct age level.

That’s where Procare Early Learning can help. It is seamlessly embedded into Procare, giving teachers everything they need to provide high-quality instruction for infants to pre-K at their fingertips.

You get:

  • 52 weeks of lesson plans for five age groups – infant, young toddler, older toddler, preschool and pre-kindergarten
  • Over 4,000 daily and weekly activities, with material lists, learning support, social-emotional development and at-home connection newsletters to engage parents
  • Lesson plans and daily activities are presented in a developmental progression
  • Learning areas including STEAM, language and literacy, physical development, music and movement, cognitive and interactive reading
  • Training is built in, with tips and tools teachers can use in real time

Procare Solutions is here to help! Learn more about his s all-digital offering and how it can help you create the best child care for all age ranges!

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