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Positive Early Learning Experiences

Positive Early Learning Experiences
An older man sitting at a table with little girl and coloring

Learning is essential to healthy development and begins right from the start. Babies learn through play, active exploration of the world around them, and through positive interaction with the adults in their lives. These early experiences are crucial for supporting healthy emotional and cognitive development and helping babies evolve into strong learners and successful adults.

Key indicators of positive early learning experiences include:

  • Early care and education opportunities
  • Early intervention and prevention services

The State of Babies Yearbook: 2020 shows the need for investment in policies that ensure babies have access to affordable, quality care that is a major contributor related to positive early learning experiences. For example:

  • Only 7% of infants and toddlers who are eligible for Early Head Start are currently being served by it, and the proportion served varies from 3% to 23% across states.
  • Despite the high cost of infant care, few families receive financial assistance for it. Only 4.2% of low- and moderate-income infants and toddlers are served by the Child Care and Development Fund.
  • Only 13 states allow child care subsidies for families with incomes over 200% of the federal poverty level.

A Closer Look: Positive Early Learning Experiences & Equity

On average, families of color are two to three times more likely to be affected by poverty than their White counterparts, making them less able to afford the high cost of infant and toddler child care, and more likely to live in economically disadvantaged communities that lack high-quality early care providers. The effects of race/ethnicity and income on early learning are intertwined. A small set of Yearbook indicators in this domain are analyzed for differences according to income.