A guide for parents in Canada

Why quality matters

  The positive relation between child care quality and virtually every facet of children’s development that has been studied is one of the most consistent findings in developmental science.

— Jack Shonkoff and Deborah Phillips, U.S. child development experts, 2001.

Quality in early childhood programs matters! This is one of the key conclusions from three decades or more of research on child care and child development. In fact, many studies from a number of countries show that the importance of quality in child care cannot be overstated.

High quality early childhood programs such as child care provide children with many benefits. They can be ineffective—or even negative—if the quality is poor.

This may be especially true for children who are vulnerable or at risk or from homes that are poorly resourced.

For older preschool-age children, there is a considerable amount of research on the benefits of high quality child care. The conclusions of this research strongly indicate that participation in high quality early childhood programs benefits children cognitively, socially, intellectually, and in language development.

There is less research on how child care affects child development for children who are younger than about two years old. While it is much less conclusive than research on older preschool-age children, a key concern that emerges is concerned with participation in very early poor quality child care for substantial hours.  

Some research however—including studies that focus on both disadvantaged and non-disadvantaged children—suggests that high quality child care programs beginning in infancy are even more beneficial than those that begin later.

Overall, the research shows that for all children, the quality of early childhood programs is a very key factor.