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Estimated Completion Time

18 weeks


Early Childhood Education 1a: Introduction

Are you curious to see what it takes to educate and nurture early learners? Use your curiosity to explore the fundamentals of childcare, like nutrition and safety, but also the complex relationships caregivers have with parents and their children. Examine the various life stages of child development and the best educational practices to enrich their minds while thinking about a possible future as a childcare provider!

During this course, you will learn career-related skills and earn a badge for this accomplishment. A badge is a digital certification of your career-related learning that you can share on social media and higher education platforms, or with colleges, potential employers, peers, and colleagues. Select this link to learn more about badges.

Major Topics and Concepts

Unit 1: Childcare Roles and Obligations

Understanding the differing roles and responsibilities of parents and caregivers is essential for students considering a career in child care. Both parents and childcare providers provide love and nurturing and model appropriate behavior for children. Parents and caregivers work as a team, with the parent as the primary authority and the caregiver as an essential support to the parent. Caregivers have a responsibility to maintain an environment that is safe, healthy, and respectful for the children in their care.
What will you learn in this unit?

Explain why early childhood education matters.
Describe different types of families and parenting arrangements.
Describe the legal responsibilities of parenthood.
Discuss the moral or ethical responsibilities of parenthood.

Unit 2: A Clean, Safe and Healthy Childcare Environment

Childcare homes and facilities, regardless of size, have a responsibility to provide a clean and safe environment for children in their care. Understanding cleanliness standards and child safety is essential for all childcare providers, whether employees or owners. Appropriate hygiene in the childcare environment will reduce illness, prevent pests, and keep children healthy. Child proofing and other child-safety measures reduce risks for children in care. Together, these measures create a clean, safe, and healthy environment for both children and caregivers.
What will you learn in this unit?

Demonstrate how to sanitize and disinfect the childcare environment.
Demonstrate proper hand-washing technique and practices.
Describe safe infant sleep habits.
Describe appropriate security for the childcare home or center.

Unit 3: Food and Nutrition

Children in care typically consume a significant portion of their daily food at the childcare center or facility. Many children eat breakfast, lunch, and snacks away from home. Providing healthy, tasty meals is an essential part of caring for children, from infants through school-age kids. Good nutrition provides children with a healthy start in life that will remain with them throughout their lives.
What will you learn in this unit?

Describe and explain the USDA and state requirements for meals in a childcare facility.
Explain what is required for participation in the Child and Adult Food Care Program.
Explain how to plan meals and menus for children.
Describe positive mealtime strategies.

Unit 4: Rules and Regulations

Laws regulate the standards and operation of childcare facilities. These laws cover both small and large childcare facilities and providers, including small-scale registered childcare homes, somewhat larger licensed childcare homes, and fully staffed childcare centers. Understanding the laws controlling childcare facilities is essential for any potential childcare provider.
What will you learn in this unit?

Describe the types of childcare facilities.
Explain how childcare facilities are regulated.
Describe the rules that apply to childcare facilities.
Describe the signs and symptoms of child abuse.
Explain how to speak to a child disclosing abuse.

Unit 5: Pregnancy and Childbirth

Many of the families that you work with may be experiencing pregnancy and childbirth as you care for their children. As a childcare provider, studying the dynamics surrounding pregnancy and childbirth will help you relate to families and develop an understanding of early child development as well.
What will you learn in this unit?

Describe the signs and stages of pregnancy
Explain the characteristics of each trimester of pregnancy
Discuss best practices for a healthy pregnancy and how prenatal medical care commonly proceeds
Analyze the stages of birth from onset of contractions to delivery of the placenta
Consider the benefits of breastfeeding

Unit 6: Early Childhood Development

Understanding child development enables the childcare provider to maintain appropriate expectations regarding skills and behavior for children from infancy through the early school years. A thorough understanding of typical child development also allows the provider to recognize developmental delays and serve as an essential part of the care team for special needs children.
What will you learn in this unit?

Define and discuss physical, cognitive, language, and social development.
Describe the typical stages of development from infancy through the school years.
Describe how to recognize typical developmental milestones.
Explain when to talk to parents about possible developmental delays.

Unit 7: Special Needs and Inclusivity

It is important for early childhood professionals to understand not just typical child development but also the needs of children with disabilities. From birth to school-age, all children need affection, stimulation, attention, and care—and they all want to have fun! This is no different for children with special needs; they just often need some assistance to participate in activities happily and safely. In this unit, we’ll explore the evolution of special education as a whole, with a focus on inclusive classrooms, and walk through some of the most prominent special needs you may encounter when working as an early childhood educator.
What will you learn in this unit?

Review the history of and landmark turning points in special education
Discuss how disabilities like Down syndrome and cleft palate affect infants’ needs
Describe how toddlers cope with disabilities like autism or muscular dystrophy
Explain the way inclusive classrooms function for pre-school and school-aged children

Unit 8: Spotlight on Administration: Setting Up Your Childcare Program

There are many roles to fill in the early childhood sector, but none of these jobs would exist without the hard work of entrepreneurs who start businesses and create jobs. Making the transition from early childhood educator to business owner will require you to consider some the legal, financial, and logistic aspects of running a business. You may not feel you’re ready for this yet, so we’ll start by walking through a day in the life of a business owner. Along the way, you’ll grow in responsibility and business know-how, learning to attract your ideal customers to book your special services, and grow your business through various stages of development.
What will you learn in this unit?

Understand the daily life and responsibilities of an early childhood entrepreneur
Decide on a legal business structure that meets your needs
Plan for business finances, including budgets, expenses, and taxes
Discuss how marketing, advertising, and sales generate income for a business
Discern growth strategies to increase business revenue



Experiences allow students to demonstrate mastery of competencies through various real-world or hands-on learning opportunities, such as travel, service learning, independent study, internships or entrepreneurship. During an experience, students elect to meet all or some of the competencies in a particular competency group (ie. English 1, Economics, Biology, …), as an alternative to taking the course. Each experience is customized to the student’s opportunity. The student works with a VLACS instructor to determine deliverables that demonstrate mastery of the competencies and secures an outside expert to enrich the experience.

In Experiences students will:

  1. Meet weekly with their instructor.
  2. Secure an outside expert.
  3. Plan the experience prior to completing it. Credit is not awarded for experiences completed prior to enrollment and completion of the planning process.
  4. For many experiences, spend time at a business or other location.

Types of Experiences:

Independent Study

By signing up for an independent study, you will be able to direct your own learning, identifying what you want to learn and how you will demonstrate that you have mastered your learning objectives.


Internships allow you to gain professional experience, make connections, and become familiar with a career while working on site with mentors and professionals in a career of your interest.


While travel can be a great experience for learning life lessons, it is also an excellent way to acquire the knowledge and skills that allow you to demonstrate mastery in a variety of competencies. The world is a classroom and travel experiences will connect your real-world experiences to the learning that you seek.

Service Learning

In-Service Learning, you collaborate with members of your community to address issues to improve your community. You will connect your service with discipline-specific content so that learning can take place through problem solving and collaboration.


Starting your own business is a great way to learn. This type of experience allows you to engage in an entrepreneurial experience and receive credit for competencies you master through this experience.

Credits .5

This course is a prerequisite for Early Childhood Educaton 1b. Both the 1a course and experience earn a badge.


  • Business in Childcare
    Students will demonstrate an understanding of business in childcare by analyzing the responsibilities, explaining the legal requirements and explaining the business plans to generate income as a childcare business owner.
  • Childcare Roles and Responsibilities
    Students will demonstrate an understanding of childcare roles and responsibilities by describing different types of families, describing responsibilities of parenthood and explaining impacts on the child care environment.
  • Childhood Nutrition
    Students will demonstrate an understanding of childhood nutrition by explaining state and national requirements for meals in a childcare setting, creating menu plans and describing positive mealtime strategies for children.
  • Dynamics of Pregnancy and Childbirth
    Students will demonstrate an understanding of the dynamics of pregnancy and childbirth by describing the signs and stages of pregnancy, describing healthy pregnancy and childbirth practices and analyzing the stages of childbirth.
  • Healthy Childcare Environments
    Students will demonstrate an understanding of a healthy childcare environment by explaining clean hygiene practices and describing safety measures in a childcare environment.
  • Inclusive Childcare Environments
    Students will demonstrate an understanding of inclusive childhood environments by summarizing the history and importance of special education, evaluating how disabilities affect the child’s needs and describing an inclusive classroom setting.
  • Laws and Regulations of Childcare Facilities
    Students will demonstrate an understanding of the laws and regulation of childcare facilities by describing the different types of childcare facilities, explaining how childcare facility rules are regulated and explaining the signs of child abuse.
  • The Developing Child
    Students will demonstrate an understanding of the developing child by describing the different types of development in the child, explaining the stages of development from baby to childhood, formulate strategies to discuss developmental delays with parents.



Attend a virtual open house

We offer regular online open house webinars where VLACS staff members provide parents and students with an overview of our programs and answer questions about online learning.