Early Childhood: Infant and Toddler Programs

During the first three years of life, the brain develops more rapidly than at any other time during the entire human life span. Studies have demonstrated that early experiences profoundly affect brain development, and that children raised in low-income environments face greater risks for negative cognitive, behavioral, and health outcomes than their higher income peers.

A growing body of evidence also demonstrates that participation in high-quality care and education programs during the early years has a lasting positive impact on later learning, behavior, employment, and physical and mental health. Children who live with poverty, family stress, language barriers, and other risk factors benefit most from high-quality early childhood programs and community supports.

High-quality programs promote school readiness, reduce cumulative effects of stress, and contribute to well-being and positive brain development. However, only a small fraction of the early childhood care and education available nationwide for low-income children is judged to be of high quality.

New Jersey’s investments in early care and education programs have historically focused on children ages 3 to 5. Given the evidence on early brain development and recent openness by the State to investments in very young children, Nicholson has prioritized its grantmaking in this area on strengthening the quality, availability, and funding of care and education programs for children ages 0 to 3. For example, we support:

  • The expansion of Early Head Start in Paterson, Garfield, and Jersey City to meet the needs of a growing number of eligible infants and toddlers whose families lack access to high-quality, affordable child care.
  • Organizations that are testing and refining the application of Grow NJ Kids, a statewide quality rating and improvement system that assesses quality and supports program improvements in centers and family child care homes that serve children ages 0 to 3. 
  • A multi-faceted, comprehensive neighborhood initiative that includes a network of programs and other community services serving children ages 0 to 3. The long-term goal is that all neighborhood children will be ready for college or a career. 

Visit our Projects page to learn more about The Nicholson Foundation’s funded projects.