Individualized Care

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Article - Individualized Care

Child care provider playing with children.Use this resource to help communicate the importance of individualized care. It will help promote essential program practices to ensure quality in family child care and center-based programs that serve infants and toddlers.


High-quality relationship-based care is central to optimal early brain development, emotional regulation, and learning (Center on the Developing Child, 2012). One of the Program for Infant/Toddler Care (PITC) six essential program practices to promote this type of care is individualized care (PITC, n.d.). The unique temperament, learning style, interests, and developmental stages of infancy require individualized care and support (Lally & Mangione, 2006; Lieberman, 1995; Raikes & Edwards, 2009). In high-quality infant and toddler care, caregivers adapt their strategies to meet individual needs of infants and toddlers and provide responsive relationship-based care (Raikes & Edwards, 2009).

Why Is Individualized Care Important for Infants and Toddlers?

  • Valuing and responding to a child’s unique developmental abilities and individual needs leads to respectful and responsive caregiving (Lieberman, 1995; Mangione, 2006).
  • Meeting unique needs communicates to infants and toddlers that they are important, their needs will be met, and their choices, interests, and preferences are respected (Lally & Mangione, 2006).
  • Providing individualized care honors a child’s abilities, needs, temperament, and the cultural practices and preferences of the child’s family (Bernhard & Gonzalez-Mena, 2000; Lieberman, 1995).

How Does Individualized Care Promote Positive Child Outcomes?

  • Strategies to provide individualized care that meet the unique temperament needs, home language, and learning styles of each child promote optimal development (Virmani & Mangione, 2013).
  • Prompt responses to a child’s individual needs support his or her ability to self-regulate (Tarullo, Obradovic, & Gunnar, 2009; Vallotton, 2008).
  • Having a secure attachment with a caregiver who follows the child’s individual rhythms and relational style promotes her healthy sense of self, social competence, and well-being (Ahnert, Pinquart, & Lamb, 2006).

Planning to Implement Individualized Care in Diverse Child Care Settings

Goal: High-quality infant and toddler programs adapt to the individual needs of each child through several key strategies.

  • Develop written guidance that reflect strategies for implementing individualized care practices. This includes creating staff and family handbooks that explain the importance of meeting the individual needs of each child. Handbooks can also provide methods for observation, developmental assessment, and adaptation of caregiver interactions that support infants and toddlers and their families.
  • Plan a curriculum that reflects and supports the developmental level, temperament, and cultural and linguistic background of each child.
  • Create job descriptions for infant and toddler teachers that include expectations for individualized care teaching practices. This includes having an understanding of differences in temperament and developmental needs and how to communicate with culturally and linguistically diverse families about specific care practices for their infant or toddler. It also includes observing and reflecting on each child’s ways of interacting with people and the physical environment.
  • Provide professional development on how to implement individualized care practices. Support ongoing communication with teachers and families about how to adapt caregiving practices to meet the individual needs of each infant and toddler.
  • Use an intentional review process to continually strengthen the system of individualized care practices across the center or family child care program.


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Center on the Developing Child. (2012). Executive function: Skills for life and learning (InBrief). Retrieved from

Lally, J. R., & Mangione, P. L. (2006). The uniqueness of infancy demands a responsive approach to care. Young Children, 61(4), 14–20.

Lieberman, A. F. (1995). The emotional life of the toddler. New York, NY: The Free Press.

Mangione, P. L. (2006). Creating responsive, reciprocal relationships with infants and toddlers. In J. R. Lally, P. L. Mangione, & D. Greenwald (Eds.), Concepts for care (pp. 25–29). San Francisco, CA: WestEd.

Program for Infant/Toddler Care (PITC). (n.d.). Mission statement and PITC philosophy. Retrieved from

Raikes, H. & Edwards, C. (2009). Extending the dance in infant and toddler caregiving. Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes Publishing Company, Inc.

Tarullo, A. R., Obradovic, J., & Gunnar, M. R. (2009, January). Self-control and the developing brain. Zero to Three, 29(3), 31–37.

Vallotton, C. (2008). Infants take self-regulation into their own hands. Zero to Three, 29(1), 29–34.

Virmani, E. A., & Mangione, P. L. (Eds.). (2013). Infant/toddler caregiving: A guide to culturally sensitive care (2nd ed.). Sacramento, CA: California Department of Education.