Creating Inclusive Environments and Learning Experiences for Infants and Toddlers

View the video exampleAlou's Morning (Inclusion) 
Access the Video Clip Series.

Alou, a toddler with special medical needs, is in child care with his peers who are developing typically.

Reflective questions: Here are some sample questions related to the video clip and the value of inclusive care for infants and toddlers.

  • What did you observe in the interactions between the teacher and Alou?
  • What did you observe during his therapy session?
  • What are some ways the teacher responds to his needs?
  • After watching this video, what comes to mind for you about including children with special needs?
  • Have you had an experience that relates in some way to the interactions between this teacher and Alou? If so, what was the experience and how doe it relate?

Please note that all programs filmed for this project are in full compliance with licensing regulations at the time of filming. In each video, the required adult-to-child ratio is met and all children are supervised, even if other adults are not visible on the screen.

As caregivers, we know firsthand the challenges of meeting children’s and families’ needs in early learning and child care environments. This chapter addresses how we can include all infants and toddlers by nurturing a sense of belonging and maximizing all children’s developmental potential.

Many programs provide inclusive care, where children with disabilities are included with their peers who are developing typically. Furthermore, Child Care and Development Fund (CCDF) reauthorization regulations include children with disabilities as a priority category for child care services (Child Care and Development Fund, 45 C.F.R. § 98.46 (2016).

Infant and toddler caregivers may be involved with families at the time when children’s disabilities and developmental concerns are first identified, and as interventions begin. This process can be emotional for families, but child care providers can offer valuable insight and be supportive partners. They can play a key role by working with children, families, and other professionals in the early intervention process. A caregiver who actively participates in children’s development, learning, and growth supports families in important ways.

This chapter of the Infant/Toddler Resource Guide explores inclusive practices for infants and toddlers with identified or suspected disabilities or other special needs. It focuses on the following topics:

  • Inclusion as part of early intervention for infants and toddlers
  • Creating inclusive environments and learning experiences for infants and toddlers
  • Building relationships with families of children with special needs

We invite you to use this information as a source of inspiration and guidance in your work.


Child Care and Development Fund, 45 C.F.R. § 98.46 (2016).

Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act of 2004, 20 U.S.C. § 1400. (2004). Retrieved from