Our programs

At the Early Childhood Education Program, we want every child to get great start in life.

We work in partnership with the family to support all aspects of a child’s growth within an atmosphere of respect. Teachers pay close attention to each child’s unique needs, and tailor activities to spark their natural curiosity. Here research is developed and applied for children to learn and grow.

At each of our five centers, children learn through play. Sandboxes, play structures, indoor and outdoor activity stations, art supplies, and gardens – all are carefully designed to inspire creativity, instill self-confidence, and give UC Berkeley’s youngest students the foundation for a successful life. 

Sample Toddler and Preschool Schedule
Drop-off, Teachers greet children and parents
Free play (writing and drawing, art, play dough, manipulatives, stories, puzzles, books, science table)
Planned activities (circle time, projects, outdoor play, field trips)
Clean-up, transition to lunch
Lunch (children may play outside as they finish lunch)
Transition to nap, naptime
Indoor activities, outdoor play for early risers
Indoor/outdoor play
Clean-up, transition indoors, quiet activities, closing circle time


We've designed the Early Childhood Education Center to be a place you'd love if you were two feet tall and just learning to finger paint. Imagine spaces configured just for you. Infant, toddler, and preschool rooms open onto a garden and outdoor play equipment. Teachers and caregivers pay close attention to your needs, treat you with respect, and nurture your curiosity. You have play structures, sandboxes, water features, and play stations to choose from. You eat nutritious, tasty meals with your friends. In this warm, challenging environment, you are both an individual and an integral member of the group.

Program for Infant/Toddler Care

"I love our teachers. They do a great job loving my child, but also teaching him.”

– ECEP Parent

At ECEP, we follow the Program for Infant/Toddler Care (PITC), developed collaboratively by WestEd and the California Department of Education, to ensure that infants and toddlers get an emotionally secure, and intellectually rich start in life. ECEP establishes strong, loving caretaker/child bonds by following PITC’s six core principles. This relationship-based approach enables us to provide outstanding, loving care to each child at every age.


PITC Core Principles

Primary Care Provider: Each child has a primary care provider who is responsible for attending to that child’s needs.

Small Groups: ECEP follows best practice caretaker/child ratios for each age group served.

Continuity: ECEP provides a continuity of care, keeping the primary infant/toddler care provider and child together year after year whenever possible.

Individualized Care: Our caregivers respond promptly to each child’s individual needs.

Cultural Continuity: Our caregivers are sensitive to the cultural background of each child, and acknowledge and respect cultural differences.

Inclusion of Children with Special Needs: ECEP provides appropriate accommodation to support children with special needs to participate fully in the program. 

Learning through Play

The ECEP follows a developmental play-based curriculum model, where children learn through play. Our program incorporates child-initiated free choice and teacher-initiated activities. We balance individual exploration with group projects. A wide range of activity stations – both indoors and outdoors – enable children to explore the world around them, and are designed to develop cognitive and social skills. We encourage physical activity, and children spend a great deal of time outside in our ample yards.

Child-Centered, Integrated Approach

At ECEP, we take a child-centered approach, ensuring that each student’s unique needs are met. We also believe that all aspects of development are interrelated – physical, social, cognitive, and emotional. Our program is designed to enable each child to develop their maximum potential.


“Our son has been with the same teachers for 3 years. Our center feels like a family, which is important for those living away from the family (grandparents, aunts and uncles).”

– ECEP Parent

For young infants, everything is "on demand." Babies eat when they are hungry, sleep when they are tired, are changed when they need diapering, and are cuddled and sung to regularly. We talk to our infants and always let them know what we are doing, so that they gain a sense of trust in the world. Our primary goal is to enhance in each child a sense of security and trust by giving consistent, responsive, observant, and respectful care.

Because our dedicated teachers stay at ECEP for many years, we are able to provide a continuity of care not always available in every early care and education setting. Many of our children have the same primary caretaker from infancy until they reach preschool.  


For toddlers, we create an environment that promotes self-confidence and independence. Feeling are validated; independence is encouraged. We provide structured and unstructured activities to promote cognitive growth, social skills and cooperation, emotional maturity, and physical development. Our indoor/outdoor play stations, as well as our group and independent activities, are geared toward the specific developmental needs of toddlers.


Our play-based preschools teach children the skills they will need for kindergarten – as well as a positive sense of self and caring attitude toward others. The day incorporates child- and teacher-initiated activities. Free play is balanced with cooperative play, circle time, singing, and field trips. Through play, children learn logical reasoning, mathematical awareness, language arts, and problem-solving skills. Our teachers pay close attention to each child’s needs, and plan activities that guide their developmental growth in all areas.


“ECEP has a stimulating and safe environment that provides our child with a lot of hands-on activities and an educational philosophy founded upon inquiry.”

– ECEP Parent

A Classroom of Inquiry

While the children learn through play, we learn from them. The Center has been able to leverage what the University of California, Berkeley does best as a community of scholars. The heart of our model is applied research.

Researchers use the classrooms as a living laboratory, where they can gain insights into the way children learn and grow best. In turn, the teachers at the centers are able to implement these innovative, best practices into the daily lives of the children.

Applied Research

Since the first center opened in 1928, innovative teaching and learning approaches have been developed, implemented, and evaluated in collaboration with teachers. Our research studies have influenced how our teachers design spaces and activities to enable each child to learn.

We believe all aspects of child development are integrated, and we’ve even adapted our physical environment to maximize healthy physical development, learning, and personal growth. For example, based on a study of play yards at the center, we’ve brought in play structures that increase options for active play and interaction between children. Our large fresh air spaces are integral to the physical environment at all our centers. 

A Model for Early Childhood Education

Our research studies enable us to serve as a model for early childhood education. As early as 1932, our researchers have been publishing in peer review journals and writing dissertations and books spanning many academic disciplines. Some of the highlights of this research is featured in “Creating a Classroom of Inquiry at the University of California at Berkeley.”

Your Children and Research

At the end of the school year, parents and teachers are invited to learn about the research that has been conducted throughout the past year. Participation in research may take place at all centers, and is most prevalent at the Haste Street Child Development Center and the Harold E. Jones Child Study Center.

You will be notified ahead of time when there will be a research study or survey in your child’s classroom, and you will have the opportunity to choose whether to participate.  In addition, informal observations of classrooms by Early Childhood, Psychology, Sociology or Education students, or other University representatives may occur at any time without parent notification.

The Research Process

Qualified teacher assistants accompany the researcher and the child while they are involved in a research activity. Children may be observed by researchers from within the observation galleries, or may be engaged in a "game" or specific task in a quiet research room. There are strict rules to ensure that a child’s participation in research does not interrupt classroom opportunities. For example a session cannot last more than 20 minutes, a child cannot participate for more than three sessions per week, and the child can refuse participation – though most enjoy it and ask to participate or "play games.”

Research is administered by UC Berkeley’s Institute of Human Development (IHD). All research must be approved by the UCB Committee for Protection of Human Subjects, and reviewed by our own research coordinator. 

Preschoolers outsmart college students at figuring out gizmos
BERKELEY — Preschoolers can be smarter than college students at figuring out how unusual toys and gadgets work because they’re more flexible and less biased than adults in their ideas about cause and effect, according to new research from the University of California, Berkeley and the University of Edinburgh. 
UC Berkeley Professor Alison Gopnik's "The Genius of Babies" on TedTalk 
Discover surprising research about babies' intelligence and find out why we adults might want to take a page from their book. 
Study: Helping kids leads to improved earnings later
BERKELEY — In the May 30, 2014, edition of the journal Science, researchers find that early childhood development programs are particularly important for disadvantaged children in Jamaica and can greatly impact an individual’s ability to earn more money as an adult. 

“As a parent, there is nothing more daunting than selecting a care provider. At ECEP we feel confident each time we drop our son off that he is being enriched, treated with care, attention and respect.”

Sarah B., parent

“ECEP is an excellent program and we have been very satisfied with it in the 7 years (so far) that our children have participated in the program.”

– ECEP Parent


Prospective Parents

At ECEP, we build a working partnership with parents. We believe parents have a right to know what their children are doing at school and to be involved in the life of the program. We foster a welcoming, inclusive environment, so parents and children from all backgrounds feel a sense of belonging.

Parents are encouraged to volunteer in the centers in a variety of roles. They assist in classroom activities, walks, and field trips.

For those parents who want to be involved but cannot volunteer during the workday, they may work on special projects at home, or serve on the Childcare Advisory Committee.

Centers also have pot lucks and other family activities, to help foster a sense of community.

Many families participate in the program from infancy through preschool, which enables parents to form long partnerships with the school, individual teachers, and other family members.

Parents are encouraged to make arrangements to visit ECEP before their child starts, to get a first-hand look at the children and staff in action, and to talk to the center director about opportunities to participate in the life of the school.

Current Parents

Forms, meeting notes, and other information for current parents are located on the Resources page. 

Tax ID information for Dependent Care Spending account: 94-6002123.



“The teachers have been wonderful -- absolutely wonderful.”

– ECEP Parent

The ECEP hires highly qualified, nurturing staff. Many of our teachers have been with ECEP for numerous years.


Teacher Role

“It’s important to me how ECEP welcomes diverse family/staff members.”

- Hanne K., Teacher

Our teachers are integral to implementing our philosophy and play-based curriculum. The teachers focus on each child’s unique needs, as well as group dynamics. The teachers design spaces and projects that stimulate learning, encourage cooperation, and provide a sense of empowerment. Our teachers are also adept at integrating findings from our leading-edge childhood development research

In addition, teachers encourage two-way communication with parents. The teachers keep parents informed about the children’s progress in school, and also offer guidance and advice to parents as requested.

Student Assistants

The excellent caretaker-child ratio is supplemented further by ECEP student assistants. As part of our commitment to developing well-trained teaching professionals and leaders, our program incorporates UC Berkeley students as student assistants. Under the direction of our professional teaching staff, these student assistants support teachers by planning, organizing, setting up, participating in, and cleaning up curricular activities. Our student assistants also bring an additional youthful energy and enthusiasm to the program. 

Child-Teacher Ratios

ECEP has an excellent adult-child ratio. We staff classrooms not just according to Title V licensing requirements, but to best-practice standards. Adult-child ratios at the centers range from 1:3 in infant rooms, to 1:4 in toddler rooms, and 1:8 in preschool rooms.

Student assistants provide additional care. Student assistants are enrolled at UC Berkeley and have prior experience working with children. They receive on-the-job training throughout the year.

Educational Qualifications

Our teachers are highly trained in applying knowledge and skills in the classroom. Our teachers have a Child Development Teacher permit or higher, and an associate's degree or higher. Many of the teachers also have a bacherlor's or master's degree. Teacher assistants support the lead teachers in each classroom. They have at least 12 ECE units and have or are working toward a permit.

Teacher Training

In addition to our teachers’ educational qualifications, we provide further training to our teachers in our philosophy, as well as the best practices in early childhood education. In addition to hiring highly qualified teachers, the ECEP also supports teacher training for early childhood educators. We develop excellent teaching professionals and leaders, both well trained and committed to nurturing and supporting children’s learning. 


"My two kids had teachers who genuinely cared about their well-being, health, and development. I especially appreciated the details the teachers would share with me about my child and how they spent their day."

Joan S., parent

Haste Street Teachers Named to Habitot's 2014 "Making a Difference" List

Three teachers from the Haste Street Child Development Center were named to Habitot's 2014 "Preschool Teachers Making a Difference" list. Congratulations to Sally Wright, Sarah Post and Carmen Madriz!