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Meredith Downing is the Curriculum Lead at Wonderschool, where she supports directors to build high-quality programs that help students grow and succeed.
You’re a preschool teacher, family child care owner, or other Early Care and Education (ECE) professional who wants to expand their professional background, perhaps through child care training or another program. Why might you want to do such a thing?
All of these components help ensure the best success for your program, and your growth as a professional. And, learning new things is fun to boot!
So where to start? First let’s break down different types of programs with the 3 main types being Training, Certifications, and College Credit.
A training is something you attend and get a certificate of completion/attendance at the end (such as, a training on Infant Safe Sleep Practices, or attending a conference).
A certification is something you earn and generally has a renewal date attached (such as a Site Supervisor Permit, Teacher License, CPR/1st Aid certification, Child Development Associate course, Montessori certification, etc).
College credit is something you earn after completing a college course and most typically will take a semester to complete, although some colleges and universities follow different schedules.
The answer to this depends on a few factors:
Do you absolutely love working with infants and toddlers? Are you excited to research new learning topics alongside your preschoolers? Curious about brain development, how language acquisition starts, how to promote strong social emotional development with children? Do you want to learn more about working well with other adults, be they teachers or parents?
Good news! The sky’s the limit when it comes to training opportunities. There are one-time trainings offered by groups like Wonderschool or other early learning groups, day-long conferences where you can take multiple trainings all at once, even weekend-long trainings and conferences. A little something for everyone!
Things you will want to research include cost, duration (is it a one-hour training, or is it an all-day thing), how and where it will be held, and if you will receive a training certificate of completion. Then, sign up! Keep track of what you enjoy about different types of learning opportunities, and recognize you might like some more than others.
Are you the owner of an in-home program and wanting to build out the depth of your child development knowledge? Are you a preschool teacher interested in becoming the owner of your own program? Are there a particular number of training hours you need to complete per year, according to local licensing requirements? These details can help you identify what training courses to take.
There are many, many options in this category of ECE growth and development just as with training. A certification (also called a credential) will likely take longer to complete than a training course, but you’ll also likely receive more in-depth training and be able to add your certification to your professional portfolio and resume.
One well-known, renowned certification that covers child development very well is called the Child Development Associate credential. You can specialize in infant/toddler care or preschool care, and once certified, will remain so through a designated period of time before you’ll need to renew. It takes about 120 hours to complete your CDA credential.
Becoming certified in a specific early learning philosophy is another option. Philosophies such as Montessori, Waldorf, and RIE all require in-depth classroom instruction and in-person practice in order to become certified. They may require occasional ongoing learning to keep your certification up to date, or you may become certified for life. The amount of time it takes to become certified can range from a few days, up to 2 years depending on the program.
In general, most states will require a set of college courses in order to become certified as an early learning teacher or program director. You can usually find out the specific requirements on your state’s licensing website, under the “qualifications” section of the child care rules and regulations. Courses might range from basic child development, to nutrition in young children, to curriculum and developmentally appropriate practice, to learning about how to be a program administrator. Your credits earned are a great addition to your professional portfolio. College credits may cost a bit more than other types of training or certifications, but many colleges have scholarship programs available.
Experience is also an extremely important, valid, and recommended way to learn. Working with, or observing, children in a variety of group care and early learning settings will help you become familiar with different ages and stages, temperaments, teaching styles, and help you identify tools to use in your work. Yes, the article title says the top 3 ECE training courses, but you really can’t beat hands-on learning as a 4th option!