Best practices in action

Build Positive Relationships

These strategies highlight the role of relationships, interactions between caregivers and children, and children playing with each other. They promote development of healthy, warm, trusting relationships with caregivers; communications and self-regulation skills; positive peer relationships, and exploration in a developmentally-appropriate context.


  • Organization supports hiring trained staff.
  • Policies support practices to promote positive caregiver-child interaction.


  • Activities provide opportunities for children to work and play together, to learn to solve conflicts productively, and participate in group activities.
  • Activities use loose parts for play, structures that change and can be moved, and opportunities for caregivers to interact with children and each other. “Loose parts” are materials that children can move, carry, combine,redesign, and take apart and put back together in many different ways.
  • Caregiving staff models how to engage children in developmentally-appropriate play activities for parents/guardians.
  • Activities provide opportunities for interaction between caregivers and staff that support collaboration and foster a sense of community.
  • Activities provide opportunities for families to extend play in the home environment.
  • Activities encourage using materials that promote communication and cooperation among children,parents/guardians, other caregivers, and staff members.
  • Practices and activities support caregiver interactions that are playful and curiosity-building to promote literacy and numerical concepts through signs and coaching.
  • Practices and activities provide opportunity for choice in how parent/guardians and caregivers engage in a space(e.g., play or rest).
  • Practices support and encourage continuous feedback from children, parents/guardians, caregivers and staff to monitor the implementation progress and areas for improvement.

Physical Characteristics

  • Permanent features are tiered in size to allow caregivers to easily observe, interact and play with children in the space.
  • Graphic and written signage clearly indicates the types of activities or materials available, and provides suggestions for developmentally appropriate interactions.
  • Space is well-maintained, in good repair and appears welcoming and inviting.
  • Space characteristics support caregiver comfort by ensuring clear “lines of sight” to observe and communicate with multiple children who are different ages and located in various areas of the space.
  • Caregiver restorative areas (benches, spaces within spaces, etc.) are included to support caregiver’s overall engagement and comfort in the space.
  • Cozy areas, including soft furnishings and toys, support caregivers and children in engaging in quiet, reflective or relaxing activities.
  • Space design includes fixed parts with multiple applications in order to allow for creative play (e.g., a slide that can also be a climber).
  • Elements of the space allow for or reflect children's"design sense" or perspective—it may not look like what an adult would create. Multiple sets of materials are available with each activity/program to allow for more than one user at a time and to support social connections.


  • Staff understand how to support caregivers in responding to children's needs by giving opportunities to expand play activities.
  • Staff and volunteers receive training and other supportive resources to consistently model appropriate, positive and effective interactions.
  • Staff receives guidance on what positive, developmentally-appropriate interactions are within the context of the physical space design.
  • There’s regular time provided for staff to reflect, and share best practices and user feedback with each other and management/leadership.