Beautiful Beginnings: A Developmental Curriculum for Infants and Toddlers provides an approach that helps teachers build on children's strengths and interests, support emerging developments, and encourage progress in areas of concern. The curriculum provides "Experiences," organized by children's ages, in eight areas of development.
Summary of Curriculum Review
- Promotes interactions, routines, and learning experiences to support the development and learning of infants and toddlers in all Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework (ELOF) domains
- Offers sequences of learning experiences to progressively build children's concepts and skills in all domains
- Specifies measurable, developmentally appropriate learning goals
- Provides guidance on ongoing observation and documentation
- Offers an approach to individualize learning experiences based on children's interests, strengths, and needs
- Provides some opportunities for infants and toddlers to engage in movement, play, and active exploration
- Includes some guidance on setting up the learning environment
- Provides limited guidance in the ELOF sub-domain of Health, Safety, and Nutrition
- Gives limited guidance on how to integrate children's and families' cultures into interactions, the learning environment, and learning experiences
- Lacks guidance on standardized and structured assessment instruments
- Lacks strategies and resources for communicating with and engaging families
- Does not offer standardized initial training or ongoing professional development opportunities
- Lacks guidance on how to establish developmentally appropriate schedules for infants and toddlers
- Lacks guidance on how to ensure daily routines, learning experiences, and the physical environment are individually appropriate for children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs
Cost of Curriculum
Beautiful Beginnings: A Developmental Curriculum for Infants and Toddlers: $49.95
Cost of Professional Development
The curriculum publisher does not offer professional development.
Contact the publisher for the most updated information on costs of the curriculum and current professional development offerings.
Availability in Other Languages
The curriculum manual is not available in other languages.
Center-based infant and toddler programs for children 0–36 months
Curriculum Materials Reviewed by Raters
The curriculum manual from Beautiful Beginnings: A Developmental Curriculum for Infants and Toddlers was purchased and reviewed in 2018.
Evidence Base for Child Outcomes
Evidence from research demonstrates that the curriculum has been associated with children's positive learning outcomes. The curriculum has been implemented and directly studied in early childhood programs, and the research showed significant, positive effects on children's developmental outcomes. Evidence of effectiveness has been obtained in rigorous research studies, such as randomized controlled trials or regression discontinuity designs. Research studies on the curriculum have optimally included multiple, diverse groups of children and teachers.
At the time of this review, there are no available published research studies on Beautiful Beginnings: A Developmental Curriculum for Infants and Toddlers (Beautiful Beginnings). Rigorous research is needed in order to establish evidence of positive effects of Beautiful Beginnings on children's learning outcomes.
The curriculum provides research-based interactions and teaching practices to support children's development and learning. A research-based curriculum is consistent with research on how children develop and learn. Specifically, it promotes interactions, teaching practices, and learning experiences that research has shown to be effective in supporting children's development and learning.
Responsive Relationships and Interactions: The curriculum consistently promotes responsive relationships and interactions with infants and toddlers, which research has shown are foundational to children's development in all domains. The curriculum's "Social Experiences" provide strategies for building secure, trusting relationships with children (e.g., engaging in back-and-forth interactions, making eye contact, sharing physical affection). In addition, they promote sensitive, responsive caregiving (e.g., guidance on how to appropriately respond to children's cues and requests). Nearly all of the curriculum's learning experiences offer examples of how to engage children in joint attention (e.g., naming an object that the teacher and the child are looking at; responding when a child points at something). Finally, the curriculum encourages teachers to talk with children throughout the day, acknowledge children's responses (e.g., movement, crying, vocalizations), and respond to children's communication (e.g., pointing, babbling, talking).
Daily Routines as Opportunities for Learning: Beautiful Beginnings provides some guidance on daily routines and schedules. The "Self-Help Experiences" offer several examples of how teachers can engage children in the daily caregiving routines of eating, diapering, toileting, dressing, washing hands, and preparing for naptime. One "Self-Help Experience" for older toddlers suggests having consistent daily routines, helping children understand the routines, and giving cues prior to next steps in routines. However, the curriculum lacks any further guidance on how to establish individualized schedules for infants or developmentally appropriate schedules for toddlers.
Play and Exploration: The curriculum offers learning experiences that encourage infants' and toddlers' play and active exploration, which research suggests provide rich contexts for learning in all domains. Many of the "Gross Motor Experiences" provide opportunities for children to engage in active physical play (e.g., crawling up and down stairs, walking on a balance beam, playing on riding toys). In addition, many of the "Discovery Experiences" provide open-ended learning experiences that promote children's curiosity, exploration, and creativity (e.g., playing with water, exploring a texture box, finger painting). Finally, the curriculum approach advises teachers to observe children and select "Experiences" that build on their interests. However, the curriculum lacks comprehensive guidance on how to create indoor and outdoor environments that promote active physical play.
Language-Rich Environment and Interactions: Beautiful Beginnings consistently offers research-based teaching practices to promote language-rich environments and interactions. In particular, the "Communication Experiences" provide guidance on how to engage in varied types of talk with infants and toddlers throughout the day (e.g., talking slowly with animation, describing objects and actions, asking open-ended questions, expanding the child's language). In addition, the curriculum offers strategies to build infants' and toddlers' vocabulary (e.g., labeling familiar objects, introducing words for new objects, using action words). Finally, it features several opportunities to support children's early literacy skills, such as reading books, playing with puppets, singing, reciting nursery rhymes, and scribbling and drawing activities.
Promoting Emotional, Behavioral, and Cognitive Self-Regulation: The curriculum consistently promotes research-based teaching practices to support children's emotional, behavioral, and cognitive self-regulation. In particular, the "Social Experiences" offer teaching practices to help infants and toddlers begin to regulate their emotions (e.g., encouraging expression of emotions, labeling and validating emotions, identifying feelings of others). Many of the "Social Experiences" and "Self-Help Experiences" provide strategies to support children's behavioral regulation (e.g., giving the child choices, supporting turn-taking with peers, setting clear expectations for behaviors). Finally, the curriculum provides a range of strategies to facilitate children's cognitive self-regulation (e.g., supporting planning and flexibility in thinking during pretend play, encouraging children to persist and complete tasks).
Facilitating Cognitive Development: The curriculum consistently promotes research-based teaching practices that facilitate the cognitive development of infants and toddlers. Nearly all of the curriculum's "Experiences" include prompts that could be used to support cognitive development during play and exploration (e.g., narrating actions, describing objects, modeling actions, expanding language, extending play themes). Similarly, the learning experiences provide examples of how to embed mathematics language and concepts throughout everyday interactions and activities (e.g., talking about quantity, sorting, using shape sorters, nesting, completing puzzles). Finally, some "Experiences" support the development of children's problem-solving skills (e.g., encouraging trial and error, demonstrating how to use tools to solve problems, supporting children to persist during challenging tasks).
Supporting Physical Development: Beautiful Beginnings consistently recommends research-based teaching practices to support the perceptual, motor, and physical development of infants and toddlers. The curriculum's "Experiences" include many, varied opportunities for infants and toddlers to practice fine, gross, and perceptual motor skills. The curriculum features several learning experiences for children to practice fine motor skills (e.g., grasping objects, shaking and banging, developing pincer grasp, scribbling, zipping) and gross motor skills (e.g., pulling up, crawling up and down stairs, throwing, carrying objects while walking). In addition, several "Experiences" support the development of perceptual motor skills (e.g., looking at and tracking objects, mouthing objects, climbing in and out of large boxes, feeling textures, exploring and discussing body motions).
Scope and Sequence
The curriculum includes an organized developmental scope and sequence to support children's development and learning. A scope and sequence outlines what the curriculum focuses on and how the plans and materials support children at different levels of development. The scope refers to the areas of development addressed by the curriculum; the sequence includes plans and materials for learning experiences that progressively build from less to more complex, with the goal of supporting children as they move through the developmental progressions. A content-rich curriculum ensures that sequences of learning experiences include multiple, related opportunities for children to explore a concept or skill with increasing depth. Sequences of learning experiences should be flexible to respond to individual children's interests, strengths, and needs.
Scope: Beautiful Beginnings clearly identifies eight areas of development: Communication, Gross Motor, Fine Motor, Intellectual, Discovery, Social, Self-Help, and Pretend. The curriculum manual provides several "Experiences" to support each of these areas of development.
Sequence: The curriculum manual provides multiple, related learning opportunities for children to explore and learn concepts and skills in all ELOF domains. The "Experiences" are organized by age (e.g., 0–6 months, 6–12 months, 12–18 months) and around the curriculum's eight areas of development. They can be used to progressively build children's concepts and skills as they move through the developmental progressions in all domains. The curriculum describes the "Experiences" as a menu of ideas that can be selected based on each child's unique development, strengths, needs, and interests, demonstrating that the sequences of learning experiences allow for flexibility.
Alignment with the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework (ELOF)
The curriculum is aligned with the ELOF. Aligning a curriculum with the ELOF identifies the extent to which ELOF domains and sub-domains are addressed in the curriculum. Curricula that are fully aligned with the ELOF are comprehensive and cover all areas of children's learning and development described in the ELOF.
Alignment with the ELOF: A thorough review of the curriculum manual indicates that Beautiful Beginnings is mostly aligned with the ELOF. The curriculum manual offers learning experiences to fully support children's development and learning in all of the ELOF domains and almost all of the sub-domains. However, the curriculum partially addresses the ELOF sub-domain of Health, Safety, and Nutrition.
Learning Goals for Children
The curriculum specifies learning goals for children. The curriculum's learning goals are objectives for children's development and learning across domains. Learning goals should be measurable and developmentally appropriate. Measurable learning goals focus on skills, behaviors, and knowledge that are observable; developmentally appropriate learning goals are consistent with well-established developmental progressions. Teachers should be able to use a curriculum's learning goals to individualize learning experiences for all children, such as children from diverse cultures, children who are dual language learners, children who are tribal language learners, and children with disabilities or other special needs.
Learning Goals: Beautiful Beginnings provides measurable, developmentally appropriate learning goals in the curriculum's eight areas of development. Each "Experience" specifies a "Goal," and the learning experiences support the stated goals. The curriculum suggests selecting "Goals" and "Experiences" based on children's interests, strengths, development, needs, and concerns. However, it lacks explicit guidance on how to modify the learning goals for activities to individualize learning experiences for all children.
Ongoing Child Assessment
The curriculum provides guidance on ongoing child assessment. Ongoing child assessment is a process of gathering information to understand and support children's development over time. Information gathered through observation and documentation helps inform curriculum planning, teaching, and individualizing for all children. Ongoing child assessment can also be used to periodically complete standardized and structured assessment instruments to evaluate children's developmental progress.
Ongoing Observation and Documentation: The curriculum provides a process for ongoing observation and documentation: observing the child; selecting "Experiences" based on the child's interests, strengths, development, needs, and concerns; offering "Experiences;" and documenting the child's responses. In addition, the curriculum includes a "Goals Sheet," which can be used as a tool to support teachers in the ongoing process of observation and documentation. Many "Experiences" include prompts for teachers to observe children's engagement in the activities (e.g., "Watch him carefully to see how he handles the problem." "Make a mental note of the motions she does today so you can introduce others later.").
Standardized and Structured Assessment Instruments: The curriculum describes the importance of using the Ages & Stages Questionnaires® (ASQ®) screening instrument. However, it does not address standardized and structured assessment instruments to assess children's developmental progress.
Parent and Family Engagement
The curriculum promotes parent and family engagement. Parent and family engagement is a collaborative and strengths-based process through which early childhood teachers, families, and children build positive and goal-oriented relationships. It is a shared responsibility of families and staff that is built on mutual respect for the roles and strengths each has to offer. The curriculum provides culturally and linguistically responsive strategies to communicate with families and to engage families in children's learning.
Communicating with Families: The curriculum does not offer materials or strategies for communicating with families about their children's development or about the curriculum's learning experiences.
Engaging Families: The curriculum provides minimal guidance on how to engage families in children's learning and development. This guidance is limited to including parents in the creation of a portfolio and the completion of the ASQ®. The curriculum lacks any further information on how to engage families in the classroom or how families can extend children's learning at home.
Professional Development and Materials to Support Implementation
The curriculum offers professional development and materials to support implementation and continuous improvement. Professional development includes gaining the knowledge and skills required for effective implementation of a curriculum. Standardized training procedures include initial and ongoing training to support education staff as they learn to implement a curriculum with fidelity. Standardized training procedures provide consistent content and delivery methods across training sessions. Curriculum materials to support implementation include resources that come with a curriculum to help education staff understand how to use it. The materials may also include resources to help education managers and coaches support education staff to implement the curriculum effectively.
Professional Development: The curriculum publisher does not offer standardized initial training or ongoing professional development opportunities.
Curriculum Materials to Support Implementation: The curriculum provides some materials to support implementation. The manual begins with an overview of the curriculum's approach and components. It also includes guidance on how to implement the curriculum's extensive set of "Experiences." However, the curriculum lacks additional materials to support implementation, such as teaching resources that offer comprehensive guidance on foundational aspects of curriculum implementation (e.g., how to set up the physical environment, establish individualized schedules, engage families) or any training or coaching resources.
- Fidelity Tool: The curriculum does not include a tool to assess fidelity of implementation.
Learning Experiences and Interactions
The curriculum promotes rich learning experiences and interactions to support development across domains. For infants and toddlers, rich learning experiences take place within the context of an engaging play environment, interactions and conversations with caregivers and peers, and daily caregiving routines. Rich learning experiences support and extend children's knowledge, understanding of concepts, and skills across domains. Infants and toddlers develop and learn by freely moving their bodies and actively exploring their environments in open-ended ways. The curriculum offers infants and toddlers ample opportunities to move and explore and provides teachers with guidance on how to interact with children to extend exploration, thinking, and communication. Rich learning experiences should be culturally and linguistically responsive and inclusive of children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs.
Active Exploration: Beautiful Beginnings provides some opportunities for infants and toddlers to move freely and explore their environments actively. Some "Experiences" encourage movement and open-ended exploration. For example, "Finding Things" encourages teachers to create a "discovery corner" where they set out a new object or toy each week for children to freely explore. In addition, "Pushing and Pulling" invites teachers to provide toddlers with various toys that they can push (e.g., boxes, small chairs, wagons) and pull (e.g., toys with strings attached to them), which provide several opportunities for movement and exploration of how things work. However, other "Experiences" are more teacher-directed, encouraging infants and toddlers to do something very specific and providing limited opportunities for children to engage with the environment in open-ended ways. For example, in one activity, teachers model different types of scribbles and encourage toddlers to imitate the model drawings. In another activity, teachers demonstrate how to use cause-and-effect toys and encourage older infants to do the same actions.
Interactions That Extend Children's Learning: The curriculum provides specific guidance on how teachers can engage in interactions that extend children's learning. The "Experiences" include prompts or suggestions for teachers to label objects, narrate what adults and children are doing, expand children's language, and extend pretend play. For example, an "Experience" for younger infants suggests that teachers describe various textures and what those textures feel like. Another prompts teachers to initiate possible next steps in children's pretend play, while letting the child choose what to do next.
Individualization: The curriculum provides a general approach for individualizing learning experiences for all children. The approach includes observing children; selecting "Experiences" based on children's interests, strengths, development, needs, or concerns; using the "Goals Sheet" to plan for an individual child or group of children; offering "Experiences;" and documenting the children's responses. "Using Beautiful Beginnings with Children with Special Needs" encourages teachers to use a child's functional age to select learning experiences. "Taking Culture into Consideration" instructs teachers to adapt activities as appropriate. However, the curriculum lacks specific guidance embedded throughout the "Experiences" on how to use learning experiences with diverse children, and at times, is suggestive of a deficit approach: "For children at-risk, such as children from very low-income families, one Experience should always be in the area of communication because of the tendency for children to be delayed in this area."
Learning Environments and Routines
The curriculum provides guidance on how to set up rich learning environments and developmentally appropriate routines. Rich learning environments are nurturing spaces that support the development of all young children. The curriculum provides guidance on how to design developmentally appropriate schedules, routines, and indoor and outdoor opportunities for choice, play, exploration, and experimentation. Learning environments include age-appropriate equipment, materials, and supplies. They also reflect home cultures and are flexible to support the changing ages, interests, and characteristics of a group of children over time.
Environment: The curriculum provides minimal guidance on how to design well-organized, engaging indoor and outdoor learning environments. It specifies setting up learning centers that emphasize different areas of development and providing an organized, predictable environment. Some "Gross Motor Experiences" (e.g., "Crawling Up and Down Stairs," "Playing Independently on Riding Toys," "Walking on a Balance Beam") include suggestions for equipment that would promote active physical play. The curriculum lacks guidance on the outdoor environment. Additionally, some "Experiences" suggest equipment that may restrict movement and exploration, such as a bouncer, activity rocker, or high chair.
Learning Materials: Beautiful Beginnings provides several examples of developmentally appropriate learning materials that foster infants' and toddlers' open-ended exploration and inquiry. For example, the "Experiences" specify a range of learning materials, such as nesting toys, blocks, play dough, materials of different textures, and pretend play props. The curriculum reminds teachers to consider books and objects from within children's and families' cultural backgrounds. However, it lacks guidance on how to select learning materials in children's home languages. It also lacks instruction on how to select learning materials that are accessible to children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs.
Schedule and Routines: The curriculum provides specific guidance on how to use caregiving routines as learning opportunities. The "Self-Help Experiences" describe how teachers can engage children while the children are eating, diapering or toileting, dressing, washing hands, and preparing for naptime. However, the curriculum lacks guidance on how to establish a flexible daily schedule centered around developmentally and individually appropriate routines.
The curriculum supports cultural responsiveness. Cultural responsiveness is a strengths-based approach to teaching and caregiving rooted in respect and appreciation for the role of culture in children's learning and development. A culturally responsive curriculum prompts teachers to learn about each child's strengths, abilities, experiences, and interests as developed within the child's family and culture. The curriculum provides guidance on how to modify and enhance curriculum plans and materials to build on these strengths, abilities, experiences, and interests with the goal of incorporating each child's culture into the classroom.
Interactions: Beautiful Beginnings includes a brief section on "Taking Culture into Consideration," with very few tips that could be used to build relationships with children and families from diverse cultural backgrounds (e.g., honoring cultural variations, valuing parental choices, respecting cultural differences). Additionally, it does not include guidance on learning how families interact with their child or on how to use this information to engage in culturally responsive interactions.
Learning Experiences: The curriculum includes only two examples of how to provide learning experiences that build on families' cultures. One example describes how gazing in the mirror may not be a valued or appropriate activity in some cultures, and how teachers should make appropriate adaptations. Another example suggests that teachers introduce a wordless book that is in line with a family's tradition of storytelling. Beyond these two examples, the curriculum lacks guidance on how to engage infants and toddlers in learning experiences or caregiving routines that build on families' traditions, cultures, values, and beliefs.
Learning Environment: Beautiful Beginnings offers two suggestions for providing learning materials that reflect diverse cultures. The "Using Materials" section states that materials acquired from other geographic areas lend welcome diversity. In addition, the "Taking Culture into Consideration" section invites teachers to consider books and objects that are within children's and families' cultural backgrounds. However, the curriculum lacks any further guidance on, or examples of how to select and use, learning materials that authentically represent the cultures and ethnicities of children and families in the program.
The curriculum supports linguistic responsiveness. Linguistic responsiveness refers to teaching practices that support the learning, development, and engagement of children from diverse linguistic backgrounds. It includes supports for continued development of children's home or tribal languages by authentically incorporating children's languages into the learning environment. Furthermore, linguistically responsive practices can facilitate English acquisition. The curriculum provides scaffolding strategies to support children at any level of English knowledge to fully participate in the curriculum's learning experiences and environment. For infants and toddlers, linguistic responsiveness requires partnering with families to intentionally support the development and learning of children who are dual language learners (DLLs). This process includes developing a plan, based on the languages of the teacher and family, to support a child's development of each language in the classroom as well as at home.
Linguistic Responsiveness: The curriculum lacks guidance on how to intentionally support the development and learning of infants and toddlers who are dual language learners. It also does not address how to support children who are learning tribal languages.
Individualization for Children with Disabilities, Suspected Delays, or Other Special Needs
The curriculum provides guidance on how to individualize for children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs. Individualization for children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs includes providing more specialized supports for children to access and participate in learning, social experiences, and activities. The curriculum's guidance for specialized supports includes specific teaching practices and ways of interacting with children, as well as adaptations to daily schedules, learning activities, and the learning environment. Individualizing for children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs enables all children to access, participate, and thrive in early learning settings.
Teaching Practices and Interventions: Beautiful Beginnings provides minimal guidance on embedding teaching practices or other interventions into learning experiences or daily routines for children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs. It suggests using a child's functional age to select learning experiences, focusing on a child's strengths, coordinating with other specialists, and encouraging a child to use other senses. The curriculum lacks additional principles or specific guidance embedded throughout the "Experiences" on how to intentionally support the development and learning of children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs.
Learning Environment: The curriculum does not address how to ensure that the physical environment and learning materials are accessible to children with disabilities, suspected delays, or other special needs.
Individualization Based on Interests, Strengths, and Needs
The curriculum offers guidance on how to individualize based on children's interests, strengths, and needs. Individualization is a process of planning and implementing learning experiences that are responsive to each child's interests, strengths, and needs. Teachers reflect on their observations of each child and then plan the most effective ways to support each child's learning and development. When learning experiences are tailored to children's interests, they are more engaging and meaningful to children. Because children may vary in their developmental progressions, it is also important that the curriculum supports teachers in planning learning experiences that are responsive to individual children's strengths and needs.
Individualization Based on Interests: The curriculum provides guidance on how to plan learning experiences that build on children's interests. It describes a process for selecting "Experiences" based on children's interests as observing the child (including prompts such as "What seems to energize her?" or noticing what fascinates the child) and then choosing "Experiences" that build on children's interests. In addition, some "Experiences" remind teachers to consider and follow children's interests. For example, a book-reading activity encourages teachers to pay careful attention to what a child shows interest in and to build on those interests. In a pretend play activity, teachers are prompted to follow the child's lead.
Individualization Based on Strengths and Needs: Beautiful Beginnings provides general guidance on how to plan learning experiences that are responsive to individual children's strengths and needs. The following process is described for selecting "Experiences" based on children's strengths and needs: observe the child, use the "Overview Goals Charts" to help locate the child's developmental level, choose "Experiences" that build on the child's development, use the "Goals Sheet" to plan the "Experiences," offer "Experiences," and document the child's response. Although the curriculum is organized around age ranges, it lacks specific scaffolding strategies to support children at different developmental levels, as well as guidance on how to tailor learning experiences based on individual children's strengths and needs.