The Case for Inclusive Innovations in Early Childhood Education and Care: Whole Child, Whole Family, Whole School, and Whole Community Solutions

The Case for Inclusive Innovations in Early Childhood Education and Care: Whole Child, Whole Family, Whole School, and Whole Community Solutions

Isabelle C. Hau
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-8649-5.ch001
(Individual Chapters)
No Current Special Offers


The chapter starts with why inclusive innovations in early childhood education and care (ECEC) are needed before turning to the how. The early years have been massively under-funded and under-innovated for years in the U.S. The chapter outlines key ECEC innovations and trends across (1) whole child (innovations fostering early learning skills, self-regulation, social and emotional development, and physical well-being), (2) whole family (innovations in family engagement, family economic mobility, and family well-being), (3) whole school (innovations to support and empower teachers), and (4) whole community (innovations fostering cradle-to-career approaches, increasing kinship, and rethinking city design to optimize for young children's learning). The chapter also highlights the gaps where more innovations are needed.
Chapter Preview


Helen Mayer is mom of twin boys. In March 2020, as the pandemic hit, Helen’s first start-up company failed. Simultaneously, the twins’ child care shut down. Helen became a stay-at-home parent by default. She was planning to go back to work, so she started to apply for jobs. In May, she identified an attractive job opportunity. However, she had to turn it down, because access to child care that was safe, reliable, quality, and affordable was illusory during the pandemic. She started researching child care to better understand why a generation of parents- mothers in particular- were fleeing the workforce. In July, Helen reached out to a few parenting communities and asked people to provide input on child care solutions they were seeking. She received a whopping 2,000 responses in a week. She initially tested 50 child care swaps where parents were partnering with other families to coordinate care. Swaps with a stay-at-home parent providing care were – not surprisingly - the most successful. However, the working parents who were getting child care were thrilled, while those stay-at-home parents were not getting paid. She convinced parents who were swapping care to switch to a model where parents who need child care pay a stay-at-home parent to care for their child. In October, she started Otter with this model. By January 2021, Otter was launched in a second city and onboarded their 1,000th caregiver. By July 2021, Otter was serving 3,500 providers and had raised $27.8 million from Sequoia Capital, Andreessen Horowitz, and other funders, to expand its efforts (Lee & Lin, 2021).

Otter is an example of an early childhood education and care (“ECEC”) innovation born during the global pandemic, seeking to address the lack of supply of quality child care. Is it a wanted solution? Yes. Is it a panacea? No. The reality is that we need a diversity of solutions to address the diversity of our children and family needs. The good news is that the growing children and family needs before and during the global pandemic, combined with the ingenuity of many innovators across the public and private sector are fueling new approaches in ECEC.

The chapter explores a number of those inclusive innovations. Many solutions outlined below are promising. Yet, they are still in their early stage of development, growth, and evidence of impact on children’s outcomes, like Otter. The chapter also highlights areas where we need more innovation in ECEC (in boxed areas).

The chapter adopts a broad definition for “innovation” inspired by the Harvard Center on the Developing Child (2018): “Innovation means taking risks, sharing results early, and learning quickly from ideas that don’t work. While most leaders in the ECEC field focus on the delivery of best practices today, others need to invest in the creation and expansion of more effective best practices for tomorrow.” This chapter emphasizes inclusive innovations, defined as best practices that ensure each and every child can experience high-quality ECEC.

The chapter starts with the WHY more inclusive innovations are needed in ECEC, before exploring the HOW with examples across whole child, whole family, whole school and whole community ECEC innovations.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Whole Community: An approach that considers a broad context around a child’s environment and seeks to foster not only child and family well-being, but the community’s as well.

Whole Child: A pedagogic approach that transitions away from a focus on narrowly defined academic achievement, generally tied to IQ, to one that incorporates a broader view of the competencies that all children must develop for childhood flourishing and long-term adult success. It includes early learning skills, self-regulation, social-emotional development, and physical well-being and motor development.

Inclusive Innovations: Innovations and best practices that ensure each and every child can experience high quality ECEC.

Whole School: An approach that leverages the school community (teachers, staff, parents, board, learners) toward a cohesive and collaborative approach to drive child learning and well-being.

Whole Family: An approach that promotes or family well-being through child and adult simultaneously. They are better integrated across generations than whole child solutions, and often go beyond family engagement through building pathways to economic mobility. In doing so, they have the potential to accelerate progress across child and adult simultaneously.

Early Childhood Education and Care (ECEC): All forms of education for children under kindergarten entry age (generally age five).

Complete Chapter List

Search this Book: