In This Article Expand or collapse the "in this article" section Infant and Toddler Pedagogy

  • Introduction
  • Textbooks and Reference Works
  • Pedagogies to Support Infant-Toddler Cognitive and Language Development
  • Pedagogies for Infant-toddler Physical Health and Development
  • Infant-Toddler Pedagogies That Support Inclusion
  • The Infant-Toddler Workforce
  • Pre-service Education and Professional Learning

Education Infant and Toddler Pedagogy
Sheila Degotardi, Belinda Davis, Loraine Fordham
  • LAST REVIEWED: 27 October 2022
  • LAST MODIFIED: 27 October 2022
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756810-0294


The development and learning that occurs during the first three years of life is widely accepted to form a foundation for lifelong learning and well-being. While infants are born with powerful innate social and learning dispositions, over fifty years of observational and experimental research now demonstrates the critical role played by the social and physical environment in fostering early learning. Recently, due to a recognition that families are increasingly sharing the care of their infants and toddlers with early childhood (EC) educators, this research attention has been expanded to include early childhood education and care (ECEC) contexts. Research about the characteristics and consequences of infant-toddler pedagogies is itself still in infancy, but a robust evidence base is emerging to demonstrate the importance of infant-toddler early education pedagogies. There is a developing appreciation that the efforts of infant-toddler educators complement those of families to shape early learning and development. In a context where infant-toddler education and care suffers from societal attitudes about the low status of care and ‘women’s work,’ this evidence base challenges early childhood professionals, leaders, and policymakers to recognize and support the specialized nature of infant-toddler pedagogies. This article outlines international research about infant-toddler pedagogies across nine sections. The first provides some key Textbooks and Reference Works which collectively present and synthesize the research evidence for pre- and in-service educators and academic readers. The second section, Conceptualizing Quality in Infant-Toddler Pedagogies, examines evidence about the characteristics, contributors, and consequences of high-quality pedagogies. This bibliography then progresses to detail research into pedagogies that have been shown to foster specific areas of learning and development. Across three sections, cited articles identify particular teaching strategies that have been associated with infant-toddler social and emotional development, cognitive and language development, and physical health and development. The sixth section, Infant-Toddler Pedagogies That Support Inclusion, presents research and practitioner articles about the inclusion of infants and toddlers with disabilities, and sociocultural and linguistic backgrounds. The final two sections, The Infant-Toddler Workforce and Pre-service Education and Professional Learning, show that the capacity of educators to deliver high quality infant-toddler pedagogies is constrained by workforce conditions and professional learning opportunities. The evidence detailed in these sections provides a sobering reminder that effective infant-toddler pedagogies are reliant on the knowledge, capabilities, and well-being of educators, and that, internationally, leadership is needed to make meaningful improvements to infant-toddler educators’ preparation, working conditions, and status.

Textbooks and Reference Works

The last decade has seen a rise in the number of textbooks and scholarly reference works dedicated to the topic of infant-toddler pedagogies. While the prevalence of infant-toddler specific books remains outweighed by those focusing on older children, it is heartening to see that infant-toddler educators and researchers now have a number of available resources to support their work. Many works written for pre- and in-service educators incorporate research evidence with practice-oriented philosophical or theoretical approaches. Maguire-Fong 2020 incorporates tenets from Emmi Pikler’s and Magda Gerber’s pedagogical approaches, integrating notions of respectful caregiving with contemporary developmental research to provide a comprehensive text for educators. Wittmer and Honig 2020 draws on attachment theory and social-emotional research to articulate why relationships are foundational for early learning across all areas of development. Lewin-Benham 2010 frames practical guidance about the importance of materials in infant-toddler learning by integrating of the learnings of both neuroscience and the Reggio Emilia approach. Other books report primary research findings, but in a way that is accessible to a wide readership. Goouch and Powell 2013 documents the Baby Room Project and deserves recognition for being the first thorough and honest interrogation of the challenges associated with infant-toddler work. This work set the scene for much of the research on the infant-toddler workforce cited in this bibliography. A focus on relationships and interactions is evident in Degotardi and Pearson 2014 and White 2015. Both works use data from the authors’ own research projects to provide comprehensive and multitheoretical examinations of the significance of interpersonal relatedness between infants and toddlers, their educators, and families. Bilton, et al. 2017 is a research-informed practitioner text that remains one of very few books to date to detail the learning opportunities afforded by outside learning environments. The final three citations are edited volumes from a Springer series “Policy and Practice with Under-Three-Year-Olds” which bring together contributions by leading infant-toddler researchers. White and Dalli 2017 examines the interrelationships between a range of pedagogies and the social and political contexts in which they are situated, while Harrison and Sumsion 2014 challenges us to consider pedagogies from the lived experience of the very young child. Finally, Quinones, et al. 2021 presents an in-depth analysis of the affective characteristics of infant-toddler pedagogy. Collectively, these works not only reflect an increasing recognition of the specialized nature of pedagogy with children aged birth to three, but also the importance of research-informed practice.

  • Bilton, Helen, Gabriela Bento, and Gisela Davis. 2017. Taking the first steps outside: Under threes learning and developing in the natural environment. London: Routledge.

    This research-informed book is unique in its focus on how infants and toddlers engage and learn in an outside environment. By detailing the rationale, implementation, and findings of the Portuguese Taking the First Steps Outside research project, the authors challenge readers to recognize the rich learning opportunities afforded by outdoor learning environments. The book is written with practitioners in mind and includes engaging anecdotes and examples that will support pedagogy.

  • Degotardi, Sheila, and Emma Pearson. 2014. The relationship worlds of infants and toddlers: Multiple perspectives from early years theory and practice. Maidenhead, UK: Open Univ. Press.

    Degotardi and Pearson report on their investigations into infant-toddler pedagogies and practice to tackle the complexity and diversity of the relationships that exist in infant-toddler rooms. Arguing that relationships need to be considered from multiple theoretical and practice-based perspectives, this book weaves observational and interview anecdotes with contemporary theories to examine the nature and potential of the relationships experienced by very young children, their parents, and educators.

  • Goouch, Kathy, and Sacha Powell. 2013. The baby room: Principles, policy and practice. Maidenhead, UK: Open Univ. Press.

    This pivotal text documented findings of the UK Baby Room project that comprehensively investigated the issues and challenges faced by both educators and infants in infant-toddler rooms. Drawing on anecdotes of educator voices, it examines the qualifications, practices, and experiences of those working with infants and toddlers. In doing so, the work considers the relationships between policy, practice, professional identity, and attitudes from both within and outside of the sector.

  • Harrison, Linda J., and Jennifer Sumsion, eds. 2014. Lived spaces of infant-toddler education and care: Exploring diverse perspectives on theory, research and practice. Policy and Pedagogy with Under-Three Year Olds: Cross Disciplinary Insights and Innovations. Dordrecht, The Netherlands: Springer.

    This edited book comprises chapters that document research findings about infant-toddler experiences in early childhood centers. With seventeen chapters written by leading infant-toddler researchers from across the world, the book conceptualizes ‘lived spaces’ from a range of perspectives, including relational, transitional, physical and temporal, and curriculum spaces. Aimed at the academic and postgraduate reader, the book invites critical reflection on infant-toddler experiences and provides implications for both policy and practice.

  • Lewin-Benham, Ann. 2010. Infants and toddlers at work: Using Reggio-inspired materials to support brain development. New York: Teachers College Press.

    In this text with a practical focus, Lewin-Benham integrates evidence about how infant brains are formed and respond to stimuli with Reggio Emilia pedagogical ideas to explain how infants’ and toddlers’ engagement with physical materials are fundamental to their learning. With a focus on cognitive development, the author shines a spotlight on how well-chosen materials stimulate curiosity, attention, and deep learning engagement, and guides educators to foster these foundational learning dispositions.

  • Maguire-Fong, Mary Jane. 2020. Teaching and learning with infants and toddlers: Where meaning-making begins. 2d ed. New York: Teachers College Press.

    This text provides pre- and in-service infant-toddler educators with a comprehensive overview of infant and toddler learning and pedagogy. Inspired by the philosophical ideas of Reggio Emilia, Emmi Pikler and Magna Gerber, it thoughtfully integrates evidence from contemporary research with real-world examples of infant-toddler pedagogies. In doing so, it encourages educators to think deeply about how to design and implement an effective curriculum, assess learning, and work with families.

  • Quinones, Gloria, Liang Li, and Avis Ridgeway, eds. 2021. Affective early childhood pedagogy for infant-toddlers. Policy and Pedagogy with Under-Three Year Olds: Cross Disciplinary Insights and Innovations. Cham, Switzerland: Springer

    This scholarly book integrates cultural-historical theory and visual research methodologies to interrogate multiple affective characteristics of infant-toddler pedagogy. In a series of related chapters, the authors present data from two Australian research projects in order to bring to the fore the nature and significance of affective dialogue, engagement, and spaces. The authors present the implications of their work for the recognition and appreciation of both educators’ and infant-toddlers’ emotional selves.

  • White, E. Jayne. 2015. Introducing dialogic pedagogy: Provocations for the early years. New York: Routledge.

    DOI: 10.4324/9781315710006

    White presents the ideas of philosopher Mikhail Bakhtin to examine how intersubjective human encounters experienced by infants, toddlers, and their educators illuminate the meaning-making processes. With a focus on the embodied, reciprocal nature of social dialogue, White draws attention to how pedagogy is a collaborative act which is characterized by shared agency, uncertainty, and wonderment. Readers are challenged to consider ethical self–other encounters as a cornerstone of infant-toddler pedagogy.

  • White, E. Jayne, and Carmen Dalli, eds. 2017. Under-three-year-olds in policy and practice. Policy and Pedagogy with Under-Three Year Olds: Cross Disciplinary Insights and Innovations. Singapore: Springer.

    This edited scholarly book draws together diverse theoretical and methodological approaches to raise the consciousness of the relationship between infant-toddler practice and policy. Chapter contributions from international researchers cover diverse topics including interactions, intersubjectivity, well-being, care, belonging, and educator identity, and encourage an interrogation of how these concepts are politically situated in policy. Diverse ideas are drawn together to identify areas for future policy directions in the infant-toddler space.

  • Wittmer, Donna S., and Alice Sterling Honig. 2020. Day to day: The relationship way. Washington, DC: National Association of the Education of Young Children.

    This easy-to-read text supports educators of all qualifications to consider how to foster learning through their daily interactions with infants and toddlers. Placing very young children’s social and emotional well-being at the core of effective pedagogies, the authors detail how relationship-based pedagogies support social, emotional, language, and cognitive development. The text explicitly addresses the reader with reflective questions and practice suggestions that can be applied in their daily work.

back to top

Users without a subscription are not able to see the full content on this page. Please subscribe or login.

How to Subscribe

Oxford Bibliographies Online is available by subscription and perpetual access to institutions. For more information or to contact an Oxford Sales Representative click here.