Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 2: Program Activities for Healthy Development

2.1 Program of Developmental Activities

2.1.2 Program Activities for Infants and Toddlers from Three Months to Less Than Thirty-Six Months Separation of Infants and Toddlers from Older Children

Infants and toddlers younger than three years of age should be cared for in a closed room(s) that separates them from older children, except in small family child care homes with closed groups of mixed aged children.

In facilities caring for three or more children younger than three years of age, activities that bring children younger than three years of age in contact with older children should be prohibited, unless the younger children already have regular contact with the older children as part of a group.

Pooling, as a practice in larger settings where the infants/toddlers are not part of the group all day – as in home care – should be avoided for the following reasons:

  1. Unfamiliarity with caregivers/teachers if not the primary one during the day;
  2. Concerns of noise levels, space ratios, social-emotional well-being, etc.;
  3. Occurs at times when children are least able to handle transitions;
  4. Increases the number of transitions for children,
  5. Increases the number of adults caring for infants and toddlers, a practice to be avoided if possible.

Caregivers/teachers of infants should not be responsible for the care of older children who are not a part of the infants’ closed child care group.

Groups of younger infants should receive care in closed room(s) that separates them from other groups of toddlers and older children.

When partitions are used, they must control interaction between groups, provide separated ventilation of the spaces and control sound transmission. The acoustic controls should limit significant transmission of sound from one group’s activity into other group environments.

Infants need quiet, calm environments, away from the stimulation of older children. Younger infants should be cared for in rooms separate from the more boisterous toddlers. In addition to these developmental needs of infants, separation is important for reasons of disease prevention. Rates of hospitalization for all forms of acute infectious respiratory tract diseases are highest during the first year of life, indicating that respiratory tract illness becomes less severe as the child gets older (1). Therefore, infants should be a focus for interventions to reduce the incidence of respiratory tract diseases. Handwashing and sanitizing practices are key.

Depending on the temperament of the child, an increase in transitions can increase anxiety in young children by reducing the opportunity for routine and predictability (2), and it increases basic health and safety concerns of cross contamination with older children who have more contact with the environment.

This separation of younger children from older children ideally should be implemented in all facilities, but may be less feasible in small or large family child care homes.

Separation of groups of children by low partitions that divide a single common space is not acceptable. Without sound attenuation, limitation of shared air pollutants including airborne infectious disease agents, or control of interactions among the caregivers/teachers who are working with different groups, the separate smaller groups are essentially one large group.

Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Handwashing Procedure
Appendix K: Routine Schedule for Cleaning, Sanitizing, and Disinfecting
  1. Izurieta, H. S., W. W. Thompson, P. Kramarz, et al. 2000. Influenza and the rates of hospitalization for respiratory disease among infants and young children. New England J Med 342:232-39.
  2. Poole, C. 1998. Routine matters. Scholastic Parent Child (August/September).