River Valley Community College unveils new infant and toddler early childhood education certificate program to meet community and workforce needs
Curriculum includes newly-launched Introduction to Infant Mental Health course, partnerships with local child care and welfare organizations
Claremont, NH – The new Infant & Toddler Certificate within River Valley Community College’s (RVCC) Early Childhood Education Program is set apart from other programs in the state in two important ways. First, it features an introduction to Infant Mental Health course, and second, it was developed with input from key child development agencies in response to the growing need for qualified early childhood educators.
Launched this fall, the 18-credit Infant & Toddler Certificate is available to full-time or part-time students, is composed of six courses, and is offered within RVCC’s Early Childhood Education program.
“Our program is unique because of its focus on children from birth to age three, and their specific developmental needs,” said Kerry Belknap Morris, M.Ed., program director for Early Childhood Education at RVCC, and department chair of Business and Professional Studies. “In New Hampshire, we regularly hear from members of the community, our advisory committee students, and owners of early care and education centers, that there is a pressing need for this specialized type of early childhood educator.”
Building and expanding a strong workforce focused on caring for infants and toddlers is a priority for New Hampshire. Initiatives from several state agencies and groups, including the NH Child Development Bureau and Spark NH, the state’s early childhood advisory council, emphasize the need for high quality infant and toddler care. According to Child Care Aware of America, New Hampshire has 65,000 children age four or younger, but only about 58,000 spaces in the Granite State childcare program. Of those, only 31% are licensed for infants and toddlers. These state-wide trends, along with feedback from area employers and the Early Childhood Education Program’s Advisory Committee, led RVCC to develop the new certificate.
“Working with infants requires special skills, and our graduates must be versatile and able to work with children of all ages at all stages,” Morris said. “Research shows that the first three years of a child’s life set the foundation for future learning and cognitive processes, so educators trained to recognize the unique needs of very young children sets up infants and toddlers for immediate and long-term success.”
Key areas of study for the new certificate program include: social and emotional development; relationships with families; safe and developmentally appropriate environments; promotion of optimal child outcomes; observation and documentation; and diversity and inclusion. Students may enroll in fall or spring semesters, and coursework includes a blend of on campus and online courses.
Coursework in RVCC's Early Childhood Education Program emphasizes linking theory to practice. Students engage in a range of observational assignments and those already employed in the field have the opportunity to apply their new knowledge to their work. The certificate program also prepares individuals pursuing an infant and toddler endorsement on an early childhood credential certificate awarded by the New Hampshire Child Development Bureau. Along with the certificate programs, RVCC also offers an Associate Degree in Early Childhood Education.
Three-month-old Ryan Mateo’s play reflects the proximodistal trajectory of an infant’s motor development. Effective infant and toddler caregivers and educators provide perceptual-motor experiences in safe and sensory-rich environments. With continued opportunities for developmentally appropriate play, the child will continue to move from reflexive to intentional movement.
About River Valley Community College
River Valley Community College is one of seven colleges in the Community College System of New Hampshire, offering thirty-nine associate degree and certificate programs in Claremont, Keene, Lebanon, and Online. Financial Aid and Scholarships are available. The seven community colleges in the system are committed to working with businesses throughout the state to train and retain employees to develop a robust workforce across all sectors and embraces the "65 by 25 Initiative," which calls for 65% of NH citizens to have some form of post-secondary education by 2025 to meet future workforce demands.
You can find a version of this article published in the following news outlets: