The Center was created in 1973. Since the beginning, it has functioned as an integral part of the Psychology Department at Barnard College, providing an initial group social experience for toddlers, a unique learning experience for Barnard and Columbia College students, and a research site for developmental researchers.
Each year the Center enrolls toddlers in one of four classes for the academic year (mid-September through June).
All classes are structured by age and gender, and include children from diverse backgrounds. Morning and afternoon classes are available and meet once or twice a week. Classes are divided based on toddler age range.
Beginning in January, parents and/or caregivers can participate in an educational group focused on the developmental issues of the toddler years and on related parenting and caregiving issues.
The approach of the Center is based upon the philosophy that children learn by doing: through experiences, exploration, and active participation with their environment. Children’s discoveries promote mastery and feelings of competence. The Center provides a warm environment to support each child’s needs, promote self discovery and facilitate separation. Activities are adjusted to the developmental level of each child, enhancing his/her social, emotional and intellectual development.
Each day toddlers have many choices: to paint, poke play dough, sift sand through funnels, pour water into cups, or build with blocks. They can play with trains, puzzles, or dress up clothes, and picture books and music are part of the day. A slide, rocking boat, and climber let them explore physically. All of the activities provide children with developmentally appropriate experiences to support their growth and encourage social interactions with other children.