Date of Award


Document Type

Thesis - Open Access

Degree Name

MA in Child Development

First Advisor

Patricia Hanley

Second Advisor

Kim Ferguson


This thesis paper aims to investigate and compare the preferred practices in early childhood education and care (ECEC) across four categories: public/universal, private, outdoor, and daycare or family/in-home care. The study utilized online surveys and interviews with parents/guardians of 3-6 year old children and program directors serving children within the same age range. The primary objective was initially to identify best practices in early childhood care. However, as the study progressed, it became evident that the different approaches to early childhood education and care offered unique and valuable contributions. The research shifted from there to an exploration of the substance and effectiveness of various methods rather than seeking a singular “best” practice. The comparative analysis encompasses a range of factors including program structure, parent involvement, social-emotional development of children, access to services, and influences of the COVID-19 pandemic and social media. Overall, this study contributes to the understanding of early childhood care by highlighting the multifaceted nature of preference. The findings underscore the significance of context-specific considerations and the need for tailored approaches to meet the unique needs of children and families in different settings. This research encourages further dialogue on effective practices in early childhood care to ensure the provision of high-quality education and support for young children.