The Child Development and Family Center (CDFC) provides high-quality care and learning opportunities to children ages 3 months to 5 years. Children enrolled at the center typically have a parental connection to NIU, though children of community members are welcomed as space allows.
The center is composed of several classrooms: three for infants, three for toddlers, two for 2-year-olds and four preschool rooms. Our classrooms are located in two buildings on the NIU campus. In our main building, located on Annie Glidden Road, we provide care for the entire age range. In the classrooms in our annex, located in Gabel Hall, we provide care for infants and toddlers.
Though we welcome NIU students as employees and volunteers in every classroom, some of the classrooms in the main center building are practicum rooms. In these rooms, students lead classroom planning and activities as part of their education in early childhood or child development. All of the students we work with benefit not only from furthering their knowledge of child development, but also from our teachers’ professional guidance.
Highly educated and experienced, our teachers hold Gateway Credentials from the Illinois Network of Child Care Resources and Referral Agencies. They provide a curriculum focusing on each child’s cognitive, social, emotional, physical and linguistic development. Our curriculum is child centered, play based and developmentally appropriate. We believe that children learn best through active exploration and social interaction in a safe, nurturing environment, and our low teacher-child ratios help make this possible.
The center also serves as a site for research in child development and early childhood. We are pleased to cooperate with requests made by students and faculty for observation, participation and research.
The three part mission of the Child Development and Family Center operated by the School of Family and Consumer Sciences (FCS) is to:
- Provide students with a supportive mentoring experience to enhance their understanding of young children and their families through observation, participation and research
- Facilitate faculty and student research in child development and early childhood
- Provide an exemplary model of care and education for children from families whose parents or guardians are students at NIU, work at NIU or live in the community
The CDFC has prioritized the importance of diversity by providing professionals-in-training with quality educational experiences while working in partnerships with staff, children and families from diverse backgrounds in a family-style setting that will facilitate healthy growth and development of all children.
The CDFC will continue to model excellent care and education for early childhood professionals through the practice of mixed age grouping while developing partnerships to increase the inclusion of families, students and staff of diverse backgrounds.
The CDFC philosophy is based on the knowledge that all children go through predictable stages of development at their own pace and learn through play, while recognizing the importance of the family context. Staff facilitates children’s development and learning by providing developmentally appropriate experiences, materials and activities in a child-centered, safe, healthy and nurturing environment. The goal of our program is to help families foster the development of the whole child in all areas of development: social, emotional, physical, cognitive, language and moral.
Ways in which this philosophy is met:
- Using play-based curricula. Play is a child’s tool for learning. Through play, children enhance fine and gross motor skills, become social beings and creative thinkers, reach conclusions on their own through experimentation and develop reasoning, language, emotional and moral skills.
- Using multi-age grouping that allows for multiple attachments with feelings of security and trust over several years in the same classroom.
- Encouraging self-regulation, the main attribute for successful academic performance.
- Enhancing positive self-esteem in children by providing a balance of challenging and success-oriented activities.
- Facilitating problem solving through open-ended activities, which allow the child to creatively formulate their own ideas and explanations.
- Acknowledging children’s interests, strengths and age-appropriate skills and then using them to plan developmentally appropriate activities.
- Encouraging children to become self-motivated through offering choices of developmentally appropriate activities.
- Instilling children with a love of learning and focusing on the development of intellectual skills and positive dispositions towards learning that will help towards lifelong learning.
- Viewing families as the expert on their children and offering various opportunities for families to be involved in the program.