Full-day program

The full-day program at the Child Development Laboratory School is available to University of Minnesota (U of M) students, staff, and faculty. We offer a full-day, year-round early childhood education program for children aged 3 months to 5 ½ years old.

Founded in 1974, the full-day program has long been a model, demonstration, and training site for early development. We also offer research opportunities for U of M faculty to further the knowledge of early development, education, and quality care for young children.

Our approach

We believe that children are born with curiosity and a desire to learn. Our teachers see themselves as facilitators, co-researchers, and co-constructors of each child’s social, emotional, motor, and cognitive development. 

Using their knowledge of child development, our teachers aim to develop and create a curriculum that caters to children’s interests. We also use ongoing observations and assessments to inform our curriculum. For example, we take into consideration where children are as individuals and as a group. We look for developmental landmarks like the ability to wait and self-regulate, sharing with others, and cognitive growth. 

We also believe that families play an important role and that daily contact between teachers and parents is essential. By sharing information about your child’s activities and welfare, we can work together toward meeting your child’s developmental needs in a partnership approach.

Classroom environment

Each full day class is staffed by a lead teacher, one or two assistant teachers. The adult-child ratio is 1:4 for infants; 1:6 for toddlers; 1:10 for preschoolers. All lead teachers are highly knowledgeable of child development, and are experienced in working with young children in childcare or classroom settings. 

Our facility offers a creative and effective environment designed for a full-day child development program. It provides a comfortable, home-like, and inviting place for children to engage with their environment and have rich interactions with other children and adults. We intentionally chose our space’s colors, light-scapes, materials, furniture and ambient tone, and use sustainable materials whenever we can. These elements enhance exploration, guide development across domains, and help children develop relationships and gain a sense of belonging and community.

Learn more about our full-day program

How we teach

Each classroom is a rich environment where children can explore, experiment, and use what they learn. We emphasize the math, literacy, science, and social studies lessons embedded in daily play activities at school.

For example, children learn about number and math operations best when they have interesting objects to sort, match, order, and count (in other words, play with!).

Our teachers then step in and talk with a child about what they’re doing and thinking. This helps the child remember and apply what they know in new situations.

Through play-based learning, we help children prepare to attend school and study every academic content area.


At the end of the project, teachers create documentation panels or books that show what children learned.

The goal of documentation is to capture children’s interests, ideas, theories, and their learning process. Documentation also promotes children’s meta-cognitive skills (thinking about thinking). When children talk about “what they know,” it elevates their understanding.

Documentation may include:

  • photographs;
  • samples of children’s work;
  • direct quotes; and
  • a teacher’s interpretive comments.

Teachers also learn through documentation. Teachers become more effective when they’re aware of how their actions connect to children’s learning and development.

For more information

Interested in finding out more about our program? We’d love to hear from you. Fill out our brief form, and our team will get back to you.