OpenIDEO is an open innovation platform. Join our global community to solve big challenges for social good. Sign up, Login or Learn more

Early Experiences Matter

How might we support those who care for young children, both formally and informally, including family, friends, neighbors, child care, or classroom teachers, to create healthy and constructive early learning experiences for children as they develop?


"I couldn't find quality care for Akira. We sent him part time to a place that was more like baby-sitting than school and it was expensive,"  Taylor Higashi, father of one-year-old Akira, living in Oakland, California


We know from neuroscience, child development research, and economic studies that children’s earliest experiences shape long-term learning, behavior and health outcomes, as well as future earning potential. Ensuring that early experiences are the best they can be is critical to the success of our youngest children. 

Many children’s early experiences include care from someone other than their parents. And there is no doubt that families in need of childcare face a daunting task. Current offerings for infants and toddlers can be hard to access, may be poor quality and are often unaffordable. While families may have the ability to choose – between center-based care or in-home care that is either licensed or informal with family, friends and neighbors – many parents are dissatisfied with their options. What if we could build a better ecosystem of reliable, quality care during the earliest years, regardless of whether children are in the care of relatives or neighbors, or formally-licensed settings?

This Opportunity Area calls on innovators to focus on the diverse challenges of supporting children’s early experiences, including: how to improve children’s learning in informal or unlicensed care; how to address affordability of care; and how to scale the level of quality that matters for young children’s development.  

In addition, providers who do offer reliable child care often struggle to simultaneously maintain the quality and financial viability of their services. What if we could support caregivers with new business models or financing options, so that they could more sustainably and effectively do their work? Whether helping providers avoid burnout, feel supported and valued, or increase their financial success and the viability of their services, there is a massive opportunity to bolster caregiver success both directly and indirectly. 

To further clarify this Opportunity Area, here is an example of an initiative that is designed to support healthy early experiences: 

Wildflowers Schools: blurring the boundaries between home and school, between scientists and teachers, between schools and the neighborhoods around them. 

Note that any examples provided are not meant to be limiting, and successful proposals might look very different. Instead, they offer tangible cases that represent this Opportunity Area.

94 contributions

Sort by

Contribution list

A grassroots network of home-based providers are building a shared services hub to support high quality childcare & sustainable businesses.

A grassroots network of home-based providers are building a shared services hub to support high quality childcare & sustainable businesses.

Photo of Adrián
4 1

Creating an environment that is interactive, caring, and developmentally stimulating for infants and empowering parents with resources.

Creating an environment that is interactive, caring, and developmentally stimulating for infants and empowering parents with resources.

Photo of C.Cecilia
0 6

Dissemination of innovation of an evidence-based model of early childhood mental health consultation to child care settings.

Dissemination of innovation of an evidence-based model of early childhood mental health consultation to child care settings.

Photo of liz
0 0

An online platform designed to seamlessly connect early childhood professionals with the high-quality products and services they need.

An online platform designed to seamlessly connect early childhood professionals with the high-quality products and services they need.

Photo of Emily Bustos
1 8

Feeding the brains of VT children by delivering affordable, nutritious, recipes and ingredients to ECL programs

Feeding the brains of VT children by delivering affordable, nutritious, recipes and ingredients to ECL programs

Photo of Barbara null
3 3