12 Core Early Childhood Education Units in California: What You Need to Know

California’s 12 core early childhood education units are essential for those pursuing a career with young children.

They meet the minimum requirement for licensed child care work, covering vital knowledge and skills.

12 core early childhood education
12 core early childhood education

This article explains their importance and additional prerequisites for becoming an early childhood educator in California.

What are the 12 core early childhood education units in California?

The 12 core early childhood education units in California are as follows:

Child Development

This unit covers the basic principles and theories of human development from conception Like:

  1. adolescence.
  2. emphasizing physical.
  3. cognitive.
  4. social.
  5. emotional domains.

It explores the influences of culture, family, and environment on child development.

Child, Family, and Community

This unit examines the relationships between children, families, and communities and their mutual influence.

It addresses:

  1. diversity.
  2. inclusion.
  3. equity.
  4. social justice.

In early childhood settings.

Curriculum, Teaching, and Learning

This unit introduces the foundations of curriculum development and implementation for young children.

It covers various curriculum models, approaches, and strategies that support children’s learning and development across domains and content areas.

It emphasizes the importance of:

  1. Play.
  2. Creativity.
  3. Inquiry in early childhood education.

Observation and Assessment

This unit focuses on observing and assessing young children’s growth and development.

It covers the purposes, types, and ethical principles of observation and assessment.

It teaches how to use this data to plan, implement, and evaluate curriculum and instruction for individual and group needs.

Health, Safety, and Nutrition

This unit covers the basic concepts and practices of promoting health, safety, and nutrition for young children.

It includes topics such as hygiene, immunization, first aid, emergency procedures, food safety, nutrition education, physical activity, and wellness.

Special Needs and Inclusive Practices

This unit addresses the needs and rights of children with disabilities and special needs in early childhood settings.

It covers laws, policies, and guidelines supporting inclusive education and provides strategies for adapting curriculum, instruction, environment, and assessment to meet diverse needs.


This unit explores the importance of building positive relationships with children, families, colleagues, and other professionals in early childhood settings.

It covers communication, collaboration, conflict resolution, guidance, discipline, and advocacy skills.

Cultural and Linguistic Responsiveness

This unit examines the role of culture and language in early childhood education.

It covers concepts of culture, identity, diversity, multiculturalism, anti-bias, and culturally responsive pedagogy.

Strategies for supporting bilingualism, biliteracy, and biculturalism in young children are provided.


This unit covers the standards and expectations of professionalism in early childhood education. Topics include ethics, code of conduct, confidentiality, self-reflection, professional development, and career planning.

Program Planning and Development

This unit covers the principles and processes of planning and developing quality early childhood programs.

Topics include program philosophy, goals, objectives, policies, procedures, budgets, staffing, evaluation, and accreditation.

Advocacy and Leadership

This unit covers the skills and strategies of advocacy and leadership in early childhood education.

Topics include advocacy issues, strategies, networks, resources, and outcomes.

It also addresses the roles and responsibilities of leaders and mentors in early childhood settings.

Understanding of Laws, Regulations, and Policies

This unit covers the legal and regulatory framework governing early childhood education in California.

Topics include licensing requirements, child abuse reporting, mandated reporting, child care subsidies, Title 22 regulations, Title 5 regulations, California Preschool Learning Foundations and Frameworks, California Early Learning Quality Improvement System (CAEL QIS), and California Early Childhood Educator Competencies.

Why are the 12 core early childhood education units important?

The 12 core early childhood education units are vital as they provide foundational knowledge and skills to work effectively with young children and their families.

They prepare individuals for further education and professional growth in the field of early childhood education. By completing these units, you can:

  • Understand and apply child development theories and research to your practice.
  • Design and implement developmentally appropriate curriculum and instruction for young children.
  • Observe and assess young children’s learning and development in a valid and reliable way.
  • Promote and protect the health, safety, and nutrition of young children.
  • Support and include children with special needs and diverse backgrounds in your program.
  • Establish and maintain positive relationships with children, families, colleagues, and other professionals.
  • Respect and respond to the cultural and linguistic diversity of young children and their families.
  • Demonstrate professionalism, ethics, and advocacy in your work.
  • Plan and develop quality early childhood programs that meet state and professional standards and regulations.

How can you obtain the 12 core early childhood education units in California?

To obtain the 12 core early childhood education units in California, you can enroll in an accredited college or university that offers early childhood education courses.

These courses may be available online or on-campus, depending on your preference and availability.

Additionally, you can transfer credits from other institutions if they are equivalent to the core units.

To find colleges or universities offering these units, visit the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing website and search for approved programs.

You can also contact your local child care resource and referral agency or regional child care licensing office for more information.

What other requirements do you need to meet to work as an early childhood educator in California?

In addition to completing the 12 core early childhood education units, other requirements may apply depending on your level of education, experience, and the type of program or position you seek. These may include:

1. Obtaining a Child Development Permit from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

The permit has six levels: Assistant, Associate Teacher, Teacher, Master Teacher, Site Supervisor, and Program Director.

Each level has different requirements for education, experience, and professional growth.

2. Obtaining a Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential from the Council for Professional Recognition.

The CDA is a nationally recognized credential demonstrating competence in working with young children.

3. Obtaining a certificate or degree in early childhood education from an accredited college or university.

4. Obtaining a teaching or administrative credential from the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing if you want to work as a teacher or administrator in a public school preschool program or transitional kindergarten program.


The 12 core early childhood education units in California are essential requirements for those working with young children in licensed child care facilities or programs.

They equip individuals with the necessary knowledge and skills to provide quality care and education for young children.

To obtain these units, you can enroll in accredited colleges or universities offering early childhood education courses, and you may need to meet other specific requirements based on your educational level and desired position.

Pursuing a career in early childhood educatio2n can be a fulfilling journey, and we wish you success in your endeavors.

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