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What We Do

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Why early childhood?

Early childhood is the period of greatest brain, biological, and psychological development; one million new neural connections are formed every second in the earliest years. Domains of development are highly integrated. So, what happens in the early years affects lifelong health, learning, and behavior.

Why now?

Systemic and structural inequalities based on race, ethnicity, income, and other demographics are the root causes of disparities in health and well-being, learning, and achievement. These disparities emerge very early in life, increase over the course of development, and have been widening in recent years. Now is the time to advance work that seeks to close these gaps for current and future generations of families with young children.

Our approach

Stanford Center on Early Childhood takes a developmental and interdisciplinary perspective on early childhood. We believe that health is linked to learning, that children learn everywhere, and that measurement as a tool can help inform and accelerate the science of early childhood learning. 

We refer to our operating model as the IDEA cycle: Identify, Design, Evaluate, Accelerate. The IDEA cycle provides a framework for identifying critical issues in early childhood, designing a proposed solution, evaluating its effectiveness (what works for whom), and accelerating its impact. Importantly, the IDEA cycle is iterative in nature, encouraging continuous improvement and ongoing development.

Red gear with Identify, Design, Evaluate, and Accelerate in a loop around the concept of IDEA


Our work

The RAPID Survey Project

Created in response to the pandemic, the RAPID survey provides actionable data on early childhood and family well-being to inform immediate and long-term program and policy decisions. 

Principal Investigator: Philip Fisher

Learn more about RAPID

See RAPID's third anniversary report: Listening to parents voices

See RAPID's fourth anniversary report: What parents of young children and child care providers want elected officials to know

Classroom of toddlers playing with toys

Early Childhood Educational Experiences

The Early Childhood Educational Experiences project examines how different aspects of the pre-K classroom experience uniquely relate to children’s school readiness and academic achievement. Research partner: San Francisco Unified School District Early Education Department

Principal Investigator: Jelena Obradović

Learn more 

Promoting Math in Young Children: Leveraging pediatric clinics to reach underrepresented children in rural communities

Through partnerships with educational researchers, early math educators, pediatric health experts, and pediatric clinics, this project will develop and study a new opportunity for informal math learning in critical early years in rural locations where the early childhood education system is under-resourced. The project will work with pediatric clinics that serve rural immigrant families who are racially, culturally, and linguistically diverse, working closely with early education math experts, key advisors, and caregivers to ensure the text messaging program is tailored to meet the cultural, linguistic, and contextual needs of rural caregivers and children. 

Principal Investigator: Lisa Chamberlain, MD, MPH

Learn more

Woman teaching a young child how to say a letter

Evaluation of a Preschool Social-Emotional Curriculum

Using a two-year randomized control trial with a waitlist control group and a mixed-methods approach, this study investigates whether and how a preschool social-emotional curriculum affects student outcomes, observed classroom quality, and teacher mindsets in a large, diverse school district. Research partner: San Francisco Unified School District

Principal Investigator: Jelena Obradović

The SEAL study

The SEAL study is a federally-funded, randomized control trial that recruits families eligible for Head Start services and aims to (1) quantify effects of Filming Interactions to Nurture Development (FIND) training on intervention targets; (2) use fMRI to identify process-level neural mechanisms underlying FIND intervention effects; and (3) determine moderations of intervention impact. 

Principal Investigator: Philip Fisher

Co-Investigators: Shannon Peake, Elliot Berkman, Nicole Giuliani, University of Oregon 

Learn more about FIND

School Transition and Readiness (STAR) project

The School Transition and Readiness project in rural Pakistan studies how an early parenting intervention, family processes, and antecedent development relate to emergent executive functions and related school readiness in disadvantaged preschoolers. The goal of the project is to further the understanding of early childhood development in low- and middle-income countries, where children face high levels of adversity, including infections, malnutrition, and inadequate stimulation.

Principal Investigators: Jelena Obradović, Aisha Yousafzai (Harvard University) 

Bring Me a Book and the Stanford Center on Early Childhood

Judy Koch (1943-2023) knew the critical importance of sharing books with children from the moment of birth. Formerly a nonprofit, Bring Me a Book and Judy's legacy and impact will live on through the SCEC. SCEC faculty in the School of Medicine's Department of Pediatrics will apply learnings from BMAB to enrich SCEC's community-based programs and create a model system of support for families with young children, from infancy through the transition to primary school in San Mateo County. Through this program, children and their families will receive books throughout early childhood, along with guidance on how to encourage young children’s engagement with books and skills in reading. Read more here.

Principal Investigators: Lisa Chamberlain, MD, MPH and Ryan Padrez, MD

Our tools

The FIND program

The Filming Interactions to Nurture Development (FIND) program is a highly effective video coaching program for parents and caregivers of children birth to age 5 that facilitates responsive, supportive caregiving. Developed by Philip Fisher

FIND Professional Development (FIND-PD) is for early childhood educators who want to enhance their positive interactions with children.

Learn more about FIND

Sign up for FIND Professional Development (FIND-PD)


The Continuous Improvement and Rapid Cycle Learning and Evaluation (CIRCLE) team provides technical assistance and consultation to external partners including, but not limited to, community-based organizations, governmental agencies, and philanthropic funders. The purpose of these engagements is to help early childhood-focused initiatives understand their implementation and impact. The work to support partners exists on a continuum from creating an initial Theory of Impact (TOI), to being a full program evaluator. This approach was developed by Philip Fisher

Learn more about CIRCLE