Step 2: Space & Materials

What are the goals in Step 2?

  • Offer a variety of materials to support play and learning experiences for children with different interests and abilities.
  • Serve nutritious food to children.

Why is Step 2 important?

A child’s work is play! Having enough of the right materials that are set-up in a chosen space encourages children to play. When children develop good play skills, they are better prepared for school, work and life.

How do I show that I meet the Step 2 Quality Standards?

  • Continue to meet the Health and Safety Quality Standards in Step 1.
  • Demonstrate how your program serves nutritious food to children. Choose 1 of 4 options that best fits your program. 
  • Demonstrate how you use your space & materials to support play and learning experiences through an Environment Rating Scale® (ERS®) observation. The ERS® is a reliable, valid, research-based observational tool, which is designed to assess the quality of the environment. Programs will receive an ERS® observation onsite and earn an average score of 4.0 or greater on each tool used. Bright & Early ND will determine which ERS® tool to use in your program based off your program type.
Preschool and Center-Based Programs
    • The Infant Toddler Environment Rating Scale®, Third Edition (ITERS-3™) is used in classrooms with children age birth to 36 months. 
    • The Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale®, Third Edition (ECERS-3™) is used in classrooms with children age 3 to 5 years. 

Observations are conducted in 33% of randomly selected classrooms. Scores are averaged to calculate a program level score.

Family and Group Programs
    • The Family Child Care Environment Rating Scale (FCCERS-R™) is used with mixed ages and accommodates the wider age range often found in family child care programs. One observation is conducted per family or group child care program. Please note, if your program separates by age groups, multiple observations may be conducted.

To learn more about the ERS® tools, please check out the Helpful Resources page for additional details.

Ready for the next Step?

The Bright & Early ND Quality Rating process is implemented during four cycles, referred to as cohorts. Think of this period as time where you will work with a Coach, learn from other programs, pinpoint your strengths, take training and reach your quality goals! Cohorts are available throughout the year, specific dates and time frames are listed below:

Application Due:
Cohort Starts: 
Cohort Ends: 
Quality Standards Inventory Due: 
December 9th January 1st  September 30th  September 1st 
 March 9th April 1st   December 31st  December 1st
 June 9th July 1st   March 31st March 1st 
 September 9th October 1st   June 30th  June 1st

Programs can apply for Bright & Early ND cohorts at anytime, but are only reviewed four times per year (December 15th, March 15th, June 15th, September 15th). Upon application review, a member of the Bright & Early ND Team will contact you 2 weeks prior to the start of the cohort to inform you of your applications status.

Apply Today!

Check out the Bright & Early ND Helpful Resources for a step-by-step tutorial on 'How to Apply for a Bright & Early ND Cohort'. Don't forget to bookmark this page to stay connected to the most current Bright & Early ND resources and information!