Exploring patterns in time children spend in a variety of child care activities: associations with environmental quality, ethnicity, and gender

In order to build from previous research examining children's activities and interaction in child care programs, the current study explored whether children's experiences in child care programs were associated with individual (ethnicity, gender, age) and classroom (environmental quality) characteristics. Using cluster analysis with a randomly selected sample of the participants (n=1,052), groups were developed to represent differences in how children divided their time among a set of activities and interactions. These initial groupings were then validated using the second half of the sample (n=1,142). The resulting clusters identified six patterns in how children spent their time: creative, language arts, didactic, gross motor, high-level adult involvement, and individualized adult interactions. Multinomial logit analysis indicated that individual (ethnicity, gender) and classroom (environmental quality) characteristics were related to how children spent their time but that patterns of associations among the variables for children aged 10-36 months were different from patterns of associations seen among children 37 months and older. The results suggest that researchers need to further explore the ways that ethnicity and gender shape children's experiences in child care programs.