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Early Childhood Programs

October 20, 2021
Early Childhood, Special Education

New York City provides a variety of affordable early childhood programs for eligible children birth to five years old. 

Programs for Children Birth-Age 5

Early Learn 

  • EarlyLearn is a free, low-cost educational program for eligible families. This program includes extended day/all year programs for infants and toddlers birth to two years old.
  • Extended-day programs can provide early care and education for up to 10 hours a day and are available in two settings. Center-based care settings are an option for children ages six weeks to four years old. Home-based care is another option for children, six weeks to three years old, through family child care networks. 
  • Admissions for the infant and toddler programs are year-round. A child can be enrolled in a program any time, if there is a seat available and the family is eligible. 
  • Send your questions to

Head Start and Early Head Start 

  • Head Start and Early Head Start are free programs for children birth to five years old. Early Head Start and Head Start welcome all children with disabilities.
  • Early Head Start provides child development programs and family support services to infants and toddlers under the age of three and their families. Some Early Head Start programs also provide prenatal support and services for pregnant women. 
  • Head Start programs offer a variety of services, including full-day, year-round care for children. These programs are at least eight hours long and are open during the summer.
  • They help three and four year olds prepare for kindergarten by providing an environment where they can learn, play, and build on skills that they will need for that transition.

Programs for Children Ages 3-5

3-K for All

  • 3-K for All allows families to choose from four types of settings: NYC Early Education Centers, District Schools, Pre-K Centers, and Family Child Care. These programs are available to children with and without disabilities. 
  • The NYC Early Education Centers are community-based organizations with staff that have early childhood expertise. District Schools include some NYC Department of Education (NYCDOE) public elementary schools that offer 3-K programs. Pre-K Centers are run by NYCDOE staff and only provide education and programs to children before they enter kindergarten. Family Child Care settings are also known as home-based programs, and they offer 3-K in a home setting by a licensed, qualified, child care provider.
  • Families can apply to 3-K programs in the calendar year that their child turns three. This program has been expanded citywide, so check MySchools for availability. Children will have admissions priority in their home district. 

Pre-K for All

  • Pre-K for All programs can be found in NYC Early Education Centers (NYCEECs), District Schools, and Pre-K Centers. These programs are available to children with and without disabilities. 
  • Similar to 3-K for All, families can apply and children can begin Pre-K for All in the calendar year they turn four.

You can apply to Head Start, Early Head Start, 3-K, and Pre-K for All on MySchools. If you have additional questions, call 311 or contact your borough Family Welcome Center

Preschool Special Education Programs

  • Preschool Special Education Programs are available in community-based organizations (4410s) and NYCDOE settings, including 3-K and Pre-K. There is no application needed for 4410 programs, but the child will need to be referred to the Committee of Preschool Special Education (CPSE). Learn more about this process with our CPSE infographic.
  • After the child is referred to CPSE, multidisciplinary evaluations are conducted to determine eligibility. Eligibility for preschool special education services is determined at the initial CPSE meeting. If the child’s Individualized Education Program (IEP) recommends Special Class in an Integrated Setting (SCIS) or Special Class (SC), then CPSE will arrange placement in a preschool special education program. Other available services include support from a Special Education Itinerant Teacher (SEIT) and related services such as speech and occupational therapy. 
  • The CPSE administrator will give families some placement options to tour before a decision is made on where the child will receive their services. If a 4410 program is being considered, that program may want to conduct a screening to help them determine if their setting is appropriate for the child. 
  • Learn more about State-Approved Preschool Special Education Programs (4410s) and the transition to preschool