Early Childhood PBIS

Preschool class, boy looking to camera
You might know PBIS in early childhood settings as Early Childhood Program-Wide Positive Behavior Support (PW-PBS) or Program-Wide Positive Behavioral Interventions and Support (PW-PBIS). It is often referred to as the Pyramid Model. This model provides a framework of evidence-based practices to promote the social-emotional competence of all children, address the social-emotional and behavioral needs of children who are at-risk, and develop supports for children with persistent social, emotional or behavioral concerns.

What is Early Childhood PBIS?

Early childhood PBIS refers to PBIS implementation within early childhood settings – The Pyramid Model. The Pyramid Model is a multi-tiered framework with a continuum of evidence-based practices to promote expected behavior, prevent problem behavior, and intervene when students need more support. This model addresses the needs and contexts unique to programs serving infants, toddlers and preschoolers, including children in public school early childhood classrooms. It includes the practices, procedures, and data collection measures appropriate for young children and their families.

Why Address Early Childhood PBIS?

The Pyramid Model ensures programs attend to both the implementation of evidence-based practices and develop the infrastructure to sustain these efforts. Children have better social skills and less problem behavior in Pyramid Model classrooms. Practitioners are able to implement Pyramid Model practices better when they receive training and practice-based coaching.[1] According to the Technical Assistance Center on Social and Emotional Intervention, programs using this approach experience the following:

  • Reductions in child challenging behavior
  • Increases in children’s social skills
  • Increased satisfaction of program staff and families
  • Reduced turnover in the program
  • Increases in teachers’ competence and confidence in the support of children
  • Changes in classroom and program climate
  • Sustained implementation of the Pyramid Model

Foundational Systems of Early Childhood PBIS

Early childhood PBIS systems are very similar to the foundational systems guiding any PBIS framework. The primary difference is the way these systems adapt to serve the unique needs of younger children and their families.

Leadership Team

The team includes (Some team members may fill more than one of these roles):

  • The program administrator
  • Representation from teaching staff
  • Someone to provide coaching and support to teachers
  • A behavior specialist
  • A family member

The team ensures the systems and practices implemented provide support to children with challenges, professional development and support to teachers, and a plan for family engagement. This leadership team uses data to make decisions and meets monthly to guide implementation of the program-wide approach.

Staff Readiness and Buy-In

All program staff participate in implementation. They must agree to it and be willing to participate. The leadership team monitors and supports staff buy-in on an ongoing basis.

Family Engagement

PBIS implementation in early childhood works to establish partnerships with families. The program shares information with families, offers support around children’s social and emotional skill development, and includes families in program-level teams.

Pyramid Model Practices

Pyramid Model practices:

  • Promote healthy social-emotional development
  • Reduce challenging behaviors
  • Support families to promote their children’s social development in a home visiting program
  • Establish effective instructional routines in classrooms from infant-toddler to pre-kindergarten ages.

Staff Capacity

When programs implement the Pyramid Model, all staff must have the training, coaching, and resources to implement practices effectively. The leadership team develops strategies to provide ongoing support to staff as they implement the model.

Providing Interventions to Children with Persistent Challenging Behavior

Program-level policies and procedures support to staff to address challenging behavior. These include mechanisms for support in crisis situations, developing a problem-solving process for children with emerging challenges, and providing a system for identifying children who needa behavior support plan developed through a team driven process.

Monitoring Implementation and Outcomes

Data-based decision making is a pivotal component of the program-wide approach in the Pyramid Model. The team gathers and reviews implementation data using a variety of data tools.

Tiers of the Pyramid Model

The Pyramid Model promotes young children’s (birth to five years old) social-emotional competence and prevents and addresses challenging behavior, through a tiered promotion, prevention, intervention framework.

Tier 1

Tier 1 promotes nurturing and responsive caregiving relationships and high-quality environments. At this level, practitioners focus on their relationships with children and their families by providing nurturing and responsive support and engaging children in relationships with others. Practices at this level involve supportive environments to prevent problem behavior, engage all children, and develop social-emotional skills. For many children, Tier 1 may be all that is needed to support their healthy social-emotional development.

Tier 2 

Tier 2 serves as a prevention level. It focuses on explicit social skills instruction like:

  • Self-regulation
  • Expressing and understanding emotions
  • Developing social relationships
  • Problem-solving

Tier 3 Intensive intervention

Tier 3 focuses on individualized, intensive interventions for children who have the most persistent challenging behavior. Even with Tier 1 and Tier 2 systems in place, there may be children who need an individualized behavior support plan. These plans typically include prevention strategies, instructions of new skills, and guidance on how to respond in order to reduce challenging behavior and increase new skill use.

Assessing Early Childhood PBIS/Pyramid Model

There are multiple tools to assess implementation and outcomes in early childhood settings.

Early Childhood Program-Wide PBS Benchmarks of Quality (EC-BoQ)

A self-report checklist designed to help programs evaluate their progress toward implementing the Pyramid Model program-wide. A companion assessment evaluates its implementation’s cultural responsiveness [INSERT LINK: https://www.pbis.org/common/cms/files/pbisresources/ECBoQ_Cultural-Responsiveness-Companion.pdf].

Pyramid Model Early Intervention (Part C) Benchmarks of Quality (EI-BoQ)

This assessment helps programs evaluate their progress toward implementing the Pyramid Model program-wide. 

Teaching Pyramid Observation Tool (TPOT) and The Pyramid Infant Toddler Observation System (TPITOS) 

These tools assess classroom implementation in early childhood settings

Coaching Logs

Coaches can use coaching logs to track implementation activities as well as document each activity's focus.

Get Started with Early Childhood PBIS

The first steps to implementing PBIS in early childhood settings involve training and building staff capacity. Leadership teams attend a multiple-day training on program-wide implementation to develop implementation plans. Staff receive training on the Pyramid Model and coaching for classroom-level implementation. Training is offered in a variety of formats, including e-modules and in-person training.


The Pyramid Equity Project Fact Sheet

This fact sheet defines the Pyramid Model and how to implement it as a way to address suspensions/expulsions of young children, particularly children of color.

Aligning and Integrating Family Engagement in PBIS: Chapter 6

This chapter describes practices and strategies for engaging families in early childhood settings.

[1]Hemmeter, M. L., Snyder, P. A., Fox, L., & Algina, J. (2016). Evaluating the implementation of the Pyramid Model for promoting social emotional competence in early childhood classrooms. Topics in Early Childhood Special Education, 36, 133-146.

See More/Less


Resources in this section include assessments, blueprints, examples, and materials to aid in implementing PBIS.


Publications listed below include every eBook, monograph, brief, and guide written by the PBIS Technical Assistance Center.


Presentations about their experiences, published research, and best practices from recent sessions, webinars, and trainings


Recordings here include keynotes and presentations about PBIS concepts as well tips for implementation.