HIGH FIVE® is a quality standard that is committed to assisting children along the path of healthy child development by:

  • Ensuring that program practitioners develop a high level of knowledge and expertise in child development; 
  • Helping parents to make informed choices and;
  • Providing practitioners with the tools for enhancing and maintaining a high level of program quality.


Through sustained involvement in quality programs, all children aged 4 to 12 are experiencing healthy development.


HIGH FIVE is based on five Principles of healthy child development that are essential for quality programs.

This foundation comes from extensive research into what constitutes quality experiences for children, and the practical application of our Principles in programs across Canada.

The five Principles of healthy child development are:

  • A Caring Leader: The existence of a caring leader who provides supportive relationships is the one key attribute that stood out in defining quality programs for children. The establishment of caring, positive, and supportive relationships with adults can help children 4 to 12 develop positive social skills, self-esteem, and self confidence. A program’s quality is dependent upon effective interactions between staff and youth within the environment that staff creates.
  • Friends: Positive peer interaction is a key component of effective programs. Friends expand the child’s world beyond one’s family; share in humour; test loyalty; form their first audience; and offer support and criticism. Positive environments foster inclusion, acceptance, the opportunity for fun in constructive play, and the opportunity to develop and practice pro-social skills.
  • Participation: Children need to make choices, have a voice, and do things by and for themselves, which supports positive self-expression, physical activity, and interaction with others.
  • Play: Stressing fun, creativity, and co-operation, play lets children shape their environment using their imaginations. In addition, play is integral to the acquisition and development of motor and social skills, cognitive function, and creativity.
  • Mastery: Providing children with activities and tasks that enable them to feel special, important, and successful. This type of rich content-based learning, led by teachers and coaches who encourage mastery (both through structured and unstructured strategies) helps to promote learning. 


Three Design Guidelines serve as the foundation to the five Principles above. 

An organization needs to implement the following guidelines in order to implement the 5 principles. For example, a Safe environment is necessary to foster the Principle of Play.

  • Welcoming of Diversity and Uniqueness: Research indicates the cultural sensitivity of staff and providing culturally appropriate activities are characteristics of quality programs.
  • Safe: Higher-quality programs are likely to have better policies and practices related to children’s physical and emotional health and safety. Quality programs also allow for adequate space for a variety of safe activities.
  • Developmentally Appropriate: Research cited age-stage/developmentally appropriate programming as the second-most prevalent characteristic of quality programs for children, following the presence of a caring adult.