The Oxford Street Daycare Cooperative traces its beginnings to two infant playgroups that were established in the early 1970s. In October of 1973, the playgroups merged, expanded and moved to the Palfrey House, a Harvard University building on Oxford Street. This move followed a series of demonstrations and petitions by parents and others in the Harvard and Cambridge communities demanding that the University support childcare. In response to these demands, Harvard renovated several buildings and provided space (rent, utilities and some maintenance) free of charge to various childcare groups. One of these became the Oxford Street Daycare Cooperative. In November of 1980, the center moved to its present location in Shannon Hall on Francis Avenue.

One notable event in the history of our Center was the publication of Growing Up in Child Care: A Case for Quality Early Education (Heinemman, 1999) by Ben Mardell. A former preschool teacher at OSDC, Mardell drew from his experience to produce a scholarly study on the education of young children. This book attests to the spirit and values that drive our Center.

While our values are the same as 30 years ago, our structure has evolved to effectively respond to increasing economic and regulatory demands. The most recent significant adjustment happened in 2005 in the area of parent help in the classrooms. Though still mandatory and essential, parent help shifts have been modified from four and half hours to two hours per shift.

The center is a parent-staff cooperative in which the active participation of parents is encouraged in all aspects of its operation. Parents are involved in the chores of the center, as well as policy-making through various committees. Parent helping allows children to know and become comfortable with the parents of their friends. This interaction strengthens bonds among children and families and builds community.