The Early Childhood Research Center began in 1932. Patterned after the Ruggles School in Boston, the school's primary purpose was to provide observation opportunities for professional preparation in teaching. The University's School of Education sponsored the program, largely through the efforts of Dean Leslie O. Cummings. It was originally named the Children's Cooperative Group and located on the second floor of Hayes Hall on the South Campus.

Dr. Ruth E. McGrath with the school as a teacher in 1932. She became Chair of the Nursery School in 1949. Dr. McGrath was named Director of the school in 1959, a position she held until her retirement in 1979. Over time, the Cooperative Nursery School moved several times. It was housed in: Hayes Hall, the Engineering Building, a University owned house on Winspear, and the the University Presbyterian Church. Finally, the School settled into its present location at 15 Baldy Hall. There it officially became known as the "Early Childhood Research Center."

When Dr. McGrath retired in 1979, Christine Z. Cataldo was appointed Director of the newly named "Early Childhood Research Center" (ECRC), a post she held until her death in 1985. Dr. James L. Hoot became the director of the ECRC in 1986. Dr. Hoot was instrumental in adding the Robert Leather's playground in the fall of 1989, and through his efforts also obtained a $200,000 endowment from the Fisher Price and Quaker Oats Foundation. The School's new name became "The Fisher-Price Endowed Early Childhood Research Center."

In 1989 the ECRC became among the first in the nation to be accredited by the then National Academy of Early Childhood Programs. Reaccreditation was granted in 1995 under the guidance of Associate Director, Dr. Elaine T. Bartkowiak. The ECRC is in compliance with the highest level of quality standards determined by the 90,000 members of the renamed National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC).

The Fisher-Price Endowed Early Childhood Research Center is administered through the Department of Learning and Instruction, within UB’s Graduate School of Education. Preschool programs are offered to children, ages 21 months–5 years and enrichment programs for children ages 3–8. Children’s tuition fees pay for the classroom teachers as well as center supplies. In addition to providing a superior quality, developmentally appropriate, multicultural, and anti-biased preschool education, ECRC provides research training and consultation opportunities to the Western New York Community.