This study examined salivary cortisol, a stress-sensitive hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenocortical (HPA) axis hormone in 20 infants (12 females; M age = 10.8 months) and 35 toddlers (20 females; M age = 29.7 months) in full-day, center-based child care. Samples were taken at approximately 10:00 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. at child care and at home. At child care, 35% of infants and 71% of toddlers showed a rise in cortisol across the day; at home, 71% of infants and 64% of toddlers showed decreases. Toddlers who played more with peers exhibited lower cortisol. Controlling age, teacher-reported social fearfulness predicted higher afternoon cortisol and larger cortisol increases across the day at child care. This phenomenon may indicate context-specific activation of the HPA axis early in life.