North Carolina will get up to $56 million from the federal government over the next seven years in new early childhood development grants, Gov. Roy Cooper announced Thursday, saying it's one of the largest infusions the system has seen in recent years.

The money will come from grants to the state's Department of Health and Human Services: $40.2 million in Preschool Development Grants from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and up $16 million grant from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.

"The science is just overwhelming as to how much of a difference early childhood education makes in whether a child is going to succeed in school and in life," Cooper said in announcing the grant at Bright Beginnings Child Development Center in Cary. "We're working very hard to make sure we provide those investments so that our children can grow up better educated and healthier and more prosperous."

North Carolina Secretary of Health and Human Services Dr. Mandy Cohen called the grants "a down-payment" on the administration's Early Childhood Action Plan, which sets a number of benchmarks between now and 2025 for child health and education. Some of the money will be used to coordinate the various departments and private entities involved.

"We know it will take all of us working efficiently together in new ways across health, child care, K-12 education and child safety to set our children up for a bright future as North Carolinians," Cohen said in a statement.

Some of the Preschool Development Grant money, Cooper's office said, will go toward training for teachers who work with young children. Some will fund a partnership with the Smart Start Network to expand Family Connects, a program that sends nurses into homes with newborns.

"I am so grateful for the work you do," Cooper told teachers at Bright Beginnings. "Beyond this grant, we want to do things like try to draw down more investments so we can help increase your pay and that we can attract more quality people into early childhood education."

The money will also help families as their children transition to kindergarten and expand pre-kindergarten and day care programs for infants and toddlers, Cooper's office said.

The Medicaid money will be used to improve care and reduce costs for children insured through the program by implementing "Integrated Care for Kids ... coordinating health care and other sectors that support children, such as schools, food, and housing," Cooper's office said.

The program will design "alternative payment models that align incentives for positive health and well-being outcomes for children," his office said.