Early Learning and Developmental Standards

EARLY LEARNING SERVICES - Birth to Five Standards

Introduction to the Florida Early Learning and Development Standards

The first four years of life is a period of rapid development for young children. Recent research supports that every child is born with well-developed senses and reflexes. Beginning at birth, young infants are able to form relationships with adults, develop trust, and explore the world. With adequate nutrition, an appropriate environment, and nurturing by responsive adults, young children become actively engaged in exploration and in learning about their environments. Each child’s special temperament and family context ensure that, while development will follow a somewhat predictable sequence, the child’s development will be unique.

Florida Early Learning and Developmental Standards is a comprehensive document containing age appropriate information and reflections about how young children explore, create, and think. The Standards are grounded in Florida’s conviction that children’s early experiences are directly related to later success in school, in the workforce, and in life. The information in this document is offered to parents, caregivers, and teachers so that their interactions with young children in the home, and in school readiness, Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK), and other early care and education programs can build upon children’s emerging talents and strengths in appropriate and enriching ways.

This document is the latest in a series of steps that Florida has taken to support early learning programs in collaboration with public and private partners. The School Readiness Act, Section 411.01 of the Florida Statutes, created the Partnership for School Readiness (now called the Agency for Workforce Innovation’s Office of Early Learning, or OEL). The Act also called for the creation of standards for school readiness programs. In 2000, the Partnership approved standards for five-year-olds, which were augmented in 2001 by standards for three- and four-year-olds. In 2004, the Office of Early Learning adopted the Florida Birth to Three Learning and Developmental Standards, and in 2005, the Florida Department of Education’s Office of Early Learning established the Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten Standards, which were revised in 2008.

Since these various Standards were published, caregivers and teachers, parents, and experts have provided suggestions for improvement. In 2007, the Agency created a Steering Committee to provide guidance for a comprehensive set of Standards that would provide a developmentally appropriate educational path for Florida’s children from birth through age four.

How To Use the Standards

Florida’s Birth through Five Early Learning and Development Standards are organized into five domains or development. These domains include: Physical Development; Cognition and General Knowledge; Social and Emotional Development; Language and Communication; and Approaches to Learning. Each domain is broken down into sub-domains that focus on specific areas, and the Standards themselves are found within those sub-domains. Four behavioral examples are provided to help the reader understand each standard.

To make the Standards useful for parents, caregivers, and teachers, a series of Questions to Ask Yourself are included in each domain. Suggestions for integrating the standards into daily interactions with young children can also be found in the Environmental Considerations sections for each domain. Members of Florida’s Head Start/Early Head Start community will find a correlation between the Florida standards and the Head Start Program Performance Standards at the end of each domain.

The Standards can be used in multiple ways. First, they are designed to help parents, caregivers, and teachers create intentional and appropriate experiences for young children, based on an understanding of each child’s developmental accomplishments and anticipated next steps.

Second, the Standards can help adults understand what young children may be able to do and inappropriate expectations. While the standards are not designed to be an assessment tool, they can serve to enhance adults’ understanding of the order of development during the early years.

The Standards can also be a useful tool for enriching the experiences of young children with special needs. Understanding and planning for those who develop at a different rate or sequence can help all young children who participate in early care and education programs.

Fourth, the standards create a common language for parents, caregivers, and teachers. A hallmark of sound early experiences is that the adults who care about and for young children work together to ensure a seamless and enriching set of early experiences based on nurturing relationships and active exploration of an ever-changing world. Having a shared basis for communication increases the probability that these adult partnerships will be successful.

Guiding Principles

The Florida Birth through Five Early Learning and Development Standards are based on principles that incorporate our collective knowledge about child development and sound professional practice. These principles reflect a shared position about early learning and development.

  • The first five years of life is a period of rapid growth and development.
    Development begins during pregnancy and continues throughout life. During the first five years, brain development continues, physical capabilities expand, and many new social and cognitive skills emerge quickly.
  • Nurturing and responsive relationships are the foundation of healthy growth and development.
    Young children depend on the support, unconditional love, and guidance of the adults who care for them in order to maximize the opportunities available through newly-developing skills. The most important relationship in a young child’s life is the one between the child and parents. Other significant adults must work in partnership with parents to ensure that a young child experiences a seamless and supportive environment.
  • Developmental milestones occur in a predictable order, but each child develops at a unique pace.
    Development occurs in several areas or domains. Growth in one area can affect growth in another area. Growth is shaped by many factors, including , the temperaments, and cultural Not all children will attain a skill at the same time, and each child’s progress will be unique.
  • Children learn in many ways and in multiple settings.
    Learning occurs in all parts of the child’s world – at home, in early childhood settings, in communities. Young children learn from their daily routines and from both planned and unplanned activities. They learn from adults as well as from other children. That learning is enhanced when adults actively guide and expand children’s play through exploration, encouragement, imitation, and repetition.
  • Adults can provide intentional and appropriate experiences that enhance children’s learning.
    The significant adults in a child’s life can support and enrich development by ensuring that basic health and safety needs are always met. Providing a supportive and joyous environment can encourage young children to explore, to solve problems, to try out new skills, and to take risks. The quality and quantity of a child’s early experiences can impact that child’s later success in school, in the work force, and in life.