Child observation

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Research and discuss activities that would be beneficial to the observed child’s development.  I have included the NCFELD book as one possible resource you may wish to use to do your research).  

  • The Approaches to Play and Learning
  • Emotional and Social Development
  • Health and Physical Development
  • Language and Communication
  • Cognitive Development

Be sure to address each domain individually and thoroughly.  

North Carolina
Foundations for
Early Learning
and Development

North Carolina Foundations Task Force

North Carolina
Foundations for
Early Learning
and Development
North Carolina Foundations Task Force

ii
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

North Carolina Foundations for
Early Learning and Development
© 2013. North Carolina Foundations
Task Force.

Writers

Catherine Scott-Little
Human Development and Family Studies Department
UNC-Greensboro

Glyn Brown
SERVE Center
UNC-Greensboro

Edna Collins
Division of Child Development and Early Education
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Editors

Lindsey Alexander
Lindsey Alexander Editorial

Katie Hume
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
UNC-Chapel Hill

Designer

Gina Harrison
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
UNC-Chapel Hill

Photography

Pages:
60 and 143 courtesy of
UNC-Greensboro, Child Care Education Program.

36, 54, 135, 136, front cover (group shot), and
back cover (infant) courtesy of
NC Department of Health and Human Services,
Division of Child Development and Early Education.

All others:
Don Trull, John Cotter
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute

UNC-Chapel Hill

The North Carolina Foundations for Early
Learning and Development may be freely
reproduced without permission for non-profit,
educational purposes.

Electronic versions of this report are available
from the following websites:
http://ncchildcare.dhhs.state.nc.us
http://www.ncpublicschools.org/earlylearning

Suggested citation: North Carolina
Foundations Task Force. (2013). North
Carolina foundations for early learning and
development. Raleigh: Author.

Funding for this document was provided by
the North Carolina Early Childhood Advisory
Council using funds received from a federal
State Advisory Council grant from the
Administration for Children and Families, U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services.

iii
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . v

Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Purpose of Foundations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Organization of This Document . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
How to Use Foundations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Domains, Subdomains, and Goals Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Guiding Principles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Effective Use of Foundations with All Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Foundations and Children’s Success in School . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Helping Children Make Progress on Foundations Goals:
It Takes Everyone Working Together . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20
Frequently Asked Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

Approaches to Play and Learning (APL) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Curiosity, Information-Seeking, and Eagerness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30
Play and Imagination . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
Risk-Taking, Problem-Solving, and Flexibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
Attentiveness, Effort, and Persistence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42

Emotional and Social Development (ESD) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
Developing a Sense of Self . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
Developing a Sense of Self With Others . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
Learning About Feelings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61

iv
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Health and Physical Development (HPD) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
Physical Health and Growth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .70
Motor Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
Self-Care . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .80
Safety Awareness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .84

Language Development and Communication (LDC) . . . . . . 88
Learning to Communicate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93
Foundations for Reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .104
Foundations for Writing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111

Cognitive Development (CD) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
Construction of Knowledge: Thinking and Reasoning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121
Creative Expression . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127
Social Connections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131
Mathematical Thinking and Expression . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137
Scientific Exploration and Knowledge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .144

Supporting Dual Language Learners (DLL) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
Defining Dual Language Learners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
The Dual Language Learning Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
DLL and Culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .150
The Importance of Families . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 152
DLL and Standards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154

Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155

Selected Sources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163

v
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Acknowledgments

I
n 2011, the North Carolina Early Childhood
Advisory Council (ECAC) launched and
funded the important project of revising
the Infant-Toddler Foundations and
Preschool Foundations to create the North

Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and
Development—a single document that describes
children’s development and learning from birth
to age five. Leaders from the Division of Child
Development and Early Education as well as
the Office of Early Learning in the Department
of Public Instruction provided critical advice,
oversight, and vision on the Foundations and its
implementation. As listed below, many individuals
from across the state devoted their time and
expertise to this task force. We are grateful to
everyone’s work on this important resource for
our state.

This publication is dedicated to North Carolina’s
early childhood professionals, teachers, and
caregivers who nurture and support the
development of many young children while their
families work or are in school.

Expert Reviewers

Laura Berk
Professor Emeritus, Psychology Department
Illinois State University

Sharon Glover
Cultural Competence Consultant
Glover and Associates

Melissa Johnson
Pediatric Psychologist
WakeMed Health and Hospitals

Patsy Pierce
Speech Language Pathologist
Legislative Analyst
NC General Assembly Research Division

NC Foundations Task Force
Inter-Agency Leadership Team

Division of Child Development and Early Education
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Deb Cassidy
Anna Carter
Edna Collins
Jani Kozlowski
Lorie Pugh

Office of Early Learning
NC Department of Public Instruction

John Pruette
Jody Koon

Human Development and Family Studies Department
UNC-Greensboro

Catherine Scott-Little, Co-Facilitator
Sheresa Boone Blanchard

Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
UNC-Chapel Hill

Kelly Maxwell, Co-Facilitator

vi
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

NC Foundations Task Force (cont .)
Foundations Revisions Expert

Workgroup

Norm Allard
Pre-K Exceptional Children Consultant
Office of Early Learning
NC Department of Public Instruction

Joe Appleton
Kindergarten Teacher
Sandy Ridge Elementary School

Cindy Bagwell
Co-Chair of Cognitive Development Workgroup
Early Childhood Education Consultant
Office of Early Learning
NC Department of Public Instruction

Harriette Bailey
Assistant Professor
Birth-Kindergarten Program Coordinator
Department of Education, Shaw University

Sheila Bazemore
Education Consultant
Division of Child Development and Early Education
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Bonnie Beam
Director
Office of School Readiness, Cleveland County Schools

Gwen Brown
Regulatory Supervisor
Division of Child Development and Early Education
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Paula Cancro
Preschool Director
Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School

Deborah Carroll
Branch Head
Early Intervention, Division of Public Health
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Kathryn Clark
Professor, Child Development Program Coordinator
Child Development, Meredith College

Renee Cockrell
Pediatrician
Rocky Mount Children’s Developmental Services Agency

Lanier DeGrella
Infant Toddler Enhancement Project Manager
Child Care Services Association

Sherry Franklin
Quality Improvement Unit Manager
Division of Public Health
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Kate Gallagher
Child Care Program Director
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
UNC-Chapel Hill

Khari Garvin
Director, Head Start State Collaboration Office
Office of Early Learning
NC Department of Public Instruction

Cristina Gillanders
Scientist
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
UNC-Chapel Hill

Pamela Hauser
Child Care Licensing Consultant
Division of Child Development and Early Education
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Ronda Hawkins
Chair of Emotional and Social Development Workgroup
Early Childhood Program Coordinator
Sandhills Community College

Patricia Hearron
Chair of Approaches to Learning Workgroup
Professor, Family and Consumer Sciences
Appalachian State University

Staci Herman-Drauss
Infant Toddler Education Specialist
Child Care Services Association

Vivian James
619 Coordinator
Pre-K Exceptional Children, Office of Early Learning
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction

LaTonya Kennedy
Teacher
Mountain Area Child and Family Center

Doré LaForett
Investigator
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
UNC-Chapel Hill

Beth Leiro
Physical Therapist
Beth Leiro Pediatric Physical Therapy

Gerri Mattson
Pediatric Medical Consultant
Division of Public Health
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Janet McGinnis
Education Consultant
Division of Child Development and Early Education
NC Department of Health and Human Services

vii
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

NC Foundations Task Force (cont .)
Margaret Mobley

Manager, Promoting Healthy Social Behavior in
Child Care Settings
Child Care Resources, Inc.

Judy Neimeyer
Professor Emerita
Specialized Education Services
UNC-Greensboro

Eva Phillips
Instructor, Birth-Kindergarten Education
Winston-Salem State University

Jackie Quirk
Chair of Health and Physical Development Workgroup
Project Coordinator
NC Child Care Health and Safety Resource Center
UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

Amy Scrinzi
Co-Chair of Cognitive Development Workgroup
Early Mathematics Consultant
Curriculum and Instruction Division
NC Department of Public Instruction

Janet Singerman
President
Child Care Resources, Inc.

Diane Strangis
Assistant Professor
Child Development, Meredith College

Dan Tetreault
Chair of Language and Communication Workgroup
K–2 English Language Arts Consultant
Curriculum and Instruction Division
NC Department of Public Instruction

Brenda Williamson
Assistant Professor, Birth-Kindergarten Teacher Education
Program Coordinator
NC Central University

Gale Wilson
Regional Specialist
NC Partnership for Children

Catherine Woodall
Education Consultant
Division of Child Development and Early Education
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Doyle Woodall
Preschool Teacher
Johnston County Schools

Dual Language Learners Advisory
Team

Catherine Scott-Little, Chair
Associate Professor, Human Development and Family Studies
UNC-Greensboro

Tanya Dennis
Telamon Corporation

Shari Funkhouser
Pre-K Lead Teacher
Asheboro City Schools

Cristina Gillanders
Scientist
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
UNC-Chapel Hill

Belinda J. Hardin
Associate Professor, Specialized Education Services
UNC-Greensboro

Norma A. Hinderliter
Special Education Expert

Adriana Martinez
Director
Spanish for Fun Academy

Tasha Owens-Green
Child Care and Development Fund Coordinator
Division of Child Development and Early Education
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Gexenia E. Pardilla
Latino Outreach Specialist
Child Care Resources Inc.

Jeanne Wakefield
Executive Director
The University Child Care Center

Strategies Workgroup

Sheresa Boone Blanchard, Chair
Child Development and Family Studies
UNC-Greensboro

Patsy Brown
Exceptional Children Preschool Coordinator
Yadkin County Schools

Kristine Earl
Assistant Director
Exceptional Children’s Department
Iredell-Statesville Schools

Cristina Gillanders
Scientist
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
UNC-Chapel Hill

Wendy H-G Gray
Exceptional Children Preschool Coordinator
Pitt County School System

viii
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

NC Foundations Task Force (cont .)
Patricia Hearron

Professor, Family and Consumer Sciences
Appalachian State University

Staci Herman-Drauss
Infant Toddler Education Specialist
Child Care Services Association

Tami Holtzmann
Preschool Coordinator
Thomasville City Schools

Renee Johnson
Preschool Coordinator
Edgecombe County Public School

Jenny Kurzer
Exceptional Children Preschool Coordinator
Burke County Public Schools

Brenda Little
Preschool Coordinator
Stokes County Schools

Karen J. Long
Infant Toddler Specialist
Child Care Resources, Inc

Jackie Quirk
Project Coordinator
NC Child Care Health and Safety Resource Center
UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

Brenda Sigmon
Preschool Coordinator
Catawba County/Newton Conover Preschool Program

Teresa Smith
Preschool Coordinator
Beaufort County Schools

Susan Travers
Exceptional Children Curriculum Manager and
Preschool Coordinator
Buncombe County Schools

Rhonda Wiggins
Exceptional Children Preschool Coordinator
Wayne County Public Schools

1
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Introduction

North Carolina’s young children. This document,
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning
and Development (referred to as Foundations),
serves as a shared vision for what we want for our
state’s children and answers the question “What
should we be helping children learn before
kindergarten?” By providing a common set of
Goals and Developmental Indicators for children
from birth through kindergarten entry, our
hope is that parents, educators, administrators,
and policy makers can together do the best job
possible to provide experiences that help children
be well prepared for success in school and life.

This Introduction provides important
information that adults need in order to
use Foundations effectively. We discuss the
purpose of the document, how it should be
used, and what’s included. We’ve also tried
to answer questions that you might have, all
in an effort to help readers understand and
use Foundations as a guide for what we want
children to learn during their earliest years.

Foundations
can be used to:

• Improve teachers’ knowledge of child
development;

• Guide teachers’ plans for implementing
curricula;

• Establish goals for children’s
development and learning that are
shared across programs and services;
and

• Inform parents and other family
members on age-appropriate
expectations for children’s development
and learning.

C
hildren’s experiences before they
enter school matter—research
shows that children who experience
high-quality care and education,
and who enter school well prepared,

are more successful in school and later in
their lives. Recognizing the importance of the
early childhood period, North Carolina has
been a national leader in the effort to provide
high-quality care and education for young
children. Programs and services such as Smart
Start, NC Pre-K, early literacy initiatives, Nurse
Family Partnerships and other home visiting
programs, and numerous other initiatives
promote children’s learning and development.
Quality improvement initiatives such as our
Star Rated License, Child Care Resource and
Referral (CCR&R) agencies, T.E.A.C.H. Early
Childhood® Scholarship Project, and the Child
Care W.A.G.E.S.® Project are designed to improve
the quality of programs and services and, in turn,
benefit children. Although the approaches are
different, these programs and initiatives share a
similar goal—to promote better outcomes for

2
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Purpose of
Foundations
North Carolina’s Early Childhood Advisory
Committee, Division of Child Development and
Early Education, and Department of Public
Instruction Office of Early Learning worked
together to develop Foundations to provide
a resource for all programs in the state.
Foundations describes Goals for all children’s
development and learning, no matter what
program they may be served in, what language
they speak, what disabilities they may have,
or what family circumstances they are
growing up in. Teachers and caregivers can
turn to Foundations to learn about child
development because the document provides
age-appropriate Goals and Developmental
Indicators for each age level—infant, toddler,
and preschooler. Foundations is also intended
to be a guide for teaching–not a curriculum
or checklist that is used to assess children’s
development and learning, but a resource
to define the skills and abilities we want
to support in the learning experiences we
provide for children. The Goals for children
can be used by teachers, caregivers, early
interventionists, home visitors, and other
professionals who support and promote
children’s development and learning. It is,

A Note About Terminology

Foundations is designed to be useful
to a broad range of professionals who
work with children. In this document we
refer to “teachers and caregivers.” This
terminology includes anyone who works
with children—teachers, caregivers, early
educators, early interventionists, home
visitors, etc. The document also refers to
“children” generically, which is intended
to include infants, toddlers, and preschool
children.

however, important to remember that while
Foundations can help you determine what
is “typical” for children in an age group, the
Developmental Indicators may not always
describe a particular child’s development.
When a child’s development and learning
does not seem to fit what is included in the
continuum under his/her age level, look at the
Developmental Indicators for younger or older
age groups to see if they are a better fit for the
child. Your goal is to learn what developmental
steps the child is taking now, and to meet the
individual needs of that child on a daily basis.

Foundations can also be used as a resource
for parents and other family members. All
parents wonder if their child is learning what’s
needed in order to be successful in school.
Parents will find it helpful to review the Goals
and Developmental Indicators to learn what
most early educators in North Carolina feel are
appropriate goals for young children.

Finally, Foundations is a useful document
for individuals who do not work directly
with children, but who support teachers
and caregivers in their work. It is important
to take stock to see if a program’s learning
environment, teaching materials, learning
activities, and interactions are supporting
children’s development in the areas described

3
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

in Foundations. Administrators can use
Foundations as a guide to evaluate the types
of learning experiences provided in their
program. Foundations can also be a resource
to identify areas where teachers and caregivers
need to improve their practices and as a
basis for professional development. Training
and technical assistance providers should
evaluate the support they provide to teachers
and caregivers to ensure that the professional
development is consistent with the Goals and
Developmental Indicators. Furthermore,
Foundations can be used as a textbook in
higher education courses and a training manual
for in-service professional development. In
summary, Foundations is designed to be a
resource for teachers, caregivers, parents,
administrators, and professional development
providers as we work together to support the
learning and development of North Carolina’s
youngest children.

Organization of
This Document
This document begins with this Introduction,
which provides background information
on the use of Foundations. Following the
Introduction, you will find the Goals and
Developmental Indicators, which describe

expectations for what children will learn prior
to kindergarten, starting with infancy and
covering all ages through kindergarten entry.
A glossary with definitions of key terms that
are used throughout Foundations is included
at the end of the document.

The Goals and Developmental Indicators are
divided into five domains:
• Approaches to Play and Learning (APL)
• Emotional and Social Development (ESD)
• Health and Physical Development (HPD)
• Language Development and

Communication (LDC)
• Cognitive Development (CD)

Because infants’, toddlers’, and preschool
children’s bodies, feelings, thinking skills,
language, social skills, love of learning, and
knowledge all develop together, it is essential
that we include all five of these domains in
Foundations. None of the domains is more
or less important than others, and there is
some overlap between what is covered in one
domain and what’s covered in other domains.
This is because children’s development
and learning is integrated or interrelated.
The progress that a child makes in one
domain is related to the progress he or she
makes in other domains. For example, as
a child interacts with adults (i.e., Social

Development), she/he learns new words
(i.e., Language Development) that help her/
him understand new concepts (i.e., Cognitive
Development). Therefore, it is essential that
Foundations address all five domains, and
that teachers and caregivers who are using
Foundations pay attention to all five domains.

At the beginning of each domain section,
you will find a domain introduction that
describes some of the most important ideas
related to the domain. This introductory
information helps you understand what
aspects of children’s learning and development
are included in the domain. The introduction
is followed by the Goal and Developmental
Indicator Continuum (sometimes called a
“Continuum” for short in this document) for
each domain. The Continuum for each domain
is a chart that shows the Goals for the domain,
and the Developmental Indicators related to
each Goal for each age level. As the sample
chart on the next page shows, North Carolina
has elected to arrange our Developmental
Indicators along a continuum so that all of
the Developmental Indicators for the age
levels between birth and kindergarten entry
are included on the same row. This format
allows teachers and caregivers to easily look
across the age levels to see the progression
that a child might make toward the Goal.

4
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

The Goals are organized in subdomains
or subtopics that fall within the domain.
Goals are statements that describe a general
area or aspect of development that children

make progress on through birth through
age five. The Developmental Indicators
are more specific statements of expectations
for children’s learning and development

that are tied to particular age levels. A Goal
and Developmental Indicator Continuum is
provided for each Goal.

28
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Approaches to Play and Learning (APL)
Curiosity, Information-Seeking, and Eagerness

Goal APL-1: Children show curiosity and express interest in the world around them.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Show interest in
others (smile or gaze at
caregiver, make sounds
or move body when other
person is near). APL-1a

• Show interest in
themselves (watch own
hands, play with own
feet). APL-1b

• React to new sights,
sounds, tastes, smells,
and touches (stick out
tongue at first solid food,
turn head quickly when
door slams).
APL-1c

• Imitate what others are
doing. APL-1d

• Show curiosity about
their surroundings
(with pointing, facial
expressions, words).
APL-1e

• Show pleasure when
exploring and making
things happen (clap, smile,
repeat action again and
again). APL-1f

• Discover things that
interest and amaze
them, and seek to
share them with
others. APL-1g

• Show pleasure in new
skills and in what they
have done. APL-1h

• Watch what others are
doing and often try to
participate. APL-1i

• Discover things that
interest and amaze
them, and seek to share
them with others. APL-1j

• Communicate interest
to others through verbal
and nonverbal means
(take teacher to the
science center to see a
new animal). APL-1k

• Show interest in a growing
range of topics, ideas,
and tasks. APL-1l

• Discover things that
interest and amaze them,
and seek to share them
with others. APL-1m

• Communicate interest to
others through verbal and
nonverbal means (take
teacher to the science
center to see a new
animal). APL-1n

• Show interest in
a growing range of
topics, ideas, and tasks.
APL-1o

• Demonstrate interest in
mastering new skills (e.g.,
writing name, riding a bike,
dance moves, building
skills). APL-1p

➡➡

Domain
refers to the broad area of learning or
development that is being addressed

Subdomain
defines areas

within each domain
more specifically

Goal
provides a broad statement of
what children should know or

be able to do

Developmental Indicator
provides more specific information

about what children should know or be
able to do at

Goal and Developmental
Indicator Continuum

is the chart that shows the Goal
and corresponding Developmental

Indicators for each age level

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

The Developmental Indicators are grouped
into five age groups or levels: Infants,
Younger Toddlers, Older Toddlers, Younger
Preschoolers, and Older Preschoolers. The
age levels or groups are intended as a
guide to help the reader know where
to start when using each Goal and
Developmental Indicator Continuum.
Generally, the Developmental Indicators
describe expectations that many
children will reach toward the end of
their respective age level. They are not,
however, hard and fast requirements or
expectations for what children should
be able to do at the end of the age level.
The fact that there is overlap across the age
levels shows that what children know and
are able to do at one age is closely related
to what they know and are able to do at
the previous and the next age levels. Most
children will reach many, but not necessarily
all, of the Developmental Indicators that are
listed for their age level; some will exceed
the Developmental Indicators for their age
level well before they are chronologically at
the upper end of the age range; and others
may never exhibit skills and knowledge
described for a particular age level. Each
Goal and Developmental Indicator Continuum
is designed to help teachers and caregivers
identify where an individual child might

be on the learning continuum described in
the Developmental Indicators, and to easily
see what might have come before and what
might come after the child’s current level of
development.

The Developmental Indicators are numbered
so that it is easier to find specific items. The
identification system is the same for all
Developmental Indicators across all five
domains. First, there is an abbreviation of the
domain where the Developmental Indicator is
found (APL for Approaches to Play and
Learning in the sample chart). The
abbreviation is followed by a number that
indicates what Goal the Developmental
Indicator is associated with (1 for Goal 1 in
the sample chart). Finally, each of the
Developmental Indicators for each Goal has a
letter that reflects the order of the item. The
first indicator in the infant age level begins
with the letter “a,” the second indicator begins
with the letter “b,” etc. All subsequent
indicators are assigned a letter in alphabetical
order. (The sample chart shows Developmental
Indicators “a” through “p”). The numbering
system is simply a way to help teachers and
caregivers communicate more easily about the
Developmental Indicators (i.e., so they can
refer to specific indicators without having to
write or say the whole indicator), and does not

Developmental Indicator
Numbering System

Domain
Abbreviation

Goal
Number

Indicator
Letter

APL
ESD
HPD
LDC
CD

1 – 15 a – z

Age Periods
The Developmental Indicators are divided
into overlapping age levels shown below.
These age ranges help the reader
know where to start when using the
Developmental Indicators. They describe
expectations many children will reach
toward the end of the respective age level,
but are not requirements for what children
should know and be able to do at the end of
the age period.

• Infants: birth to 12 months
• Younger Toddlers: 8–21 months
• Older Toddlers: 18–36 months
• Younger Preschoolers: 36–48 months
• Older Preschoolers: 48–60+ months

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

imply that any Developmental Indicator is
more important or should come before others
within the same age level. Occasionally, the
same Developmental Indicators apply to two or
more age levels. Arrows are used to show
where these Developmental Indicators repeat.

The final resources included in Foundations
are the strategies that are provided at the
end of each Goal and Developmental Indicator
Continuum. These strategies provide ideas
for how teachers and caregivers can support
children’s development and learning in
the areas described in the Developmental
Indicators. They are a guide for the types of
teaching practices and interactions adults
can use to foster children’s progress on the
Developmental Indicators. The list includes
strategies that can be used to promote the
learning and development of all children,
and some strategies that are specifically
designed to provide ideas on how to work with
Dual Language Learners and children with
disabilities. The strategies that give specific
ideas for accommodations and ways to promote
second-language learning may be particularly
helpful for teachers working with these groups
of children. Most of the strategies are practices
that can be carried out as part of a child’s
everyday activities. They are not intended to be
an exhaustive list of how teachers can support

children’s growth and development, but are
a place to start when planning activities to
support children’s progress.

How to Use
Foundations
To get a general idea of what is included in
Foundations, we suggest that you begin by
reading the entire document cover to cover.
This will help you get a sense of each section
and how the various pieces fit together.

Once you have reviewed Foundations as a
whole, you are then ready to focus on the
children in your care. Included within each
Goal is a set of Developmental Indicators
that explain what behaviors or skills to look
for according to the age of the child. Check
the age level to see which Developmental
Indicators (infants, younger toddlers, older
toddlers, younger preschoolers, or older
preschoolers) might apply to the children
you work with, and study those indicators to
know what is typical for your children. It may
be helpful to start by focusing on one domain
at a time.

Foundations describes what children at
different stages of development often are able
to do toward the end of the age period. You
will probably notice that children in your
group regularly do some of the things listed
for their age level. They may just be starting to
show some of the abilities, and they may not
yet do some of the things described. This is
normal. Use the Developmental Indicators to
think about next steps for each child in your
group. Then consider the natural moments
during the day that might offer chances
for children to take these next steps. What
activities might you plan? What materials might
you add to the environment? For children with
disabilities or special needs who may not be at
the same level as other children their age, use
the same process described above: think about
next steps for these children by considering
their current level of development and how
they might develop next.

Next, consider the strategies listed after the
Development Indicators. They can help you
think about how to use a natural moment
or everyday learning opportunity to address
specific areas of children’s development and
learning. Many of these strategies can be
carried out with no special equipment. Choose
strategies that seem most likely to help the
children you teach and care for take their

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

next steps. Sometimes the Developmental
Indicators for a child’s age level do not seem to
describe how a particular child is developing
right now. This may happen whether or not a
child has a disability. When this happens, look
at guidelines for younger or older age groups
as appropriate. Your goal is always to learn
what developmental steps the child is taking
now. Then you can choose strategies to support
those next steps. Many strategies for children
with disabilities are suggested. Be creative and
find ways to adapt other strategies. Families and
other professionals can suggest additional ideas.

Finally, seek additional professional
development to help you use the document
effectively. Foundations is designed to be a
useful resource for teachers and caregivers
and provides a wealth of useful information
that can be used to improve the quality of
care provided to children. It is not, however,
intended to be used alone, without additional
resources, and does not replace the need
for continued professional development.
Supervisors, mentors, college instructors, and
technical assistant providers offer important
support for teachers and caregivers using
Foundations. It is important, therefore,
to follow the steps described above to use
Foundations and to also seek additional
information and professional development in
order to use the document effectively.

Goals and
Developmental Indicators

SHOULD Be Used To …
• Promote development of the whole child,

including physical, emotional-social,
language, cognitive development, and
learning characteristics.

• Provide a common set of expectations for
children’s development and, at the same
time, validate the individual differences
that should be expected in children.

• Promote shared responsibility for
children’s early care and education.

• Emphasize the importance of play as
an instructional strategy that promotes
learning in early childhood programs.

• Support safe, clean, caring, and effective
learning environments for young children.

• Support appropriate teaching practices
and provide a guide for gauging children’s
progress.

• Encourage and value family and
community involvement in promoting
children’s success.

• Reflect and value the diversity that exists
among children and families served in
early care and education programs across
the state.

Goals and
Developmental Indicators
Should NOT Be Used To …

• Stand in isolation from what we know and
believe about children’s development and
about quality early education programs.

• Serve as an assessment checklist or
evaluation tool to make high-stakes
decisions about children’s program
placement or entry into kindergarten.

• Limit a child’s experiences or exclude
children from learning opportunities for
any reason.

• Set up conflicting expectations and
requirements for programs.

• Decide that any child has “failed” in any
way.

• Emphasize child outcomes over program
requirements.

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Domains, Subdomains, and Goals Overview
Approaches to Play and Learning (APL)
Curiosity, Information-Seeking, and Eagerness
• Goal APL-1: Children show curiosity and express interest in the world around them.

• Goal APL-2: Children actively seek to understand the world around them.

Play and Imagination
• Goal APL-3: Children engage in increasingly complex play.

• Goal APL-4: Children demonstrate creativity, imagination, and inventiveness.

Risk-Taking, Problem-Solving, and Flexibility
• Goal APL-5: Children are willing to try new and challenging experiences .

• Goal APL-6: Children use a variety of strategies to solve problems.

Attentiveness, Effort, and Persistence
• Goal APL-7: Children demonstrate initiative.

• Goal APL-8: Children maintain attentiveness and focus.

• Goal APL-9: Children persist at challenging activities.

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Emotional and Social Development (ESD)
Developing a Sense of Self
• Goal ESD-1: Children demonstrate a positive sense of self-identity and self-awareness.

• Goal ESD-2: Children express positive feelings about themselves and confidence in what they can do.

Developing a Sense of Self With Others
• Goal ESD-3: Children form relationships and interact positively with familiar adults who are consisten and responsive to their needs.

• Goal ESD-4: Children form relationships and interact positively with other children.

• Goal ESD-5: Children demonstrate the social and behavioral skills needed to successfully participate in groups.

Learning About Feelings
• Goal ESD-6: Children identify, manage, and express their feelings.

• Goal ESD-7: Children recognize and respond to the needs and feelings of others.

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Health and Physical Development (HPD)
Physical Health and Growth
• Goal HPD-1: Children develop healthy eating habits.

• Goal HPD-2: Children engage in active physical play indoors and outdoors.

• Goal HPD-3: Children develop healthy sleeping habits.

Motor Development
• Goal HPD-4: Children develop the large muscle control and abilities needed to move through and explore their environment.

• Goal HPD-5: Children develop small muscle control and hand-eye coordination to manipulate objects and work with tools.

Self-Care
• Goal HPD-6: Children develop awareness of their needs and the ability to communicate their needs.

• Goal HPD-7: Children develop iindependence in caring for themselves and their environment.

Safety Awareness
• Goal HPD-8: Children develop awareness of basic safety rules and begin to follow them.

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Language Development and Communication (LDC)
Learning to Communicate
• Goal LDC-1: Children understand communications from others.

• Goal LDC-2: Children participate in conversations with peers and adults in one-on-one, small, and larger group interactions.

• Goal LDC-3: Children ask and answer questions in order to seek help, get information, or clarify something that is not understood.

• Goal LDC-4: Children speak audibly and express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly.

• Goal LDC-5: Children describe familiar people, places, things, and events.

• Goal LDC-6: Children use most grammatical constructions of their home language well.

• Goal LDC-7: Children respond to and use a growing vocabulary.

Foundations for Reading
• Goal LDC-8: Children develop interest in books and motivation to read.

• Goal LDC-11: Children develop phonological awareness.

• Goal LDC-12: Children develop knowledge of the alphabet and the alphabetic principle.

Foundations for Writing
• Goal LDC-13: Children use writing and other symbols to record information and communicate for a variety of purposes.

• Goal LDC-14: Children use knowledge of letters in their attempts to write.

• Goal LDC-15: Children use writing skills and writing conventions.

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Cognitive Development (CD)
Construction of Knowledge: Thinking and Reasoning
• Goal CD-1: Children use their senses to construct knowledge about the world around them.

• Goal CD-2: Children recall information and use it for new situations and problems.

• Goal CD-3: Children demonstrate the ability to think about their own thinking: reasoning, taking perspectives, and making decisions.

Creative Expression
• Goal CD-4: Children demonstrate appreciation for different forms of artistic expression.

• Goal CD-5: Children demonstrate self-expression and creativity in a variety of forms and contexts, including play, visual arts, music, drama, and dance.

Social Connections
• Goal CD-6: Children demonstrate knowledge of relationships and roles within their own families, homes, classrooms, and communities.

• Goal CD-7: Children recognize that they are members of different groups (e.g. family, preschool class, cultural group).

• Goal CD-8: Children identify and demonstrate acceptance of similarities and differences between themselves and others.

• Goal CD-9: Children explore concepts connected with their daily experiences in their community.

Mathematical Thinking and Expression
• Goal CD-10: Children show understanding of numbers and quantities during play and other activities.

• Goal CD-11: Children compare, sort, group, organize, and measure objects and create patterns in their everyday environment.

• Goal CD-12: Children identify and use common shapes and concepts about position during play and other activities.

• Goal CD-13: Children use mathematical thinking to solve problems in their everyday environment.

Scientific Exploration and Knowledge
• Goal CD-14: Children observe and describe characteristics of living things and the physical world.

• Goal CD-15: Children explore the natural world by observing, manipulating objects, asking questions, making predictions, and developing
generalizations.

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Guiding Principles
1 . Development and learning across

the full continuum from birth to
five years (infant, toddler, and
preschool) is important .

Learning and development begin before
birth and continue throughout life. Each
stage of a young child’s development
makes an important contribution to
later success. Good prenatal care and
high-quality early care and education
experiences throughout the early
childhood period are essential. Teachers
and caregivers can use Foundations
as a guide to provide positive learning
experiences for young children of all ages,
starting at birth and continuing through
the time children enter kindergarten.

2 . Each child is unique .

Children’s development results from
a combination of many factors, such
as the characteristics they are born
with, the culture they live in, and their
experiences with their family and in other
settings such as early care and education
programs. Foundations should be used as
a guide to understand how development

generally unfolds, but children will
differ in how and when they demonstrate
progress in the areas described within the
Developmental Indicators.

3 . Development occurs in
predictable patterns but an
individual child’s developmental
progress is often uneven across
different stages and across
developmental domains .

Even though each child is unique, there
are some predictable steps or stages of
development. One ability or skill usually
develops before another, and skills that
develop earlier often are the foundation
for skills that develop later. Children vary
a great deal, however, in when and how
they reach each stage, and they may make
more progress in one area of development
than another.

4 . Young children’s learning is
integrated across different areas
of development so Foundations—
and learning experiences
provided for children—must
address all domains .

As young children learn and grow, each
area of their development is interrelated

and makes a contribution to how well
they learn and master new skills. Their
growth in the different domains—
physical, emotional-social, approaches
to play and learning, language, and
cognitive—cannot be separated
because progress in one area affects the
progress they make in other areas of
development. Therefore, Foundations and
the learning opportunities that children
experience must address all areas of their
development in an integrated manner.

5 . Many factors influence a
child’s development, including
relationships with family
members and others and
experiences within the home,
early learning setting, and
community .

How a child develops is based on a
combination of factors, such as the
characteristics they are born with, the
culture they live in, and their experiences
within their family and in other settings.
Each of these factors is important in
a child’s growth and development,
so it is important that teachers and
caregivers pay attention to all aspects of
a child’s life in order to support his/her
development and learning.

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

6 . Each child develops within a
culture .

North Carolina is home to families
and children from diverse cultural
backgrounds. This diversity is a
benefit because families from different
backgrounds bring a wealth of strengths,
knowledge, and values to our state.
Teachers and caregivers must be aware of
children’s cultural backgrounds because
their family’s beliefs, attitudes, values, and
behaviors have a big impact on the child’s
development and learning. It is important
to respect each child’s culture, to learn
as much as you can about a child’s
family and culture, and to foster a close
connection with the child and family by
seeking to care for the child in a way that’s
consistent with the family’s values and how
they care for the child.

7 . Nurturing and responsive
relationships are essential for
healthy growth and development .

Relationships with sensitive, caring adults
are important for children’s development
in all domains. Strong emotional bonds,
or secure attachments, with trusted adults
are particularly important for infants and

toddlers. The relationships that children
form with adults support their emotional
and social development and also serve
as a springboard for exploring the
environment and learning new concepts.

8 . Children are active learners and
they learn through play .

Children need hands-on learning
experiences to develop the skills and
knowledge described in Foundations.
They learn by doing, and they need time
to practice what they are learning, to
ask questions, to investigate, and to use
what they are learning in their everyday
activities.

9 . All children can learn and make
progress in the areas defined in
Foundations.

Foundations describes important areas of
learning and development, and includes
Developmental Indicators that give a
picture of how children make progress
toward the Goals. All children, no matter
what their circumstances, can learn and
make progress along the continuum
of Developmental Indicators. Children

with disabilities may demonstrate their
capabilities in different ways than do other
children, perhaps with accommodations
or modifications in the learning
environment and/or perhaps working
toward Developmental Indicators at a
lower age level. Likewise, children who
are learning English in addition to another
language at home will make progress on
the same Developmental Indicators as
English-speaking children, particularly
if they are in an early education setting
where adults use their home language as
well as English. Foundations is designed
to be used with all children.

10 . Children with disabilities learn
best in inclusive settings .

Children with disabilities will make the
most progress developmentally, socially,
and academically when appropriate
special education services are provided
in inclusive settings. Children with and
without disabilities learn from one
another in inclusive settings. Inclusive
settings where education and support are
individualized to each child will benefit
all children, including children with and
without disabilities.

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Effective Use of
Foundations With
All Children
While children generally develop in similar
stages and sequences, there can be a great
deal of diversity in how quickly and how evenly
their development unfolds. Factors such as
the child’s individual temperament, socio-
economic status, relationships with family
members, and the community/culture in
which a baby or child lives can affect growth
and learning. Foundations is designed to
allow for individual differences and can serve
as a basis for individualized programming
decisions for all children. Ideas for how to
use it with two specific groups of children are
described below.

Children With Disabilities
Although the Goals and Developmental
Indicators are the same for all children, it is
important to remember that children with
disabilities may demonstrate progress on
the Developmental Indicators at a different
rate and/or in different ways from typically
developing children. Children with disabilities
may be slower to demonstrate progress in
some domains than in others, and may have

very strong skills in one domain but need
additional support to make progress in
another domain. Teachers and caregivers may
find it useful to look at the Developmental
Indicators for a younger age level for ideas
of next steps for the child if his or her
developmental level seems to be different
from the Developmental Indicators for his
or her chronological age. In some cases,
teachers and caregivers may need to observe
children with disabilities more closely to
notice their progress and may need to use
alternate methods to help them demonstrate
their capabilities. For example, a teacher or
caregiver could give a nonverbal child a voice
output device that allows the child to push
a button that will speak for him or her to
participate in a game with the other children.

Teachers may also need to tailor their
curriculum and instructional strategies to
meet the individual learning needs of children
with disabilities and to ensure that each child
has access to, and is able to fully participate
in, all learning activities. For instance, the
teacher could have the child point to pictures
instead of talking when making a choice about
which free play activity to join.

In addition, it is important to consider how
peer relationships can benefit not only

children with disabilities, but all children
in the classroom. When designing learning
activities, a teacher could consider pairing
a child with a disability with a peer to help
the child reach his or her goals, learn a new
skill, or even participate more fully. This
also helps to foster emotional and social
development skills in both children. Although
all of the strategies included in the document
are applicable for children with disabilities,
teachers and caregivers will find some
strategies in each domain that are written
specifically to provide ideas for working with
children with disabilities.

Finally, teachers and caregivers should keep
in mind that it is important for all children to
involve their families in the learning process,
but it is especially important for children with
disabilities. Family members can often give
valuable information about resources or tools
they have found to be effective in meeting their
child’s individual needs. In addition to the
child’s family, teachers can also communicate
with other members of the child’s team,
such as specialists and therapists, to ensure
that that child’s goals are being met and
that they are demonstrating progress on the
Developmental Indicators along with the other
children in the classroom.

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

In summary, the Goals, Developmental
Indicators, and strategies described in
Foundations are appropriate for children
with disabilities, but teachers and caregivers
will need to individualize their expectations,
how they teach, and the opportunities they
provide for the child to demonstrate his or
her progress. Additionally, collaboration with
families and with other service providers is
extremely important when supporting children
with disabilities as they make progress in the
areas described in Foundations.

Children From
Diverse Language and
Cultural Backgrounds
In recent years, North Carolina has become
more ethnically diverse and there are an
increasing number of children and families
who speak a language other than English living
in our state. A growing number of our children
may, therefore, be Dual Language Learners.
A Dual Language Learner (DLL) is a child
who is learning a second language, in most
cases English, at the same time he or she is
learning his/her first or home language. The
term “Dual Language Learner” highlights the
fact that the child is learning two languages,
or becoming bilingual. The Goals and
Developmental Indicators from all five domains

are applicable for Dual Language Learners, but
teachers may need to supplement or provide
different types of learning experiences that
can best support Dual Language Learners,
and to think carefully about how the children
demonstrate what they are learning.

The first thing to keep in mind is that Dual
Language Learners will benefit greatly if
teachers and caregivers continue to support
their home language learning at the same
time they are learning English. It is easier for
children to learn concepts, develop social
skills, and be engaged in learning activities if
they can hear instructions and conversations
in their home language. Plus, even though
they may be learning English they are still
learning their home language as well, so it’s
important for them to continue to hear and
use their home language. Sometimes teachers
and caregivers may find it challenging to
support a child’s use of his/her home language
if they do not speak the child’s language.
Ideally someone interacting with the child can
speak both English and the child’s language,
even if it is not the teacher. Programs may
find it helpful to have at least one person on
staff who speaks the home language of Dual
Language Learners to translate for parents
and help in classrooms. If this option is not
available, programs might consider asking

family members or other volunteers who
speak the child’s home language to help
in the classroom. In addition, teachers
and caregivers who do not speak the same
language as the family can learn key words
or phrases to help guide the child using the
child’s home language during the day.

In addition to continuing to support the child’s
home language, teachers and caregivers may
need to take the child’s language learning into
account when planning learning activities,
and should think carefully about how they can
support Dual Language Learners’ progress
on the Goals and Developmental Indicators in
each domain. This means that teachers need
to plan how they will introduce concepts and
ideas in a way that Dual Language Learners can
best understand them even if the instruction is
in English. Ideally concepts can be introduced
in the child’s home language and in English so
the child has a chance to learn the concept and
to learn English. For instance, pairing a Dual
Language Learner with one child who speaks
the same home language and English, along
with another child who only speaks English,
could be a good strategy to help the child learn
social skills described in the Emotional and
Social Development domain and make progress
in learning some words in English. Naming
objects in both English and the child’s home

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

language is another example of how concepts
and vocabulary words can be introduced to Dual
Language Learners. Use very simple instructions
in the child’s home language and in English,
as well as pictures, gestures, and objects to
help explain the concepts being taught to help
children learn the language, concepts, and
behavioral skills described in Foundations. The
strategies included within each domain provide
some additional ideas for teaching Dual Language
Learners, and more information is provided in
the Supporting Dual Language Learners section at
the end of this document.

Furthermore, teachers and caregivers should
provide support for children to demonstrate
their learning in a variety of ways. Remember
that children can demonstrate their capabilities
on almost any of the Goals and Developmental
Indicators in their home language or in English,
and through other means such as gestures,
pictures and/or using objects to show what they
have learned. For instance, when learning to
count (a Cognitive Developmental Indicator at
the preschool level), children could count in
their home language; children may use new
vocabulary words (a Goal in the Language
Development and Communication domain)
in their home language and/or English; or
children may make scientific observations of
living things (a Goal in the Cognitive domain)

using their home language. Therefore,
teachers should continue to support the home
language of Dual Language Learners as much
as possible while they are learning English by
individualizing their teaching strategies and
allowing children to demonstrate progress on
the Developmental Indicators in their home
language or in English. Keep in mind that
teachers and caregivers who do not speak the
same language as the children may need to rely
on other staff and/or family members for help
as they plan and carry out learning activities for
Dual Language Learners.

Finally, teachers and caregivers should
remember that it is important to work closely
with all children’s families, and this is
especially true for Dual Language Learners.
For example, the family can provide invaluable
information about their child’s experiences and
the extent to which the child has heard/hears
English being spoken. In addition, families can
provide information about how the child learns
best, they can assist the teacher in gaining
a greater understanding of the child’s home
language, and they can reinforce what the
child is learning in the program with learning
experiences at home. Families are a tremendous
resource for understanding a child’s home
culture, and they are key to working effectively
with children from diverse cultures.

Foundations
and Children’s
Success in School
The title of this document—Foundations—was
selected because the Goals and Developmental
Indicators described for infants, toddlers,
and preschoolers are critically important to
their success later in school. What children
learn between birth and the time they start
kindergarten lays the foundation for their
learning and development for years to
come. The team of state leaders that revised
Foundations carefully studied North Carolina’s
Standard Course of Study (Common Core State
Standards and NC’s Essential Standards),
the standards for what kindergarten children
should know and be able to do. The team
studied both the Common Core State Standards
and North Carolina’s Essential Standards
during the process of writing Foundations.
The goal was to ensure that the content of
Foundations is aligned with the expectations
for what kindergarten children learn and is also
appropriate for the ages of children described
in Foundations. This does not mean that the
skills and knowledge described in Foundations
are exactly the same as those included in the
kindergarten standards. Rather, the focus in
Foundations is on the early precursor skills

18
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

that research suggests are important or lay
the foundation for what children learn later.
For instance, kindergarten children may
begin to read words and short sentences. The
Foundations Goals that address children’s
knowledge of letters, understanding of print
concepts (such as the fact that print runs from
left to right), and phonological awareness skills
all contribute to children’s ability to read once
they enter kindergarten. The next chart shows
how the content of Foundations is aligned with
the kindergarten standards. For children to
reach their full potential, adults must provide
an environment and experiences that promote
growth and learning in all areas described in
Foundations through age-appropriate activities,
materials, and daily routines.

In addition to helping early education teachers
and caregivers prepare infants, toddlers,
and preschoolers for success in school,
Foundations can also be a resource for
kindergarten teachers as they support children’s
success once they enter school. Kindergarten
teachers can use Foundations to get a better
idea of what children have learned before they
started school. Understanding the Goals and
Developmental Indicators helps kindergarten
teachers see what was expected of very young
children; they can use this understanding as a
starting point for what they teach early in the
year. When there’s some continuity between
what children learned in preschool and what’s
being taught in kindergarten, it’s easier for
the children to transition to kindergarten.

Kindergarten teachers may also find it helpful
to look at Foundations when teaching children
who may lack some of the precursor skills
that are important for making progress on
the kindergarten standards and may enter
kindergarten without the types of skills and
knowledge described in Foundations. The
kindergarten teacher can use the Goals and
Developmental Indicators in Foundations as a
basis for helping children learn the precursor
skills and knowledge they may have missed
during their early years.

19
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Standards Alignment—Foundations and the North Carolina Standard Course of Study
Foundations Domains Common Core State Standards and NC’s Essential Standards

Approaches to Play and Learning
• Curiosity, Information-Seeking, and Eagerness
• Play and Imagination
• Risk-Taking, Problem-Solving, and Flexibility
• Attentiveness, Effort, and Persistence

Mathematics*
• Practices
Guidance
• Cognitive

Emotional and Social Development
• Developing a Sense of Self
• Developing a Sense of Self with Others
• Learning About Feelings

Healthful Living
• Health Education

—Mental and Emotional Health
—Interpersonal Communication and Relations

• Physical Education
—Personal/Social Responsibility

Guidance
• Socio-Emotional

Health and Physical Development
• Physical Health and Growth
• Motor Development
• Self-Care
• Safety Awareness

Healthful Living
• Health Education

—Personal and Consumer Health
—Nutrition and Physical Activity
—Alcohol, Tobacco, and Other Drugs

• Physical Education
—Motor Skills
—Movement Concepts
—Health-related Fitness

Language Development and Communication
• Learning to Communicate
• Foundations for Reading
• Foundations for Writing

English Language Arts*
• Reading
• Writing
• Speaking and Listening
• Language
Information and Technology

Cognitive Development
• Construction of Knowledge: Thinking and Reasoning
• Creative Expression
• Social Connections
• Mathematical Thinking and Expression
• Scientific Exploration and Knowledge

Guidance
• Cognitive
Arts Education
Social Studies
Mathematics*
Science

*Common Core State Standards

20
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Helping Children
Make Progress on
Foundations Goals:
It Takes Everyone
Working Together
While Foundations describes the goals North
Carolina has for young children, it’s the adults in
our state who are responsible for supporting their
progress in the areas described in Foundations.
Teachers and caregivers need to understand
and use Foundations. Programs may need
to change their curricula to ensure infants,
toddlers, and preschoolers each experience
responsive caregiving and stimulating learning
environments that support children’s progress in
all five domains. To do this effectively will require
collective effort among the various stakeholders
who are responsible for working with young
children. Families, program administrators,
public school personnel, community agencies/
partners, policy makers, and teachers/caregivers
themselves all have a role in supporting the use
of Foundations and helping children make
progress in areas defined by the Goals and
Developmental Indicators. The roles that adults
can play in using Foundations and supporting
children’s progress are described below.

The Role of Families
Families are children’s first and most
important teachers. The use of Foundations
offers a unique opportunity to bring parents,
family members and early educators together
to support children’s development and
learning. Educators can use Foundations as a

Families—
parents, grandparents,

guardians, & other
key people in a

child’s life

Teachers
& Caregivers

Professional
Development Providers,

Technical Assistance
Providers & Higher Ed

Faculty

Policymakers &
Community Leaders

Program
Administrators

Young
Children’s

Development &
Learning in the

Foundations
Domains

Public Schools

Foundations Stakeholders

tool to encourage family members to become
more involved in their children’s learning and
education. By reviewing Foundations with
family members, educators can help them
understand how children develop and provide
them with specific strategies and activities that
they can use at home.

21
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

The Role of
Teachers and Caregivers
Teachers and caregivers are responsible for
the day-to-day implementation of Foundations.
To use the document effectively, teachers and
caregivers may need additional professional
development in order to learn about the content
of Foundations and improve their teaching
skills. Foundations does not tell educators how
to teach, but defines what children should know
and be able to do. As a result, teachers and
caregivers must be able to design appropriate
experiences to support children’s learning.

The Role of Administrators
Program directors and principals are the
instructional leaders of their early childhood
programs. As such, they play a vital role in
ensuring the successful implementation and
use of Foundations. Administrators influence
the resources that are available, as well as the
attitudes and practices of the persons working
directly with young children. Administrators
should use Foundations for staff development
and look for opportunities to share the
document with families.

The Role of Public Schools
Foundations provides a description of what
we want children to know and be able to
do before they enter kindergarten. When

children develop the characteristics and
behaviors described in Foundations, they are
prepared to make progress on the standards
in kindergarten and the later grades. It is
important for public school teachers and
administrators to know and understand what
has been expected of children when they enter
formal school. This allows them to build on
previous learning and create opportunities
that are stimulating and appropriate.

The Role of Policymakers
and Community Leaders
Decisions made by policymakers and
community leaders can affect the overall well-
being of young children. Oftentimes, people in
these roles decide how money is spent within
the community. They may also be responsible
for approving regulations and rules that
affect the quality of programs. Policymakers
and community leaders can support use of
Foundations by advocating for funding and
promoting collaboration and cooperation
among agencies and organizations that serve
young children and their families.

When these groups come together to support
understanding and implementation of
Foundations, young children benefit and make
greater progress on the Goals that have been
articulated in Foundations.

The Role of Professional
Development Providers,
Technical Assistance
Providers, and Higher
Education Faculty
Many professionals support teachers’ and
caregivers’ ability to provide high-quality,
individualized, appropriate experiences to
support children’s development and learning.
These professionals can use Foundations to
help teachers and caregivers understand how
children develop and why it is important to
provide particular activities or experiences
for children (e.g., to understand that an
activity such as building with blocks helps
children develop the spatial mathematics
skills described in the cognitive domain, or
that responsive interactions with children
help them develop important emotional and
social skills).

22
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Frequently
Asked Questions
What’s new in this revised version?

This document describes a continuum
of learning for young children, birth to
age five. While previously North Carolina
had guidelines and standards for this
age span, they were in two separate
documents. The revised document
presents a continuum to help early
childhood educators look across age
levels and learning domains to see how
children’s development emerges and
progresses over time. In addition, we now
have Goals that are applicable for children
across the age span, and Developmental
Indicators written for specific age levels.

Who should use this document?

Foundations is intended for any adult
who works with young children and
their families. This includes teachers
and caregivers in child care centers
and public schools, family child care
home providers, or family and neighbor
care. Early childhood programs across
the state, irrespective of their location
or setting, should find this a useful

resource for planning. Foundations is
also a useful resource for persons who
support teachers and caregivers—
administrators, professional development
and technical assistance providers,
higher education faculty, and others
concerned with improving the quality
of children’s learning experiences can
use Foundations as a guide for the types
of learning experiences teachers and
caregivers should provide for children.

What ages are covered?

Foundations is divided into five age
levels: Infants (birth to 12 months),
Younger Toddlers (8 to 21 months), Older
Toddlers (18 to 36 months), Younger
Preschoolers (36 to 48 months), and
Older Preschoolers (48 to 60+ months).
Because children develop at different
rates, there is overlap at the youngest
age levels (e.g., the age range between 8
to 12 months is included in both Infants
and Younger Toddlers). The overlap in
the age levels reflects the fact that it is
normal for children this age to vary a lot
in when they demonstrate the skills and
behaviors described in the Developmental
Indicators written for infants and toddlers.
While Foundations describes general
expectations for children within these

age levels, not all children of a particular
age will demonstrate progress on all the
Developmental Indicators for that age.

What does it mean if a child in my group
does not do what’s described in the
Foundations for his or her age level?

The age levels in this document provide
guidance about what to look for at
different ages. Generally, most of the
Developmental Indicators are intended
to describe a skill or characteristic
that emerges later in the age level, so if
the child is young for the age level, the
skill may emerge later. However, it is
important to keep in mind that each child
is different. Some children may seem to
do extremely well in one domain while
progressing more slowly in another.
Even children at the end of an age level
may not show every ability or skill listed
for that level. It is important to look at
a child’s overall pattern of development
and progress to decide whether he or she
is developing as expected. Do not focus
narrowly on just a few skills or abilities.
If, however, you and/or the child’s
family have concerns about a child’s
development, it is important to refer
the child for an evaluation to rule out a
suspected disability.

23
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

How is Foundations different from
other standards we use?

Foundations describes the goals North
Carolina has established for children’s
learning and development. The Goals
and Developmental Indicators describe
how we expect children to develop and
learn when they receive high-quality
care and education. There are other sets
of standards that describe expectations
for how programs will care for and
educate children—licensing rules
for child care facilities, the Star Rated
License system, accreditation standards,
and program standards of Early Head
Start and Head Start. Programs that
meet high standards for quality will
help children make progress in the
areas described in Foundations. Some
programs, such as Early Head Start, Head
Start, and IDEA funded programs for
children with disabilities also have their
own expectations for child outcomes.
Foundations is designed to be consistent
with these expectations so that teachers
and caregivers can use both Foundations
and their program-specific child outcomes
to plan learning experiences for children.

How can I use these Goals and
Developmental Indicators in my work
with children who have disabilities
or delays?

Children with disabilities or delays will
make progress toward the Goals and
Developmental Indicators in Foundations
when they receive high-quality care and
education. They may move more slowly
than their peers in some or all areas,
and some children may not develop all
of the skills and abilities listed. When
working with children with disabilities,
begin by looking at the Developmental
Indicators for their age level. If none of
the Developmental Indicators at this age
level seem to describe what the child is
trying to do now, look at an earlier age
level. For some children, you may find
that it’s helpful to use Developmental
Indicators from two or three different
levels. Using the Developmental
Indicators, decide what comes next in
different areas and create opportunities
for the child to develop those abilities
or skills. It may be necessary to adapt
strategies to help particular children
learn. All of the strategies included
within the domains are considered good
practices for children with disabilities,
and some of the strategies are written to

provide specific ideas for working with
children with disabilities. Specialists
such as early interventionists, speech-
language pathologists, physical therapists,
and occupational therapists can help
families, teachers, and caregivers develop
additional strategies that have been
tailored to meet the individual needs
of the child. These strategies will help
children with disabilities or delays develop
to their full potential.

How can I use these Goals and
Developmental Indicators in my work
with children who speak a language
other than English at home?

Children growing up in families that
speak a language other than English will
make progress in the areas described in
Foundations. Even though the teacher/
caregiver may not speak the same
language as the child, the Goals and
Developmental Indicators in Foundations
are still a useful resource. Teachers and
caregivers working with children who
are learning both English and their own
home language should try to use the
child’s home language whenever possible
so the child can learn the skills and
knowledge described in Foundations
more easily. Teachers/caregivers may

24
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

also need to provide additional support
for children learning English in addition
to their home language, such as short/
simple instructions or pictures to
illustrate a concept. Some of the strategies
included within the domain provide
additional ideas for working with Dual
Language Learners. Finally, teachers
and caregivers should remember that
children can demonstrate progress on the
Developmental Indicators in either their
home language or in English.

Is the Foundations document meant
for families to use, too?

Research indicates that the extent to which
families are involved in their children’s
education is related to children’s school
readiness and their later school success.
Teachers and caregivers can use Foundations
as a tool to encourage family members to
become more involved in their children’s
learning and education. By reviewing the
Goals and Developmental Indicators with
family members, educators can help them
understand how children develop, and
provide them with specific strategies and
activities that they can use at home. This
may also be an opportunity to make family
members aware of resources and services that
are available within the community.

Is this a curriculum?

Foundations is not a curriculum, but
is a resource that can be helpful for
choosing curricula and planning daily
activities. Foundations describes the
skills and knowledge we want children
to develop. A curriculum is a resource
that provides guidance on how teachers
and caregivers can help children learn
the skills and knowledge described in
Foundations. This document will not
tell you which curriculum, activities, or
materials to select, but rather will help
you decide what experiences are best
suited to help children develop and learn.
Once you have a good understanding from
Foundations on the types of skills and
knowledge that are important for the age
you teach, you can look for a curriculum
that will help you provide appropriate
experiences to help children develop the
skills described in the Developmental
Indicators. North Carolina has established
a process to evaluate curricula and
provide recommendations for which
curricula meet important criteria,
including alignment with Foundations.
Check the list of approved curricula as a
starting point for decisions about which
curriculum to use.

Is this an assessment?

Foundations is not an assessment tool.
Foundations describes the skills and
knowledge we want children to develop.
An assessment is a tool that helps teachers
and caregivers gather information about
a child to determine how she or he is
making progress in the areas described
in the Developmental Indicators. We
recommend that you never use the Goals
and Developmental Indicators as a checklist
for assessing children’s development. Using
the Goals and Developmental Indicators
simply as a checklist could suggest that
there is something wrong with children
who have not achieved everything on
the list. Remember that the Goals and
Developmental Indicators are guidelines
that describe the areas of development
and learning that families, teachers, and
caregivers should promote. They serve as a
guide for what adults should do to support
children’s development—not as a checklist
of skills that children need to “pass.”

Is Foundations based on research?

The Goals, Developmental Indicators, and
strategies included in Foundations were
developed based on current research
about child development. This research

25
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

helped the team decide which Goals
and Developmental Indicators are most
appropriate for young children and
informed the development of the strategies.

Why does Foundations include
five domains of development and
learning?

Because infants’, toddlers’, and preschool
children’s bodies, feelings, thinking skills,
language, social skills, love of learning,
and knowledge all develop together, it is
essential that we include all five of these
domains in Foundations. Children’s
learning and development in each of these
domains is important for their long-term
success in school.

What types of strategies are included
in the Foundations document?

Each domain includes strategies that are
designed to give teachers ideas for how
they might support children’s progress on
the Developmental Indicators included
in the domain. Strategies are provided
for each subdomain and are organized
into two age groups: Infants/Toddlers
and Preschoolers. Most of the ideas
provided in the strategies can be used
with all children. A few of the strategies

are written to provide specific ideas for
working with children with disabilities
and with Dual Language Learners. They
are intended to be a starting point for
helping children make progress on the
Developmental Indicators. Teachers
and caregivers are encouraged to seek
additional professional development
to learn how to use the Foundations
document and how to best support
children’s learning and development.

Why are there similar Developmental
Indicators and strategies in more than
one domain?

For very young children, one
developmental step often forms the
foundation for future development in
more than one domain or area. For
example, the ability to imitate others
helps a child form relationships (a Goal
in Emotional and Social Development)
and learn new words (a Goal in Language
Development and Communication).
Imitation also allows children to
participate in pretend play (an important
skill in Approaches to Play and Learning)
and to learn self-care routines (a skill
described in the Health and Physical
Development domain). Thus, imitation

is a skill included in more than one
domain. Repeating Developmental
Indicators in this way helps to show how
all of the domains are connected.

How do the Goals and Developmental
Indicators relate to what’s expected
of children in kindergarten?

The expectations described in
Foundations form the basis for what
children will be able to learn and do in
the next phase of their education; thus
these standards are called Foundations.
They are aligned with national standards
and North Carolina’s standards for what
kindergarten children should know
and be able to do, and include abilities
and characteristics that pave the way
for children to be successful in school
and later in life. When adults provide
experiences that foster children’s
development in the areas described in
Foundations, they are helping children
develop skills and characteristics that
will be important in kindergarten and
later grades.

26
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

27
Approaches to Play and Learning

Approaches to
Play and Learning
(APL)

28
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

C
hildren are born with an inclination
to learn and to figure things out, but
each child approaches learning in
his or her own way. The Approaches
to Play and Learning domain

addresses how children learn and includes
children’s attitudes toward and interest in
learning. It reflects behaviors and attitudes
such as curiosity, problem-solving, maintaining
attention, and persistence. Children display
these characteristics in the way they learn in all
domains and curriculum areas, including music,
dramatic play, and art.

For infants and toddlers, their approach to
learning begins with their openness and
interest in the world around them and their
desire to make things happen. They learn
by tasting, touching, smelling, listening,
and looking at just about anything in their
environment. They also learn through their
physical actions as they try new actions and
see what happens when they do something
with objects. When adults support their efforts,
children feel safe and secure and are more
willing to try new things and take risks. With a
consistent environment and responsive adults
who encourage exploration, young children
have the emotional security necessary for
exploring, growing, and learning.

As children move into the preschool years,
they begin to establish learning behaviors
that are more obviously tied to later school
success. They become more confident in their
ability to learn and enjoy exploration and
discovery through play. This is also a time
when children develop some specific areas of
interest and learn different strategies to find
out more about those interests. They typically
are able to concentrate for longer periods of
time and are able to persist with tasks even
after encountering obstacles.

Regardless of the age, it is important for
teachers of young children to recognize that
children vary in their learning styles and
in how they express their approaches to
learning. For example, some children show
great enthusiasm for trying new things, while
others are more content to sit back and watch.
These differences may be the result of the
child’s temperament, cultural differences in
how families encourage children to interact
with the environment, and/or disabilities that
may affect how children take in information.
Teachers and caregivers must be attuned to
these differences and provide support and
guidance to children as they need it. The
Goals and Developmental Indicators included
in this domain describe important aspects of

Subdomains

Curiosity, Information-Seeking,
and Eagerness

Play and Imagination

Risk-Taking, Problem-Solving,
and Flexibility

Attentiveness, Effort,
and Persistence

29
Approaches to Play and Learning

approaches to learning that early childhood
educators should seek to foster as they work
with young children, but it’s important to
remember that each child will express his/her
approaches toward play and learning differently.

Approaches to Play and Learning (APL)

Curiosity, Information-Seeking, and Eagerness
• Goal APL-1: Children show curiosity and express interest in the world

around them.
• Goal APL-2: Children actively seek to understand the world around

them.

Play and Imagination
• Goal APL-3: Children engage in increasingly complex play.
• Goal APL-4: Children demonstrate creativity, imagination, and

inventiveness.

Risk-Taking, Problem-Solving, and Flexibility
• Goal APL-5: Children are willing to try new and challenging

experiences.
• Goal APL-6: Children use a variety of strategies to solve problems.

Attentiveness, Effort, and Persistence
• Goal APL-7: Children demonstrate initiative.
• Goal APL-8: Children maintain attentiveness and focus.
• Goal APL-9: Children persist at challenging activities.

30
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Curiosity, Information-Seeking, and Eagerness

Goal APL-1: Children show curiosity and express interest in the world around them.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Show interest in others
(smile or gaze at
caregiver, make sounds
or move body when other
person is near). APL-1a

• Show interest in
themselves (watch own
hands, play with own
feet). APL-1b

• React to new sights,
sounds, tastes, smells,
and touches (stick out
tongue at first solid food,
turn head quickly when
door slams).
APL-1c

• Imitate what others are
doing. APL-1d

• Show curiosity about
their surroundings
(with pointing, facial
expressions, words).
APL-1e

• Show pleasure when
exploring and making
things happen (clap, smile,
repeat action again and
again). APL-1f

• Discover things that
interest and amaze
them and seek to
share them with
others. APL-1g

• Show pleasure in new
skills and in what they
have done. APL-1h

• Watch what others are
doing and often try to
participate. APL-1i

• Discover things that
interest and amaze
them and seek to share
them with others. APL-1j

• Communicate interest
to others through verbal
and nonverbal means
(take teacher to the
science center to see a
new animal). APL-1k

• Show interest in a growing
range of topics, ideas,
and tasks. APL-1l

• Discover things that
interest and amaze them
and seek to share them
with others. APL-1m

• Communicate interest to
others through verbal and
nonverbal means (take
teacher to the science
center to see a new
animal). APL-1n

• Show interest in
a growing range of
topics, ideas, and tasks.
APL-1o

• Demonstrate interest in
mastering new skills (e.g.,
writing name, riding a bike,
dance moves, building
skills). APL-1p

➡➡

It is important for teachers to remember
that persons from different cultures value
different characteristics and qualities in
children . Some cultures will encourage or

value curiosity, while others may
discourage children from
demonstrating curiosity .

31
Approaches to Play and Learning

Goal APL-2: Children actively seek to understand the world around them.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Explore the indoor and
outdoor environment
using all available
senses—smell, hear, see,
feel and taste. APL-2a

• With appropriate supports,
move toward interesting
people, sounds, objects,
and activities. APL-2b

• Initiate activities that
interest them and try to get
others involved. APL-2c

• Use toys and other objects
to make things happen (kick
a ball, push a button on a
toy). APL-2d

• Move toward people and
things that are new and/or
interesting. APL-2e

• Seek more information
about people and their
surroundings (“study”
an object carefully,
stare for long moments,
become absorbed in
figuring out a situation).
APL-2f

• Use their whole body
to learn (get mud or
paint on themselves
from head to toe, fit
themselves into a big,
empty box). APL-2g

• Communicate what
they want to do or know
using gestures, facial
expressions, or words
(ask “What dat?”).
APL-2h

• Ask questions about the
people and things around
them. APL-2i

• Use all available senses,
tools, and a variety of
strategies to explore the
environment (drop objects
in water to see if they sink
or float). APL-2j

• Purposely try different
ways of doing things to
see what and how they
work (adjust blocks used
as a ramp to make a ball
roll faster and farther).
APL-2k

• Ask questions to find out
more about the things that
interest them, including
questions about future
events. APL-2l

• Choose among different
ways to explore the
environment based on
past experience (use
a magnifying glass that
the class used before to
explore something new).
APL-2m

• Use what they know
from past experience
to understand what is
happening now (get an
umbrella to go outside
because it is raining).
APL-2n

32
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Curiosity, Information-Seeking, and Eagerness

1. Provide safe spaces and remove
dangerous items indoors and outdoors so
infants and toddlers can explore safely.
Use soft surfaces, light colors, and
comfortable furniture to create a warm,
inviting classroom atmosphere.

2. Provide children with the means to
represent their ideas with more than one
type of material or medium (e.g., painting,
drawing, blocks).

3. Choose materials that appeal to children’s
senses (smell, touch, hearing, sight,
and taste) to encourage children to react
and move. For example, place colorful
toys around an infant during tummy time,
hang wind chimes outdoors, or invite
toddlers to smell flowers. Be sensitive to
infants and toddlers with special sensory
needs. Avoid overwhelming children with
stimulation. Provide quiet, uncluttered
spaces when children need them.

4. Offer toys and activities that are
challenging and exciting for each child at
his or her individual level. When children
express interest, show them what toys will
do and how materials can be used.

5. Allow children to make choices when
possible (such as materials and activities).
For some children with disabilities,
caregivers must introduce toys, begin
activities, and play a more active role to
show them what to do. Follow children’s
signals to decide whether to continue,
vary, or end an activity.

6. Show enthusiasm for children’s
discoveries. Talk with them about what they
are experiencing and what is happening
around them. Notice and respond
to infants when they react to what is
happening and encourage them to notice
each other’s activities. Set an example by
sharing children’s excitement in discovery
and exploration on their level (e.g., digging
through snow in winter to see if the grass is
still there; looking for flower buds in spring
and yellowing leaves in fall).

7. Make a wide variety of experiences
available to all infants and toddlers,
including children with disabilities.
Encourage children to use multiple
senses (touching, smelling, looking)
to explore a variety of materials and
experiences (children’s artwork,
wall hangings, tapestry, weavings,
arrangements of flowers and leaves, great
paintings, sculpture, mosaics, different
types of music such as classical, dance,
jazz, and/or folk, etc.).

8. Talk about the things you like and share
your enjoyment in learning new things,
trying new activities, etc.

9. Set an example by thinking out loud when
actively solving a dilemma or figuring
something out.

10. Ask children to communicate what they
like, dislike, and enjoy. Use actions, facial
expressions, and/or words to reflect what
a child seems to be communicating.

Strategies for Infants and Toddlers

33
Approaches to Play and Learning

Curiosity, Information-Seeking, and Eagerness

Strategies for Preschoolers

1. Provide a wide variety of objects,
experiences, and materials for exploration.
Provide both familiar and new materials in
response to children’s interests. Include
materials that are found in their homes.
Make sure materials are accessible for
non-mobile children to look at, listen to,
reach for, and touch. Adapt materials (e.g.,
location, texture, color, etc.) as needed to
ensure all children can use them.

2. Furnish materials that will facilitate the re-
creation of memories or experiences that
a child can share and encourage a spirit
of inquiry.

3. Listen and respond to children as they
share their thoughts (e.g., open up a
discussion of what happened in a class
meeting). Provide props (such as an object
from the activity being discussed) and
pictures to make it easier for children with
limited vocabulary or who speak a home
language other than English to participate.

4. Provide plenty of time for children to
explore and play at their own pace,
indoors and outside.

5. Encourage children to share ideas and
ask questions of one another. Encourage
curiosity by asking open-ended questions
(for example, “What will happen when we
add the water to the flour?” “What is the
man in the picture trying to do?”).

6. Give children many opportunities to
experience beauty through all their
senses (touching snow, looking at
rainbows, smelling freshly mowed grass,
tasting different foods, listening to birds
chirp). For older children, put illustrated
coffee-table books in the classroom’s
book area.

7. Visit different types of places so that
children have a variety of experiences
(such as local museums, parks, grocery
stores, the post office, etc.).

8. Talk about the things you like and share
your enjoyment in learning new things,
trying new activities, etc.

9. Set an example by thinking out loud when
actively solving a dilemma or figuring
something out.

10. Ask children to communicate what they
like, dislike, and enjoy. Use actions, facial
expressions, and/or words to reflect what
a child seems to be communicating.

34
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Play and Imagination

Goal APL-3: Children engage in increasingly complex play.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Show interest in other
children playing (watch,
turn toward). APL-3a

• Imitate sounds, facial
expressions, or
gestures (cover face
with hands, hands up
for “so big”). APL-3b

• Play with simple
objects, using them to
make sounds and other
interesting results.
APL-3c

• Begin to participate
in give-and-take
exchanges of sounds
and gestures (“serve
and return”). APL-3d

• Play alongside other
children, sometimes
imitating their actions.
APL-3e

• Imitate adult actions with
objects, first with real
objects and then with
objects that are used to
represent another object
(talk on phone, feed doll,
use a chair as pretend
car). APL-3f

• Take turns in simple
games (pat-a-cake,
peek-a-boo). APL-3g

• Offer toys and objects
to others. APL-3h

• Try to involve other
children in play. APL-3i

• Make believe, pretend,
and act out familiar life
scenes, sometimes using
objects to represent
something else (a shoe
becomes a phone).
APL-3j

• Play with others with a
common purpose (play a
chase game). APL-3k

• Communicate about
what is happening during
pretend play (“He eating,”
point to a picture on a
communication board
when feeding a toy baby
with a spoon; “Now go
work,” after putting on
shoes and necktie).
APL-3l

• Engage in dramatic play
themes that include
interacting with other
children, but often are not
coordinated. APL-3m

• Talk to peers and share
materials during play.
APL-3n

• Engage in make-believe
play with imaginary
objects. APL-3o

• Use language to begin
and carry on play with
others. APL-3p

• Express knowledge of
their everyday lives and
culture through play
(uses chopsticks to eat,
pretends to fix hair the way
his/her family styles hair).
APL-3q

• Develop and sustain more
complex pretend play
themes in cooperation with
peers. APL-3r

• Use more complex and
varied language to share
ideas and influence others
during play. APL-3s

• Choose to use new
knowledge and skills
during play (add features to
dramatic play scene related
to class project, write
list, build structure like
displayed picture). APL-3t

• Demonstrate their cultural
values and “rules” through
play (tells another child,
“That’s not what mommies
do.”). APL-3u

35
Approaches to Play and Learning

Goal APL-4: Children demonstrate creativity, imagination, and inventiveness.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Use everyday
household objects for
play (spoons, pots and
pans, plastic bowls).
APL-4a

• Try a familiar action with
a new object or person
(try to bounce a block,
wave bye-bye to a toy,
make a sound to get a
new adult’s attention).
APL-4b

• React to unexpected
events with laughter
and interest. APL-4c

• Do new things with
familiar objects or
combine them in unusual
ways (use a dress-up
boa as a snake, pound
a drum with a plastic
bottle, try to stack
bears). APL-4d

• Do new things with
familiar objects or
combine them in unusual
ways (use a dress-up boa
as a snake, pound a drum
with a plastic bottle, try to
stack bears). APL-4e

• Pretend to be somebody
or something other than
themselves. APL-4f

• Pretend one object is
really something different
(use Legos® as food while
stirring a pot). APL-4g

• Offer new ideas about
how to do or make things.
APL-4h

• Add new actions, props,
or dress-up items to
pretend play. APL-4i

• Use materials (e.g., art
materials, instruments,
construction, writing
implements) or actions to
represent experiences or
ideas in novel ways.
APL-4j

• Experiment with language,
musical sounds, and
movement. APL-4k

• Plan play scenarios
(dramatic play,
construction), and use or
create a variety of props or
tools to enact them. APL-4l

• Expand the variety of roles
taken during dramatic play
and add more actions,
language, or props to
enact roles. APL-4m

• Use materials or actions
in increasingly varied
and resourceful ways to
represent experiences or
ideas. APL-4n

• Make up stories, songs, or
dances for fun during play.
APL-4o

The environment has a big effect on
how children demonstrate creativity and

imagination . Teachers and caregivers
can encourage creativity and imaginative

play by modeling or demonstrating
creativity, and by offering children many

opportunities for pretend play .

36
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Play and Imagination

1. Accept getting messy as part of a child’s
learning.

2. Look and plan for children’s differences
and their many ways of learning. Use
real objects, pictures, music, language,
books, the outdoors, active play, quiet
activities, and group activities to appeal to
children who learn in different ways.

3. Provide materials that can be used in
more than one way and encourage
children to think of different ways to use
them. Encourage trial and error and
provide children with adequate time to
fully explore materials.

4. Encourage children to notice what others
are doing when they are pretending.
(“See the way Maya is using the block for
a race car.” “Look at Luis and Mary. They
are pretending to bake a cake.”)

5. Include unusual art and music materials
when planning creative activities for
children (for example, jumping on bubble
wrap, painting with feet, using classroom
items such as blocks and toy pots to
make music or create rhythm).

6. Allow and encourage children to solve
problems in their own ways.

7. Encourage children to help you make up
silly stories so they use their imagination.

8. Make accommodations to the
environment and materials to allow
opportunities for children with varying
abilities and physical needs to fully
participate.

Strategies for Infants and Toddlers

37
Approaches to Play and Learning

Play and Imagination

Strategies for Preschoolers

1. Encourage children to think about new
ideas. (“Have you ever wondered where
snow goes?” “Where do birds live?”)

2. Provide a wide range of experiences. For
preschoolers, include some experiences
in which the goal is to try many different
approaches rather than finding one
“right” solution.

3. Foster cooperative play and learning
groups. Stay involved in the children’s
play and learning groups to help children
who may be less likely to join in because
they don’t communicate as well as
other children—ask questions, make
suggestions, and draw each child into
the play and other activities.

4. Promote the integrated use of materials
throughout activities and centers. (“Let’s
get some paper from the writing center
to make signs for the city you made in
the block center.”)

5. Challenge children to consider
alternative ideas and endings of stories.

6. Help children accommodate and build on
one another’s ideas to achieve common
goals (e.g., suggest that individual block
structures can be put together to make a
much larger one).

7. Provide materials for preschoolers to
pretend, to use one object to represent
another, and to take on roles. This
includes dress-up clothes for a variety of
play themes and toys that can be used
for many things, such as blocks, scarves,
and clay.

8. Look and plan for children’s differences
and their many ways of learning. Use
real objects, pictures, music, language,
books, the outdoors, active play, quiet
activities, and group activities to appeal to
children who learn in different ways.

9. Watch for and acknowledge increasing
complexity in a child’s play. (“Your tower
of blocks became a fire station, and now
you’ve built a whole town.”)

38
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Risk-Taking, Problem-Solving, and Flexibility

Goal APL-5: Children are willing to try new and challenging experiences.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Explore new
experiences both
indoors and outdoors
(toys, foods, people,
spaces) with support
of a familiar trusted
adult. APL-5a

• Try to do things that
are hard for them
(stretch to reach toy,
work to crawl or walk,
try to capture tiny
crumb with pincer
grasp). APL-5b

• Look to adult for cues
and when reassured,
proceed. APL- 5c

• Try unfamiliar
experiences and
interact with new
people, with a familiar
adult nearby. APL-5d

• Move away from
a familiar adult to
explore, but check in
frequently. APL-5e

• Show interest in toys
that offer a challenge
and try to work them.
APL-5f

• Explore freely without a
familiar adult nearby.
APL-5g

• Try out new skills in a
familiar environment (learn
to climb steps and then
try to climb ladder to the
slide). APL-5h

• Approach a challenge
with confidence (try to lift
a heavy object, work on a
difficult puzzle, “I can do
it.”). APL-5i

• Want to do things their
own way (say “Me do it!”,
push an adult’s hand away
if the person is trying to
help). APL-5j

• Express a belief that they
can do things that are
hard. APL-5k

• Choose to participate
in an increasing variety
of familiar and new
experiences. APL-5l

• Accept new challenges
when offered. APL-5m

• Try things they are not
sure they can do, while
avoiding dangerous risks.
APL-5n

• Express a belief that they
can do things that are
hard. APL-5o

• Approach new experiences
independently. APL-5p

• Ask to participate in new
experiences that they have
observed or heard about.
APL-5q

• Independently seek new
challenges. APL-5r

Temperament influences the
way children approach new or

challenging tasks and situations .
Depending on their temperament,
some children will approach new

or challenging tasks and situations
with enthusiasm, while others will

be more wary and cautious . If a child
is not a risk taker, it is important

for teachers and caregivers to look
for opportunities to build the child’s
confidence by noticing times when

he or she tries something
new or challenging .

39
Approaches to Play and Learning

Goal APL-6: Children use a variety of strategies to solve problems.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Try one or two
strategies to get what
they want (make noise,
move or reach toward
things, reject unwanted
item). APL-6a

• Try a familiar action in a
new activity (hit a button
on a new toy, try to
open a visitor’s purse).
APL-6b

• Use trial and error to
get something done,
get what they want, or
solve simple problems.
APL-6c

• Try one or two strategies
to get what they want
or solve a problem (try
giving a peer an alternate
toy to get a toy from him/
her; try to put a ball in a
box—if it will not fit, gets a
bigger box). APL-6d

• Use available resources
to accomplish a goal or
solve a problem (push
a stool to a counter to
reach for something).
APL-6e

• After unsuccessful
attempt to solve a
problem, ask for help
from an adult (point,
gesture, speak). APL-6f

• Vary actions on purpose
to solve a problem (bang,
then turn shape to fit in
sorter; shake handle,
then pull, to open a
drawer). APL-6g

• Try a variety of
strategies to get what
they want or solve a
problem. APL-6h

• Use language to obtain
help to solve a problem
(tell adults, “My car
broke.”). APL-6i

• Use materials in new
ways to explore and
solve problems (bring
a big spoon to the
sand table when all of
the shovels are in use,
pile blocks on a towel
and drag them across
the floor when there
are too many to carry).
APL-6j

• Seek and make use
of ideas and help from
adults and peers to solve
problems (“How can I
make this paint get off my
pants?”). APL-6k

• Purposefully use a
variety of strategies to
solve different types of
problems. APL-6l

• Talk to themselves to work
through the steps to solve
a problem.
APL-6m

• Seek and make use of ideas
and help from adults and
peers to solve problems
(“How can I make this paint
get off my pants?”). APL-6n

• Describe the steps they will
use to solve a problem.
APL-6o

• Evaluate different strategies
for solving a problem and
select the strategy they feel
will work without having to
try it. APL-6p

• Explain how they solved a
problem to another person.
APL-6q

40
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Risk-Taking, Problem-Solving, and Flexibility

1. Provide challenging, high-quality tools
and equipment and an abundant supply
of thought-provoking, complex materials
that can be used in more than one way
(e.g., blocks or clay) and are not limited
to a single “right” use.

2. Show genuine care, affection, and
kindness toward children (e.g., validate
their disappointment when a block
structure falls down; encourage them
to figure out what happened and
rebuild). Your support gives children the
confidence to take risks.

3. Allow children to do things their own way
and take some risks. Intervene when
needed to keep children safe.

4. Show pleasure in what children have
done. Respond to their expressions of
accomplishment. (“You have a big smile
on your face! You look happy that you
went down the slide all by yourself.”)

5. Model flexibility and acceptance of
mistakes or failures. (“Oops, that didn’t
work! Let’s try something else.”)

6. Establish a regular yet flexible routine.

7. Recognize that some children have
difficulty trying new things, using a
toy in a different way, or varying their
routines. Try different ways to introduce
change and variety (provide advance
warning of changes in routine, use
pictures for what will happen next, model
new ways of using materials). Gradual
change is usually best. Work with other
professionals to learn strategies that help
these children try new things and accept
changes when needed.

8. Plan for and recognize different interest
levels and abilities to tolerate materials,
mistakes, and engagement with other
children. Accommodate these differences
by being flexible and introducing more
challenging experiences gradually.

Strategies for Infants and Toddlers

41
Approaches to Play and Learning

Risk-Taking, Problem-Solving, and Flexibility

Strategies for Preschoolers

1. Seek and accept children’s ideas. Let
them know that their thinking and their
efforts are valued more than “getting the
right answer.”

2. Recognize that “mistakes” are inevitable
and treat them as opportunities to learn.
Help children deal with mistakes in a
positive way. Avoid criticizing or making
fun of them.

3. Set an example by acknowledging
one’s own “mistakes” and modeling
constructive reactions to them. Model
for children by talking about what you are
doing as you remain calm, figuring out
what went wrong, and trying again.

4. Help children think and talk through
different approaches to problems (e.g.,
when their favorite game isn’t available,
encourage them to consider another
choice).

5. Encourage children to share, listen,
and ask questions of one another and
compare strategies and solutions.
Support children with varying
communication abilities by supporting a
variety of ways for children to share, ask
questions, and compare.

6. Recognize that some children have
difficulty trying new things, using a
toy in a different way, or varying their
routines. Try different ways to introduce
change and variety (provide advance
warning of changes in routine, use
pictures for what will happen next, model
new ways of using materials). Gradual
change is usually best. Work with other
professionals to learn strategies that
help these children try new things and
accept changes when needed.

7. Plan for and recognize different interest
levels and abilities to tolerate materials,
mistakes, and engagement with other
children. Accommodate these differences
by being flexible and introducing more
challenging experiences gradually.

8. Ask probing questions when children
appear to be confused to bring them to a
greater understanding.

42
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Attentiveness, Effort, and Persistence

Goal APL-7: Children demonstrate initiative.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Communicate with
sounds or movements
to indicate preferences
(make excited sound
for food they like, push
away food they don’t
like). APL-7a

• Independently explore
the different qualities
of an object (notice the
sound of a rattle, then
be drawn to the “feel”
of it, exploring it with
mouth or hand). APL-7b

• Express choices with
actions or simple
language (choose
Cheerios® or a
cracker). APL-7c

• Seek to repeat
experiences they enjoy
or succeed at (do shape
sorter over and over,
climb up and down
stairs). APL-7d

• Select and carry out
activities (choose to set
the table; gather play
dishes and food, and then
feed the dolls). APL-7e

• Show increasing interest
in performing tasks
independently (put on
jacket and try to zip it
up). APL-7f

• Show and/or tell others
what they have done.
APL-7g

• Show increasing
independence and
purpose when making
choices (“I want to go to
blocks.”). APL-7h

• Express goals or plans
and follow through on
them (“I’m going to draw
my house.”). APL-7i

• Show increasing
independence and
purpose when making
choices (“I’m going to the
block area to make a track
for my race car.”). APL-7j

• Independently identify and
seek things they need
to complete activities or
tasks (gather supplies and
make a birthday card with a
message). APL-7k

• Set simple goals that
extend over time, make
plans and follow through
(“Let’s make a rocket ship.
We need blocks.”). APL-7l

Children’s willingness to demonstrate initiative varies
based on their personality or temperament and familial

and cultrual differences . Some cultures value children who
demonstrate initiative, while others may place a low priority

on initiative . Some children are less likely to demonstrate
initiative because they are shy or prefer to join an activity

that is already going on in the classroom rather than initiate
a new activity or interaction .

43
Approaches to Play and Learning

Goal APL-8: Children maintain attentiveness and focus.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Focus and attend to
people and things
around them. APL-8a

• Repeat interesting
actions over and over
(push button to make
toy pop up). APL-8b

• Notice when the
expected does not
happen. APL-8c

• Focus on self-selected
activity for a short period
of time (decide to play
in the sandbox and stay
there for a couple of
minutes). APL-8d

• Focus on an interesting
activity or interaction
shared with adults for
a short period of time.
APL-8e

• Focus on a person or
a hands-on activity for
a short period of time
(participate in singing a
song, stay focused long
enough to build a block
tower). APL-8f

• Keep working on
interesting activities with
other things going on
around them. APL-8g

• Focus on age-appropriate
activities for a short
period of time, even with
interruptions (continue
working on a puzzle even
though another child
sitting nearby is laughing
and talking). APL-8h

• Remain engaged in more
complex activities that they
have chosen. APL-8i

• Maintain focus and return
to an activity after a break.
APL-8j

• Sometimes able to ignore
irrelevant information
when focusing on a task
(sort multicolored wooden
beads by shape). APL-8k

• Consistently remain
engaged in self-directed
activities. APL-8l

Generally, young children have short attention
spans; however, by age 4, children can usually pay

attention to a toy or other activity for 8-10 minutes .
They can also shift their attention back and forth

between their activity and an adult talking to them,
and may be paying attention even when it does not

look like they are . Brief opportunities for children to
practice focusing on an activity or experience are

helpful, but only for very short periods of time .

44
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Goal APL-9: Children persist at challenging activities.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Try over and over to
make things happen
(make sounds to
get attention, work
to get to something
that is out of reach).
APL-9a

• Keep trying to
accomplish tasks that
they are not able to
do immediately (put
on a jacket, engage
a busy adult in play).
APL-9b

• Seek help from others to
complete a challenging
activity. APL-9c

• Keep working on an activity
even after setbacks (block
structure collapses, puzzle
piece does not fit). APL-9d

• Seek help from others to
complete a challenging
activity (ask a teacher
for help putting a puzzle
away on a high shelf; ask
a friend for help in naming
an unfamiliar animal in a
picture). APL-9e

• When something does not
work, try different ways
to complete the task
(when a block tower falls, try
putting the blocks together
in a different way to build the
tower again). APL-9f

• Keep working to complete
tasks, including those that
are somewhat difficult.
APL-9g

• Seek help from others to
complete a challenging
activity (ask a teacher
for help putting a puzzle
away on a high shelf; ask
a friend for help in naming
an unfamiliar animal in a
picture). APL-9h

• When something does not
work, try different ways to
complete the task (when a
block tower falls, try putting
the blocks together in a
different way to build the
tower again). APL-9i

• Plan and follow through on
longer-term tasks (planting
a seed and caring for the
plant). APL-9j

• Keep trying until a
challenging activity
is complete despite
distractions or interruptions
(multi-piece puzzle started
before lunch and completed
later). APL-9k

➡➡

45
Approaches to Play and Learning

Attentiveness, Effort, and Persistence

1. Furnish the classroom with a variety of
materials that allow children with diverse
interests and abilities to experience
success.

2. Set up clearly defined interest areas that
provide an abundant supply of toys and
materials so that children can carry out
ideas without interruption and frustration.
Organize the space in a way that allows
children who want to work on meaningful
activities for extended periods of time to be
protected from other children accidentally
destroying what they are working on.

3. Plan for smooth transitions when moving
children from one activity to another
(lunch to nap, center time to cleanup to
snack). Let children know ahead of time
when transitions are coming so they can
begin to finish what they are doing.

4. Provide a variety of activities and materials
that offer challenges appropriate to each
child’s age and ability level. Encourage
each child to try hard, to try different
ways of doing things, and to experience
challenges.

5. Add new things to the indoor and outdoor
environment for children to notice (e.g.,
windsocks and flags that move in the
breeze, bird feeders outside the window,
new photographs of family members).

6. Allow children to use materials in their
own ways and for extended periods of
time. However, keep in mind that some
children (e.g., children with disabilities)
may use materials in ways that do not help
their development. Learn how to respond
appropriately to this behavior.

Strategies for Infants and Toddlers

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Attentiveness, Effort, and Persistence

Strategies for Preschoolers

1. Provide large, uninterrupted blocks
of time for children to play, explore
materials, and solve problems at their
own pace. Allow children to repeat
activities and experiences, and to be
involved in activities without interruption.

2. Plan projects that are completed over the
course of several days.

3. Help children with limited language skills
stay involved with activities by giving them
words and other means to communicate if
they are having difficulty expressing their
ideas or staying focused on an activity.

4. When children indicate they need help,
respond by listening and observing to
determine what kind of help is needed.
Offer help when children show they want
and need it, adjusting levels of help to fit
the situation and child’s abilities.

5. Ask probing questions when children
appear to be losing interest in a problem or
activity to help them stay focused for just a
bit longer.

6. Encourage children to keep working and
focus on effort rather than results. Show
that you value their thinking processes
by acknowledging their work and effort.
(“Look how long and hard you worked on
this.”)

7. Help children notice each other’s
contributions. Encourage them to listen
carefully to what others in the class are
saying, ask questions, and work together.

48
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

49
Emotional and Social Development

Emotional and
Social Development (ESD)

50
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

T
he Emotional and Social
Development domain includes
children’s feelings about
themselves and their relationships
with others. Learning to manage

and express emotions is also a part of this
domain. Children’s development in this domain
affects their development in every other domain.
For instance, children who develop a positive
sense of self are more likely to try new things
and work toward reaching goals. They tend to
accept new challenges and feel more confident
about their ability to handle problems or
difficulties that may come up.

Children’s social skills and the relationships
they form with others are also important for
their overall development. Early relationships
provide the basis for children’s later
relationships with teachers and with peers.
Through positive relationships with adults,
children learn to understand and care about
others and gain skills that help them have
an easier time adjusting to the demands of
formal schooling when they are older. Sensitive
interactions with teachers and caregivers are
particularly important for infants and toddlers
because they are learning to form attachments,
or strong ties to people who care for them.
These attachment relationships are the
foundation for children’s development in all

Subdomains

Developing a Sense of Self

Developing a Sense of Self With Others

Learning About Feelings

areas. When adults pay attention to children’s
emotional and social cues and respond
consistently and with positive regard, children
feel important. They also learn to feel good
about themselves and to relate positively with
others.

Children also learn to manage their feelings
and impulses during their early years of life.
Very young children (infants and toddlers)
often need the support of sensitive adults
to learn how to regulate their emotions. As
children grow, their ability to regulate and
manage emotions is developing, but they often
still have difficulties controlling their feelings.

A number of factors affect children’s emotional
and social development. A child’s temperament
plays a big role in how she or he expresses
emotions and relates to others. Temperament
is the unique way a child responds to the
world around him or her. Some children
may be generally happy and very friendly,
while others may be more withdrawn or shy.
Sensitive teachers and caregivers accept that
children respond differently to people and
new situations based on their temperament,
and learn to interact with children in ways that
match each child’s temperament to support
their emotional and social development.

51
Emotional and Social Development

In addition to temperament, children have
other characteristics and experiences that can
affect their social and emotional development.
Children with disabilities may need additional
support in learning to express their emotions
and/or develop positive relationships. For
instance, a child with sensory impairments,
such as vision and hearing loss, may need
specialized assistance to develop a strong
sense of self and/or form relationships with
other children. Children who are learning

English in addition to their home language may
need some help communicating with peers who
do not speak their home language. Teachers
and caregivers must be “in tune” with each
child as an individual in order to fully support
children’s emotional and social development.

Finally, a child’s family and culture play
an important role in emotional and social
development. Some families and cultures
encourage children to be more reserved,

while others may encourage children to be
more outgoing. Cultures and families also
have different expectations for other areas of
emotional and social development, such as
expectations for how children communicate,
the degree to which children are expected to
be assertive, and the way that children show
respect to adults. Teachers and caregivers
should keep these types of cultural differences
in mind as they support children’s emotional
and social development.

Emotional and Social Development (ESD)
Developing a Sense of Self
• Goal ESD-1: Children demonstrate a positive sense of self-identity and self-awareness.
• Goal ESD-2: Children express positive feelings about themselves and confidence in what they can do.

Developing a Sense of Self With Others
• Goal ESD-3: Children form relationships and interact positively with familiar adults who are consistent and

responsive to their needs.
• Goal ESD-4: Children form relationships and interact positively with other children.
• Goal ESD-5: Children demonstrate the social and behavioral skills needed to successfully participate in

groups.

Learning About Feelings
• Goal ESD-6: Children identify, manage, and express their feelings.
• Goal ESD-7: Children recognize and respond to the needs and feelings of others.

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Developing a Sense of Self

Goal ESD-1: Children demonstrate a positive sense of self-identity and self-awareness.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Show awareness of
their bodies (study own
hands and feet moving;
use hands, mouth, and
eyes in coordination to
explore their bodies).
ESD-1a

• Show interest in their
image in a mirror (stare,
smile, reach out to
touch). ESD-1b

• Respond to their
name with sounds or
movement. ESD-1c

• Express likes and
dislikes (smile, cry, and
protest). ESD-1d

• Show awareness of
specific body parts.
ESD-1e

• Recognize themselves
in a mirror (point to self,
make faces in mirror).
ESD-1f

• Express choices with
gestures, signs, or words
(select a toy they want).
ESD-1g

• Show awareness of
some of their own
characteristics and things
they can do (recognize
themselves in pictures,
say, “I help Daddy!”).
ESD-1h

• Use their own name or a
personal pronoun to refer
to themselves (I, me, and
mine). ESD-1i

• Make choices and have
favorite clothes, toys, and
activities. ESD-1j

• Describe self
(characteristics that can
be seen, things they
can do, things they like,
possessions). ESD-1k

• Express a sense of
belonging to a group (say
“There’s Kirby from my
class,” move to stand with
own group upon request,
“I am a girl.”). ESD-1l

• Use own first and last
name. ESD-1m

• Choose activities they like
and name their favorite
activities. ESD-1n

• Describe themselves in
concrete ways, with greater
detail and accuracy (“My
eyes are brown.” “I am
tall.”). ESD-1o

• Express awareness that
they are members of
different groups (e.g.,
family, preschool class,
ethnic group). ESD-1p

• Choose to spend more time
on preferred activities, and
express awareness of skills
they are developing.
ESD-1q

53
Emotional and Social Development

Goal ESD-2: Children express positive feelings about themselves and
confidence in what they can do.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Show they expect
results from their
actions (repeat loud
noise to gain attention,
hit toy over and over to
produce sound).
ESD-2a

• Show pleasure at things
they have done (wiggle,
coo, laugh). ESD-2b

• Explore the
environment with
support from a familiar,
trusted adult. ESD-2c

• Explore the environment
on their own, but check
in with a familiar, trusted
adult occasionally.
ESD-2d

• Show confidence in their
ability to make things
happen by repeating or
changing their actions
to reach a goal (move
closer to reach an object
they want). ESD-2e

• Bring others things they
like or show them things
they have done. ESD-2f

• Express positive feelings
about themselves by
showing and/or telling
others about themselves,
things they like, or things
they have done. ESD-2g

• Explore the environment
independently to satisfy
their own interests
(seek out toy or favorite
materials). ESD-2h

• Show confidence in their
abilities through actions
and/or language (try to lift
a heavy object, say, “I’m
strong!”). ESD-2i

• Attempt to reach goals
without help from others
(push adult away, say “Me
do it myself!”). ESD-2j

• Express positive feelings
about themselves by
showing and/or telling
others about themselves,
things they like, or things
they have done. ESD-2k

• Express the belief that
they can do many
things. ESD-2l

• Try new activities and
attempt new challenges.
ESD-2m

• Express positive feelings
about themselves by
showing and/or telling
others about themselves,
things they like, or things
they have done. ESD-2n

• Express the belief that
they can do many
things. ESD-2o

• Stick with tasks even when
they are challenging.
ESD-2p

• Express opinions about
their abilities in different
areas (“I’m a good friend.” I
can run fast.” “I know all my
letters!”). ESD-2q

➡➡

Home language and culture are
an important part of children’s

developing self-concept and
self-identity . Teachers and

caregivers can help to support
this process by creating an
environment that reflects

the children they serve and
addresses children’s languages
and cultures in a respectful and

authentic way .

54
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Developing a Sense of Self

1. Observe children carefully. Learn how
each child prefers to be held for feeding,
sleeping, or comforting and how he or
she reacts to things like noise, light, or
touch. Also, ask parents or guardians.
Use what you learn to provide consistent,
predictable care and help each child be
comfortable. Share what you know with
others who care for the child.

2. Keep brief notes on each child to help
you remember the unique needs of each
individual child. Use this information as
you plan how you will care for the child.

3. Take plenty of time to interact with each
infant in a relaxed way during everyday
caregiving routines such as diapering,
dressing, and feeding. Plan ahead so
that you have everything you need (such
as supplies and clean hands) before you
start routines. Then you can focus only on
the child.

4. Hold and talk to babies individually
throughout the day, not only during
diapering, dressing, and eating times.
Cuddle them while reading a book or
playing with a toy.

5. If possible, use children’s home language
in daily conversations with them.

6. Talk with infants as you watch them
explore their bodies. For example, say,
“Look, at your hands, Jalen. You are
moving your fingers.”

7. Be on the floor with children. Support and
encourage them by making eye contact
and talking with them.

8. Offer a comfort object such as a favorite
blanket or stuffed animal to help a child
feel secure when he or she is stressed.

9. Place unbreakable mirrors in different
areas of the room so children get to see
themselves often (for example, above the
changing table and on the walls at child’s
eye level).

10. Try to avoid telling children “no” by giving
them choices that are OK. Give them
many chances to make choices and
decisions. For example, if a toddler tries
to grab a toy from another child, offer
two other similar toys to choose from.
Offer two different snacks, or let children
choose which book to read.

11. Respect toddlers when they try to get
what they want or do something their
own way. Be patient, give them time to
work at things, and encourage them to
communicate what they want.

Strategies for Infants and Toddlers

55
Emotional and Social Development

Strategies for Preschoolers

Developing a Sense of Self

1. Help establish a sense of trust and
security by developing warm and
responsive relationships with every
child. Greet each of them by name daily.
Through smiles or friendly gestures, show
you are pleased to see them.

2. Respect individual temperaments and
personal uniqueness and be aware of any
personal circumstances in a child’s life.

3. Encourage children to express their
feelings through appropriate words and
actions.

4. Communicate often with children, both
individually and in small groups. Listen to
what they are saying and show you value
their opinions by acknowledging them and
building on their ideas.

5. Involve children in planning related to
the classroom (e.g., ask for and use
their ideas about visual displays, book
selections, and activities).

6. If possible, use children’s home language
in daily conversations with them.

7. Help children identify themselves as
unique individuals and as members of
different groups (e.g., create and display
family photo books; ask the children to
describe something that is special about
another child; put a full-length mirror in
the classroom; use given names and
pronounce them correctly).

8. Design the classroom in a way that
stimulates and challenges children and
gives them choices that are appropriate
for a range of ages, developmental
stages, and abilities (e.g., freshen
materials in activity centers to reflect
emerging themes generated by children
and children’s interests).

9. Support the growth of children’s feelings
of competence and self-confidence
(e.g., use books and games they
create; provide access to materials that
encourage them to stretch their abilities;
provide positive comments about their
accomplishments).

10. Allow children to experiment without fear of
criticism or danger. Treat mishaps such as
spilling, dropping, or knocking over objects
as opportunities for positive learning.

11. Make the classroom environment safe,
pleasant, and joyful. Promote the use of
humor and singing.

12. Make room in the classroom for cozy,
safe areas where children can be alone if
they wish.

13. Get to know children’s families and value
them as partners. Invite their participation
and input through comment cards,
home visits, and casual conversation –
especially when things are going well.

56
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Developing a Sense of Self With Others
Goal ESD-3: Children form relationships and interact positively with familiar adults who are

consistent and responsive to their needs.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Enjoy being held,
cuddled, and talked to by
familiar adults. ESD-3a

• Recognize and reach out
to familiar people.
ESD-3b

• Seek to be near their
caregivers; stop crying
when they come near.
ESD-3c

• Show signs of separation
anxiety when a familiar
caregiver leaves. ESD-3d

• Make eye contact with
others. ESD-3e

• Imitate sounds, facial
expressions, or gestures
they see other people do
(peek-a-boo, hands up for
“so big”). ESD-3f

• Show preference
for and emotional
connection with
adults who take
care of them on a
regular basis (“check
in” with caregiver
while playing, greet
family member with
big hug, seek out
caregiver when upset
or uncertain, exhibit
anxiety when adult
leaves). ESD-3g

• Offer toys and objects
to familiar adults.
ESD-3h

• Form close relationships
with their primary
caregivers and other
familiar adults. ESD-3i

• Seek help from trusted
adults when upset (when
fearful or having difficulty
with something). ESD-3j

• Are less likely to get upset
when primary caregiver is
with them. ESD-3k

• Use words to influence
caregivers’ behavior
(ask for help, talk about
something they want the
adult to do). ESD-3l

• Seek out trusted teachers
and caregivers as
needed (for emotional
support, physical
assistance, social
interaction, problem-
solving, and approval).
ESD-3m

• Show affection for adults
they are close to. ESD-3n

• Given time, form positive
relationships with new
teachers or caregivers.
ESD-3o

• Show ease and comfort
in their interactions with
familiar adults. ESD-3p

• Seek out trusted teachers
and caregivers as
needed (for emotional
support, physical
assistance, social
interaction, problem-
solving, and approval).
ESD-3q

• Form positive relationships
with new teachers or
caregivers over time.
ESD-3r

• Use language effectively
to continue conversations
with familiar adults and to
influence their behavior
(ask for help, ask an adult
to do something). ESD-3s

Temperament also plays a role in
children’s relationships . Depending

on their temperament, some children
may have an easy time meeting new
people . Other children may be more
hesitant and/or shy, and may need

more time and support before they feel
comfortable enough to interact with

adults and peers .

57
Emotional and Social Development

Goal ESD-4: Children form relationships and interact positively with other children.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Notice other infants and
children (look at them,
turn in other’s direction,
reach for them, touch
them). ESD-4a

• Show pleasure at the
arrival of familiar peers.
ESD-4b

• Enjoy playing alongside
other children. ESD-4c

• Imitate actions of older
siblings and playmates.
ESD-4d

• Offer toys and objects to
other children. ESD-4e

• Show affection or
preference for particular
children (spontaneously
hug, want to play, call
other child a friend).
ESD-4f

• Remember and use
names of familiar
playmates. ESD-4g

• Use appropriate words
to influence playmates’
behavior (“Play with me.”
“Stop hitting me.”).
ESD-4h

• Participate in play with
other children. ESD-4i

• Show positive emotion
and turn taking with
familiar playmates (agree
to chase each other,
watch and imitate each
other’s play with toys).
ESD-4j

• Demonstrate social
skills when interacting
with other children (turn-
taking, conflict resolution,
sharing). ESD-4k

• Form and maintain
friendships with a few
other children. ESD-4l

• Identify another child as a
friend. ESD-4m

• Approach other children
easily, expecting positive
interactions. ESD-4n

• Show ease and comfort
in their interactions with
familiar children. ESD-4o

• Demonstrate social
skills when interacting
with other children (turn-
taking, conflict resolution,
sharing). ESD-4p

• Form and maintain
friendships with other
children of diverse cultural
backgrounds and abilities.
ESD-4q

• Seek and give support with
children they identify as
friends. ESD-4r

• Use language effectively
to have conversations
with other children and
influence another child’s
behavior (negotiate sharing
a toy, plan how to build
a block tower together).
ESD-4s

• Play and interact
cooperatively with other
children (work on project
together, exchange ideas).
ESD-4t

Children whose home language
is different from the language
spoken in the classroom may
need extra time and support
to develop peer relationships
because it may be difficult to

communicate with their peers .
Teachers should also keep in
mind that culture may play a

role in children’s relationships .
Families differ in terms of the
social skills and behaviors are

valued and expected .

58
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Goal ESD-5: Children demonstrate the social and behavioral skills needed to
successfully participate in groups.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

Emerging • Use gestures, sounds,
objects, or words to
get another person to
do something (bring
box to adult to be
opened, make noise to
get someone to look).
ESD-5a

• Follow simple
directions some of the
time. ESD-5b

• Control impulses some
of the time (look at
forbidden object and
say, “No, no,” allow
adult to direct them
to a different activity).
ESD-5c

• Accept adult help
to resolve problems
and conflicts, and
cooperate when an
adult redirects them
from a situation that
poses a problem.
ESD-5d

• Follow social rules, transitions,
and routines that have been
explained to them, with
reminders and practice.
ESD-5e

• Adjust their behavior to fit
different situations (tiptoe near
a sleeping baby, use a quiet
voice inside, runs outside).
ESD-5f

• Evaluate their own and others’
actions as right or wrong
(pointing out another child is
climbing on the table). ESD-5g

• Show caring and cooperation
(help to put away toys, offer to
help another person). ESD-5h

• Wait for a short time to get what
they want (a turn with a toy,
a snack), with guidance and
support. ESD-5i

• Accept “no” without getting
overly upset. ESD-5j

• Follow social rules,
transitions, and routines
that have been explained to
them, with reminders and
practice. ESD-5k

• Often make requests clearly
and effectively. ESD-5l

• Show awareness that their
actions affect others (move
carefully around classmate’s
block structure). ESD-5m

• Wait for a short time to get
what they want (a turn with a
toy, a snack). ESD-5n

• Work to resolve conflicts
effectively, with guidance
and support. ESD-5o

• Notice and accept
similarities and differences
among all people, including
people with disabilities and
those from different cultures.
ESD-5p

• Follow social rules,
transitions, and routines
that have been explained
to them. ESD-5q

• Make requests clearly and
effectively most of the time.
ESD-5r

• Balance their own needs
with those of others in the
group. ESD-5s

• Anticipate consequences
and plan ways to solve
problems effectively, with
guidance and support.
ESD-5t

• Use a variety of strategies
to solve problems and
conflicts with increasing
independence. ESD-5u

• Express respect and caring
for all people, including
people with disabilities
and those from different
cultures. ESD-5v

Taking turns and waiting are important aspects of participating in a group .
Generally, young children are not good at waiting . It is important that teachers try

to minimize the amount of time children have to wait for materials and/or activities .
To help encourage and support children’s ability to wait, teachers can occasionally

build in opportunities to practice waiting for very short periods of time .

59
Emotional and Social Development

Developing a Sense of Self With Others

Strategies for Infants and Toddlers

1. To promote attachment, allow only a small
number of people to care for each young
child regularly.

2. When there is more than one caregiver
in the room, assign one specific person
to be the primary caregiver for each
young child. The primary caregiver should
complete all of the child’s daily caregiving
routines, such as feeding and diapering.
This helps the child develop a strong
relationship with the caregiver and helps
the caregiver learn about the uniqueness
of the child. If the primary caregiver is
absent, assign a person familiar to the
child to be the primary caregiver.

3. Watch infants for signs that they are
not becoming attached. For example,
a child might become passive, not
react to something that would typically
upset a child, or seem not to thrive like
other infants. Talk with family members,
administrators, or other professionals if
you observe these signs.

4. Recognize that fear of strangers and
separation anxiety are normal stages of
attachment in mobile infants. Help parents
understand that fear of strangers and
separation anxiety are normal.

5. Treat children as individuals by using their
names rather than just talking to them as
a group.

6. Maintain eye contact and interact with
children in an engaging way during
caregiving routines such as diapering and
feeding.

7. Allow infants and toddlers to be with and
watch others much of the day.

8. Set up interest areas with enough toys
and materials for two to three children
to play without having to argue over the
materials.

9. Model “gentle touches” for toddlers as
they interact with others.

10. Encourage family members to say
goodbye to their infants and toddlers. This
helps children understand what to expect
when family members leave and trust that
their loved ones will come back.

11. Realize that parents may be afraid that
if their child becomes attached to other
caregivers, their child might be less
attached to them. Reassure parents and
guardians that children can become
attached to more than one person and will
not become less attached to them.

12. Support each child’s attachment to his/
her family while the child is in your care.
Greet both the infant/toddler and family
members as they arrive and depart. Talk
about family members with children during
the day. Set up a communication system
(report form, notebook) to let families
know what the child’s day has been like.

60
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Developing a Sense of Self With Others

Strategies for Preschoolers

1. Create opportunities for children to
interact with others who have varying
characteristics and abilities, identifying
and pointing out areas in which they share
a common interest.

2. Observe children in the classroom and
facilitate their entry into social groups with
their peers. Serve as broker between
Dual Language Learners and children
who speak English to facilitate their
engagement in play with others. For
example: Travis just joined the dramatic
play center. Prompt him: “Travis, ask your
classmates what they are playing.” Then
address classmates: “What part/job can
Travis do?”

3. Alert children to the feelings and
emotional needs of others (e.g., display
and talk about pictures depicting various
emotions; point out how children feel in
various real-life situations).

4. Be aware of social interactions among
children and create opportunities to
support friendships. For example, create
inviting areas within the room where small
groups of children can play.

5. Help children see the effect of their
behavior on others by encouraging them
to see others’ perspectives and share
their ideas about solving problems and
social conflicts (e.g., assist the process of
conflict resolution).

6. Allow children to share ownership of the
classroom by participating in discussions
related to classroom decisions and
helping to establish rules and routines.

7. Model asking for and understanding the
viewpoints and opinions of others.

8. Promote an atmosphere of cooperation
instead of competition (e.g., introduce
activities that require two or three children
to work together).

9. Provide opportunities for children to be
responsible members of the classroom
community, respecting shared rights
and property and helping others (e.g.,
assign individual cubbies for belongings;
rotate responsibility for tending classroom
plants).

10. Maintain an ongoing flow of information
between school and family, through
home-school journals or cassette tapes,
suggestion boxes, weekly newsletters,
phone calls, or classroom visits.

11. Make the classroom the children’s
space, with displays of their creations,
experiences, interests, and cultures.

12. Provide adaptive equipment and materials
when a child needs support to be active
and successful in program routines and
activities. When children are able to
participate, they feel a sense of belonging
and security.

61
Emotional and Social Development

Learning About Feelings

Goal ESD-6: Children identify, manage, and express their feelings.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Express a range
of emotions
(happiness,
sadness, fear, and
anger) with their
face, body, and
voice. ESD-6a

• Show when they
feel overwhelmed
or are in distress
or pain (cry, yawn,
look away, extend
arms or legs, arch
their body, fuss).
ESD-6b

• Soothe themselves
(suck thumb or
pacifier, shift
attention, snuggle
with soft toy).
ESD-6c

• Express a range
of emotions (happiness,
sadness, fear and anger)
with their face, body, and
voice. ESD-6d

• Use body language,
facial expression, and
sometimes words to
communicate feelings
(clap when happy, pout
and hunch shoulders when
sad, shout “Whee!” when
excited). ESD-6e

• Separate from parent or
main caregiver without
being overcome by stress.
ESD-6f

• Find comfort and calm
down in a familiar setting or
with a familiar person.
ESD-6g

• Express a range of
emotions
(happiness, sadness,
fear, anger, disgust,
tenderness, hostility,
shame, guilt, satisfaction,
and love) with their face,
body, vocal sounds, and
words. ESD-6h

• Communicate to make
needs known. ESD-6i

• Manage emotions and
control impulses with
guidance and support
(Say “I don’t like that!”
instead of hitting; wait by
door instead of running
ahead when excited to go
out). ESD-6j

• Display emotional
outbursts less often.
ESD-6k

• Express a range
of emotions
(happiness, sadness,
fear, anger, disgust,
tenderness, hostility,
shame, guilt,
satisfaction, and love)
with their face, body,
vocal sounds, and
words. ESD-6l

• Use a variety of words
or signs to express and
manage feelings more
clearly. ESD-6m

• Describe reasons for
their feelings (“I’m sad
because Grandma’s
leaving.” “That makes
me mad when you do
that!”). ESD-6n

• Express a range of emotions
(happiness, sadness, fear,
anger, disgust, tenderness,
hostility, shame, guilt,
satisfaction, and love) with their
face, body, vocal sounds, and
words. ESD-6o

• Independently manage and
express feelings effectively most
of the time. ESD-6p

• Use a larger vocabulary for
talking about different feelings
(“I’m frustrated with that puzzle!”
“I’m excited about our trip.”).
ESD-6q

• Give reasons for their feelings
that may include thoughts and
beliefs as well as outside events
(“I’m happy because I wanted to
win and I did.”). ESD-6r

• Use problem-solving strategies
when feeling angry or frustrated.
ESD-6sTeachers and caregivers

should keep in mind
that the way children

express their emotions
may be different for

children from different
cultural groups .

➡ ➡ ➡

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Goal ESD-7: Children recognize and respond to the needs and feelings of others.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Become upset when
another infant is
crying. ESD-7a

• Respond differently
to positive vs.
negative emotional
expressions of
others. ESD-7b

• Try to comfort another child
or an adult who is upset
(bring a comfort object,
pat the person on the back).
ESD-7c

• Look at familiar caregivers
to see how the caregiver
is feeling (do something
wrong and look to see if the
caregiver is angry, bump
head and start crying after
the caregiver expresses
concern/tries to comfort).
ESD-7d

• Match their tone and
emotions to that of others
during interactions. ESD-7e

• Try to comfort another
child or an adult who is
upset (bring a comfort
object, pat the person on
the back). ESD-7f

• Communicate concern for
others (share a toy with
someone who doesn’t
have one, ask, “Are you
OK?”). ESD-7g

• Offer help to meet the
needs of others (pick
up item someone
dropped, help another
child who is having
trouble building a block
tower). ESD-7h

• Recognize facial
expressions or actions
associated with different
emotions. ESD-7i

• Try to comfort another
child or an adult who is
upset (bring a comfort
object, pat the person on
the back). ESD-7j

• Communicate concern for
others (share a toy with
someone who doesn’t
have one, ask, “Are you
OK?”). ESD-7k

• Offer help to meet the
needs of others (pick up
item someone dropped,
help another child who is
having trouble building a
block tower). ESD-7l

• Show awareness that
other people have
different feelings (“I like
raisins but he doesn’t.”
“I’m scared on that ride
but she isn’t.”). ESD-7m

• Communicate
understanding and
empathy for others’
feelings. ESD-7n

• Show awareness that their
behavior can affect the
feelings of others (say, “I
didn’t mean to scare you
when I yelled.”). ESD-7o

• Choose to act in ways that
show respect for others’
feelings and points of
view most of the time with
guidance and support
(compliment each other
during play, work out
conflicts, show respect
for opinions expressed by
others). ESD-7p

➡➡

Some children, particularly those
with Asperger’s or autism, may not
recognize how other children are

feeling and need help from teachers
and caregivers in order to respond

appropriately to the needs and
feelings of others .

63
Emotional and Social Development

Learning About Feelings

1. Be aware of infants’ and toddlers’
reactions and reassure them that you
are there for them. Let them know you
care for them even when they have
strong negative feelings. Give them hugs,
cheers, and hold them in your lap if they
welcome these touches. (Remember,
some children prefer to be comforted in
other ways.)

2. Pay attention to infants’ signals that they
are overwhelmed. Give them some
quiet time or extra time cuddling with
you to help them recover. Take them out
of situations where there are too many
people, too much noise, or too much
stimulation of any kind.

3. Talk about your own feelings with the
children. Use words to describe your
emotions.

4. Use “feeling” words to acknowledge and
label emotions that you see the child is
experiencing (“You’re very mad!” “You
look sad.”). This helps the child to feel
understood and learn to use words to
describe feelings.

5. Understand that expression of feelings
(both positive and negative) is important to
healthy emotional development. Children
need to express both types of feelings
and have adults accept these feelings.

6. Provide adaptive equipment and materials
when a child needs support to be active
and successful in program routines and
activities. When children are able to
participate, they feel a sense of belonging
and security.

7. Focus on each toddler’s positive qualities
and accomplishments. Avoid talking about
children as good or bad, or messy or
neat.

8. Accept the toddler’s mistakes as a natural
process of learning and exploring. Use
supportive language such as “Oh, the
milk spilled. Let’s get a paper towel
and clean it up,” rather than “You’re so
clumsy. You made a mess.”

9. Encourage independent choices so
toddlers can feel a sense of control
and success. For example, let them
decide how to play and when they need
to go to the toilet. Let them do things
for themselves even if they do not do it
exactly the way you would have.

10. Provide opportunities for toddlers to
repeat successful activities over and over
again until they are ready to move on to
something more challenging. Have many
different toys available to toddlers at the
same time.

11. Use transition objects or comfort toys to
help children change routines or settings.

Strategies for Infants and Toddlers

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Learning About Feelings

Strategies for Preschoolers

1. Incorporate small and large group
lessons focused on a discussion about
feelings into regular classroom activities.
Allow children to describe their feelings
related to a personal event or classroom
event, etc.

2. Make books about feelings available
in the book area and for check-out.
Include simple books with children’s
faces depicting feelings (can be teacher
created or purchased).

5. Read a familiar book and discuss each
character’s feelings or reactions.

6. Give children words to explain why they
feel a certain way if they cannot express
it themselves. (“I think you are angry
because Joanie took your toy. Can you
tell her?”)

7. Guide children through brief exercises
that can help reduce stress. For example,
teach children how to take deep breaths
when they are upset or to reach up and
stretch their muscles to reduce tension.

8. Understand that expression of feelings
(both positive and negative) is important to
healthy emotional development. Children
need to express both types of feelings
and have adults accept these feelings.

9. Focus on each child’s positive qualities
and accomplishments. Avoid talking about
children as good or bad, or messy or neat.

10. Talk with children about how other children
might feel, particularly if they have done
something to upset another child.

3. Use a small flip chart with pictured
expressions and labels so children can
turn to the emotion that fits what they are
feeling (or have an adult help them find it),
especially nonverbal children or children
who have language delays or difficulty
with expressive language.

4. Include a “peace talk” area or
corner where children can go for
conflict resolution when they have a
disagreement.

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67
Health and Physical Development

Health and
Physical Development (HPD)

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T
he domain of Health and
Physical Development focuses
on physical growth and motor
development, sound nutritional
choices, self-care, and health/

safety practices. This domain is the foundation
for the future health and well-being of all
children. Good physical health and motor
development supports children’s learning and
plays a part in their ability to be successful in
almost any type of activity.

During the time from birth to age five,
children’s bodies go through a period of
rapid growth. Their body more than doubles
in size and their brain develops more rapidly
than during any other period in the lifespan.
Helping children establish good health
practices and eating habits is extremely
important. Good nutrition promotes not only
physical growth and health, but also cognitive
development skills such as memory, problem
solving, and decision-making. Children grow
and develop best when they are provided a
healthy and balanced diet, have sufficient rest,
and are physically active so that they develop
strength and stamina.

In addition to healthy eating habits, children
must have a variety of physical experiences
that promote physical fitness and allow

them to practice motor skills. Although
developmental milestones don’t occur at the
exact same time for all children, their growth
and motor development tends to follow a
similar sequence as their skills build upon
each other. They move from turning over to
sitting up, from crawling to walking, and then
from running to playing organized games.
They also develop fine or small motor skills
as they learn to use their hands for a variety of
tasks. Early childhood programs can promote
physical development by providing children
with a safe, supervised environment where
play is encouraged and children have ample
opportunities to explore.

Health and physical development also includes
children’s growing independence in carrying
out personal routines and their awareness of
health and safety concerns. This awareness
and independence grows when children begin
to participate in group and individual routines
such as changing diapers, putting away toys,
or washing their hands. It is particularly
important to pay attention to families’
preferences and the routines that children are
accustomed to at home. Self-care routines that
are consistent with the family’s culture will be
more comfortable for children. Also, teachers
and caregivers should be careful to help
children develop a sense of independence

Subdomains

Physical Health and Growth

Motor Development

Self-Care

Safety Awareness

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Health and Physical Development

in ways that are comfortable for families.
When children are very young, they need the
constant presence and guidance of adults to
help them carry out routines and ensure their
safety. However, as they grow older, they show
greater independence and begin to understand
that some situations are dangerous. Caregivers
and teachers can work with families to decide
when and how to promote children’s self-care
routines and independence.

Finally, it is important to remember that
each child develops at his/her own pace.
However, teachers and caregivers may be
the first to notice that a child’s development
is not consistent with typical expectations.
If a parent or teacher is concerned that a
child is not meeting many or all of the Goals
and Developmental Indicators described in
this document, additional evaluation may be
needed. You should consult a pediatrician,
neurologist, or developmental specialist to
determine if further intervention is needed.

Health and
Physical Development (HPD)
Physical Health and Growth
• Goal HPD-1: Children develop healthy eating habits.
• Goal HPD-2: Children engage in active physical play indoors

and outdoors.
• Goal HPD-3: Children develop healthy sleeping habits.

Motor Development
• Goal HPD-4: Children develop the large muscle control and abilities

needed to move through and explore their environment.
• Goal HPD-5: Children develop small muscle control and hand-eye

coordination to manipulate objects and work with tools.

Self-Care
• Goal HPD-6: Children develop awareness of their needs and the

ability to communicate their needs.
• Goal HPD-7: Children develop independence in caring for

themselves and their environment.

Safety Awareness
• Goal HPD-8: Children develop awareness of basic safety rules and

begin to follow them.

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Physical Health and Growth

Goal HPD-1: Children develop healthy eating habits.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Show interest in
feeding routines.
HPD-1a

• Help with feeding
themselves (eat finger
foods, hold bottle.
HPD-1b

• Show hunger or fullness
using actions, sounds,
or words (cry or search
for food, turn away
when full). HPD-1c

• Show food preferences.
HPD-1d

• Respond to different
textures of food in their
mouth (wait for the next
bite, spit out food, turn
head away). HPD-1e

• Eat different kinds of
food such as liquids,
pureed or soft foods,
and finely chopped
food. HPD-1f

• Try new foods.
HP1-g

• Feed themselves with some
assistance (may use hands,
utensils or cups). HPD-1h

• Ask for or accept food
when hungry. HPD-1i

• Eat enough to meet
nutritional needs, even
when amount or type of
food varies over time (eat a
lot at one meal and little at
the next, show interest in
many foods but no interest
in others). HPD-1j

• Eat a variety of small pieces
of age-appropriate table
foods. HPD-1k

• Try new foods.

HPD-1l

• Feed themselves using
utensils and hands.
HPD-1m

• Accept or refuse food
depending on their
appetite and personal
preference (make food
choices at a meal, leave
unwanted food on plate,
ask for seconds of favorite
food). HPD-1n

• Notice and talk about food
preferences, textures,
temperatures, and tastes
(crunchy crackers, warm
soup, sweet apples).
HPD-1o

• Try new foods.
HPD-1p

• Feed themselves with
utensils independently.
HPD-1q

• Communicate that some
foods are good for them
(fresh fruits, vegetables,
milk) and some are not
healthy (potato chips,
soda). HPD-1r

• Try new foods.
HPD-1s

• Feed themselves with
utensils independently.
HPD-1t

• Given a selection of
familiar foods, identify
which foods are nutritious
and which are not.
HPD-1u

• Talk about variety and
amount of foods needed
to be healthy (can identify
what is missing from their
meal). HPD-1v

• Name foods and
beverages that help to
build healthy bodies.
HPD-1w

➡ ➡

Children from all cultural backgrounds will
be accustomed to eating different types of

foods, some of which may be less nutritious .
It’s important to respect family preferences
and to also introduce the idea that children
should eat moderate amounts of a variety of

foods, including healthy foods .

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Health and Physical Development

Goal HPD-2: Children engage in active physical play indoors and outdoors.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Engage in physically
active movements
(spending time on
their tummy, repeating
actions, kicking, waving
arms, rolling over).
HPD-2a

• Move their bodies to
explore the indoor and
outdoor environment.
HPD-2b

• Develop strength and
stamina by continuing
movements over short
periods of time.
HPD-2c

• Show they enjoy active
play and seek to be
physically active (choose
to play often on climber,
laugh and squeal while
moving). HPD-2d

• Anticipate and ask for
outdoor play (point at
door and say, “Out!”,
resist coming indoors).
HPD-2e

• Engage in regular and
sustained movement
(push toys around play
yard, go up and down
slide over and over).
HPD-2f

• Develop strength and
stamina as they use large
muscles and participate
in physical activity for
longer periods of time.
HPD-2g

• Develop strength and
stamina by spending
moderate periods of time
playing vigorously.
HPD-2h

• Show satisfaction with
new active skills and
strengths (ask others to
watch them, say, “I’m big
and strong!”). HPD-2i

• With guidance and
support, transition from
active to quiet activities.
HPD-2j

• Develop strength and
stamina by spending
moderate periods of time
playing vigorously.
HPD-2k

• Choose a variety
of structured and
unstructured physical
activities indoors and
outdoors. HPD-2l

• Participate in simple
games and other
structured motor activities
that enhance physical
fitness (songs with
movement, throwing and
catching). HPD-2m

• Transition from active to
quiet activities with limited
guidance and support.
HPD-2n

• Develop strength and
stamina by spending
extended periods of time
playing vigorously.
HPD-2o

• Communicate ways
exercise keeps us healthy
and makes us feel good.
HPD-2p

• Participate in structured
and unstructured motor
activities that build
strength, speed, flexibility,
and coordination (red light,
green light; chase; free
play). HPD-2q

• Transition independently
from active to quiet
activities most of the time.
HPD-2r

➡ ➡

Young children
need both teacher-

directed and free-play
activities to promote

participation in active
physical play .

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Goal HPD-3: Children develop healthy sleeping habits.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Sleep for longer
periods at a time (more
at night, and less during
the day). HPD-3a

• Settle down and fall
asleep after a routine
that includes a familiar
series of events.
HPD-3b

• Develop a personal
sleep routine or pattern.
HPD-3c

• Cooperate with sleep
routines (choose a book,
get preferred sleep toy).
HPD-3d

• Use simple sounds,
gestures, or words to
show they are tired
(say, “Night, night.”).
HPD-3e

• Use language about sleep
(say, “Time for bed,” after
clearing lunch things; give
sign for sleep). HPD-3f

• With guidance, participate
in sleep routines (wash
hands after lunch, get
blanket, lie down on bed
or mat). HPD-3g

• Fall asleep on their own.
HPD-3h

• Recognize and
communicate signs of
being tired. HPD-3i

• With increasing
independence, start
and participate in sleep
routines. HPD-3j

• Communicate ways sleep
keeps us healthy and
makes us feel good.
HPD-3k

• Independently start
and participate in sleep
routines most of the time.
HPD-3l

In some cultures,
children are not

expected to sleep
independently or fall
asleep on their own .
Teachers should be

sensitive to a family’s
preferences about

how their child goes
to sleep .

73
Health and Physical Development

Physical Health and Growth

1. Promote and support breastfeeding for
young children. Provide storage for breast
milk, private areas for nursing mothers,
and education about the benefits of
breastfeeding for both mother and infant.
Feed iron-fortified formula to infants who are
not breastfeeding.

2. When an infant shows early signs of hunger
(e.g., beginning to stir when sleeping), begin
preparing food or milk so it is ready when
the child is ready to eat. Allow enough time
for them to finish bottles or food.

3. Ask families about food allergies and serve
only foods children are not allergic to. Also,
ask about any history of allergies in the
family. Some children may need to avoid
eggs, peanuts, nuts, and fish until they are
two or three.

4. Allow children to leave food uneaten. Do not
force them to eat more than they want. They
may be full.

5. Allow enough time for children to explore
foods with their fingers and to eat.

6. Eat healthy foods with children (fruits,
vegetables, whole grains, dairy products,

and protein). Talk about foods and how they
help the body. (“Milk makes your bones and
teeth strong.”)

7. Offer a variety of safe and healthy foods that
meet the nutritional needs of infants and
toddlers. Ask families what they eat at home
and offer these foods. Serve foods that
respect the family’s cultural, religious, and
other preferences, and that represent the
cultures of the children in the classroom.

8. Encourage young children to try new foods.
Offer a new food up to 10 times if needed to let
a child get used to a new taste and texture.

9. Offer types, sizes, and textures of food that
each infant or toddler can eat safely and
successfully. Work with families, dietitians,
and health care professionals to offer the
breast milk, formula, foods, and other forms
of nutrition appropriate for children with
special nutritional needs.

10. For young children who need help eating and
drinking, offer support, proper positioning,
special equipment, and many chances to
practice eating and drinking. Offer cups
and spoons and encourage children to feed
themselves when they are ready.

11. Some infants and toddlers are highly
sensitive to light, noise, and the way they
are touched. Provide spaces that offer
less stimulation so they can feel calm
and comfortable. Work with families and
specialists to offer appropriate physical
activity for these children.

12. Ask families to share the sleep routine
used at home and use it in the childcare
environment if appropriate (rock the child to
sleep, let them hold a special toy). Learn and
say the words families use to tell someone
they are tired. Use these words and teach
children to use them to tell you they are tired.

13. Provide areas for children to rest to
accommodate individual sleep needs.
Infants and toddlers should have individual
nap schedules.

14. Help children learn to calm themselves and
fall asleep. For infants, consider playing soft
music, lowering the lights, and quieting the
environment. For older children who choose
their own sleep positions, rubbing their back
may help them relax and fall asleep.

Strategies for Infants and Toddlers

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Physical Health and Growth

1. Model and discuss healthy eating habits
and provide a variety of nutritious snacks
and meals.

2. Develop a routine schedule for eating
regular meals and snacks.

3. Work with families to develop cultural and
religious awareness relating to foods and
traditions of mealtime.

4. Provide activities that encourage children
to explore a variety of foods, textures, and
use of utensils.

5. Allow and encourage children to serve
and clean up food. Provide materials for
pretend play about shopping, cooking,
serving, eating, and cleaning up.

6. Invite and encourage children to
participate in physical activity and free
play every day. Schedule several periods
of active physical play each day, with
each period lasting thirty to sixty minutes.
Include time for child-directed play and
adult-directed activities, and participate
with children in the activities.

7. Share information about programs
or activities in the community that
encourage physical activity for families,
including children with special needs:
parks, greenways, playgrounds,
swimming pools, lakes, and gyms.

8. Take children outside often and regularly
in all seasons. Dress them appropriately
for the weather (raincoats, sweaters,
boots, mittens, coats, hats). Show
children you enjoy being outdoors and
encourage them to explore the outdoor
environment.

9. Read books about healthy practices.
Discuss the concepts of rest, exercise,
and good eating related to good health.

10. Carry out sleep routines that meet the
child’s needs and take into account the
beliefs, customs, and needs of families.

11. Encourage and support children’s need
for rest and relaxation by scheduling both
active and quiet times during the day.

Strategies for Preschoolers

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Health and Physical Development

Motor Development

Goal HPD-4: Children develop the large muscle control and abilities needed to
move through and explore their environment.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Gain control of arm and
leg movements.
HPD-4a

• Maintain upright
posture when sitting
and standing. HPD-4b

• Move in and out of
various positions by
rolling, pushing up, and
pulling to stand.
HPD-4c

• Move from place to
place as their abilities
allow (squirm, roll,
scoot, crawl, cruise, or
walk). HPD-4d

• Develop strength,
balance, and
coordination by repeating
movements (pull up
and sit down; bend and
straighten, squat to pick
something up from the
floor). HPD-4e

• Move their arms and legs
together to climb, push,
and pull (push a stroller,
use riding toys, crawl up
steps). HPD-4f

• Move through the world
with more independence
(crawl, cruise, walk, run,
use therapeutic walker).
HPD-4g

• Move their arms and legs
to complete a task (kick,
jump, step, pedal, push
away). HPD-4h

• Move through the
world with a variety of
movements and with
increasing independence
(run, jump, pedal). HPD-4i

• Use familiar objects that
encourage large motor
movements (riding toys,
crawl tubes, large ball in
basket, slide). HPD-4j

• Perform actions smoothly
with balance, strength,
and coordination (dance,
bend over to pick up a
toy, reach up high on a
shelf, walk up and down
steps). HPD-4k

• Demonstrate strength
and balance by managing
uneven surfaces such as
hills, ramps, and steps.
HPD-4l

• Refine movements and
show generally good
coordination (e.g.,
throwing and catching).
HPD-4m

• Use a variety of toys and
equipment that enhance
gross motor development
(balls, slides, pedaling
toys, assistive technology).
HPD-4n

• Move their bodies
in space with good
coordination (running,
hopping in place,
galloping). HPD-4o

• Coordinate movement of
upper and lower body.
HPD-4p

• Perform complex
movements smoothly
(skipping, balancing on
beams, hopping from one
place to another). HPD-4q

• Move quickly through the
environment and be able to
stop (run fast, pedal fast).
HPD-4r

• Show awareness of own
body in relation to other
people and objects while
moving through space.
HPD-4s

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Goal HPD-5: Children develop small muscle control and hand-eye coordination to
manipulate objects and work with tools.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Use both hands to
swipe at, reach for,
grasp, hold, shake, and
release objects.
HPD-5a

• Transfer objects from
one hand to the other.
HPD-5b

• Use a pincer grasp to
pick up an object with
finger and thumb.
HPD-5c

• Use hands to manipulate
objects (stack two or
three large blocks, pick
up or roll a ball). HPD-5d

• Use hands and eyes
together (put together
and take apart toys, feed
themselves finger foods,
fill containers). HPD-5e

• Use simple tools (spoon
for feeding, hammer
with pegs, crayon for
scribbling). HPD-5f

• Use more complex,
refined hand movements
(stack a few small blocks,
try to draw, turn pages
one at a time). HPD-5g

• Use hands and eyes
together with a moderate
degree of control
(complete puzzles, thread
beads with large holes,
use shape sorters).
HPD-5h

• Use tools that require
finger and hand control
(large paintbrush,
measuring cups,
switches, shovel).
HPD-5i

• Draw simple shapes and
figures (square for block,
circles). HPD-5j

• Engage in activities
that require hand-eye
coordination (build with
manipulatives, mold Play-
Doh®, work puzzles with
smaller pieces). HPD-5k

• Use tools that require
strength, control, and
dexterity of small muscles
(forks, crayons, markers,
safety scissors, adapted
tools). HPD-5l

• Draw and write smaller
figures with more detail
(faces with features,
letters, or letter-like forms).
HPD-5m

• Engage in complex hand-
eye coordination activities
with a moderate degree
of precision and control
(fasten clothing, cut
shapes, put together small
pieces). HPD-5n

• Use tools that require
strength and dexterity
of small muscles with
a moderate degree of
control (spray bottle, hole
puncher). HPD-5o

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Health and Physical Development

Motor Development

1. Play with infants and toddlers both
indoors and outdoors. Make sure the
environment is safe. Include play on a
variety of surfaces and provide open
spaces for free movement.

2. Play with infants on their tummies
frequently throughout the day. Place
interesting toys in front of them and use
a rolled towel to support a baby’s chest
and arms if needed. For babies who do
not like being on their stomachs, try a few
minutes of tummy time several times a day
rather than for one long period.

3. Give young children brightly colored
and interesting toys to reach for or
move toward (balls, mobiles, soft toys).
Encourage them to bring their hands
together as they play with objects.

4. Put small, safe objects on a tray or
protected spot on the floor for children
to grab and handle. For example, offer
rattles and teething toys to infants; blocks,
crayons, and snap-together toys to older
toddlers. For children with impaired vision,
use toys with switches and varied textures.
Increase contrasts to help them see what
is there (bright toy on black background;
pictures outlined with heavy line).

5. Play games from different cultures that
include hand motions with words, such as
“Pat-a-cake,” “Todos Los Pescados,” and
“Itsy Bitsy Spider.”

6. Offer materials and activities to encourage
large sweeping motions and the ability to
hold objects. For example, children might
draw or paint with crayons, finger paints,
or objects like rubber stamps and small-
wheeled vehicles. Use wide brushes or
markers; adapt handles for children with
limited hand control.

Strategies for Infants and Toddlers

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7. Provide opportunities for children to
practice small motor skills during daily
activities and routines (zipping zippers
when putting on clothing, passing out
smaller objects to friends, etc.).

8. Use diapering time to do baby exercises
and to play (bicycling legs, arm lifts,
kicking, reaching).

9. Provide pillows, small mounds, balance
beams, stepping-stones, and other low
barriers for children to climb on and over.
This develops balance, builds strength,
and improves coordination.

10. Run, jump, skip, hop, and throw balls
with children, both indoors and outside.
Encourage them to move their bodies
indoors and outdoors with movement
games, music, and dancing from different
cultures (e.g., “I’m a Little Tea Pot,” “Little
Sally Walker,” “De Colores,” “All Fish
Swimming in the Water”).

11. Create an environment that includes
materials and equipment that can be used
by children with varying physical abilities.
For children with disabilities, provide
supports or special equipment that allows
them to participate in physical activities
and play (therapeutic walker, scooter
board, supportive seating for swings or
riding toys, bars for pulling up).

12. Create mazes and obstacle courses that are
age appropriate. For example, invite children
to move through tunnels, under chairs,
around tree trunks, and over low hills.

13. Provide push and pull toys, riding toys
(with and without pedals), balls, tools,
slides, and other materials that give
children chances to exercise large
muscles and practice skills.

14. Create activities to encourage children
with different abilities to play and learn
together. For example, play a game of
catch with a foam ball with children sitting
down on the floor or ground. Include
children who cannot walk with other
children in the group.

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Health and Physical Development

Motor Development

1. Plan activities that use a variety of materials
to support fine motor skill development,
with adaptations as needed, respecting
culture and differing ability levels (paper,
pencils, crayons, safety scissors, Play-
Doh®, manipulatives, blocks, etc.).

2. Provide daily opportunities and a variety
of activities for children to use hand-held
tools and objects.

3. Model the use of drawing and writing tools
in daily activities.

4. Provide opportunities for children to pour
their own drinks and to serve foods, such
as spooning out applesauce.

5. Provide a variety of materials, such as
beads and snap cubes, for children to put
together and pull apart.

6. Offer children toys and materials to fill,
stack, dump, and pour, such as small
blocks, buckets, plastic cups, and water.
Provide options for children with different
abilities. For example, include Play-Doh®,
puzzles with and without knobs, empty
boxes, and containers with lids. Be
sure to stock manipulative centers with
containers for objects to be put into.

7. Provide child-size tables and chairs so
children can use them independently.

8. Provide many opportunities for and
actively participate in children’s outdoor
play.

9. Change materials routinely to encourage
discovery, engagement, and participation.

10. Create an environment that includes
materials and equipment that can be used
by children with varying physical abilities.

11. Encourage children to take part in active
play every day, such as climbing, running,
hopping, rhythmic movement, dance, and
movement to music and games.

12. Supervise and participate in daily outdoor
play. Provide adequate space and age-
appropriate equipment and materials, with
adaptations as needed.

13. Plan daily physical activities that are
vigorous as well as developmentally and
individually appropriate.

14. Create an environment that includes
materials and equipment that can be used
by children with varying physical abilities.
For children with disabilities, provide
supports or special equipment that allows
them to participate in physical activities
and play (therapeutic walker, scooter
board, supportive seating for swings or
riding toys, bars for pulling up).

15. Create activities to encourage children
with different abilities to play and learn
together. For example, play a game of
catch with a foam ball with children sitting
down on the floor or ground. Include
children who cannot walk with other
children in the group.

Strategies for Preschoolers

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Self-Care

Goal HPD-6: Children develop awareness of their needs and
the ability to communicate their needs.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Use different sounds
to let caregivers know
they need attention.
HPD-6a

• Begin to soothe
themselves (suck
thumb, find pacifier,
reach for a security
object). HPD-6b

• Use gestures, words,
or sign language to
communicate what they
need. HPD-6c

• Use objects and
follow routines that are
comforting (get their
blanket and lie down
where they usually sleep,
pick out favorite book to
be read before lunch).
HPD-6d

• Use words or sign
language to ask for the
things they need (food
when hungry, drink when
thirsty, go outdoors when
they need to be physically
active). HPD-6e

• Soothe themselves when
needed (find a quiet area
for alone time, look at
book before nap). HPD-6f

• Use words or sign
language to ask for the
things they need (food
when hungry, drink when
thirsty, go outdoors when
they need to be physically
active). HPD-6g

• Use different strategies
to calm themselves when
needed (self-talk, deep
breathing, cozy corner).
HPD-6h

• Use language to ask adults
or peers specifically for the
kind of help needed in a
particular situation. HPD-6i

• Consistently use strategies
to calm themselves when
needed. HPD-6j

Children with disabilities may
communicate their needs in
different ways . Teachers and

caregivers should be sensitive to
children’s verbal and non-verbal

signals . For children with language
delays, watch carefully to see

how the child may communicate
through her/his facial expressions,

gestures, and/or assistive
technology device .

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Health and Physical Development

Goal HPD-7: Children develop independence in caring for themselves and their environment.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Tolerate care routines
(mouth care, hand-
washing, diapering,
dressing, and
bathing). HPD-7a

• Show interest and
assist in routines
(open mouth for milk
or spoon, raise arms
for dressing). HPD-7b

• Cooperate and help
with care routines
and cleanup (mouth-
care, hand-washing,
diapering, dressing,
bathing). HPD-7c

• Drink from a cup
and feed themselves
with their fingers or a
spoon. HPD-7d

• Use adaptive equipment,
ask for help with
positioning and movement,
and/or participate in
medical care routines as
needed. HPD-7e

• Initiate self-care routines
and complete with
guidance (put on some
clothes, undress, throw
away paper towel, begin
to show an interest in
toileting). HPD-7f

• Feed themselves with a
spoon. HPD-7g

• Help with meal and snack
routines. HPD-7h

• Take care of objects (put
toys away, handle materials
carefully, water plants or
garden). HPD-7i

• Use adaptive equipment,
ask for help with
positioning and movement,
and/or participate in
medical care routines as
needed. HPD-7j

• Dress and undress
themselves with occasional
assistance. HPD-7k

• Follow basic hygiene
practices with reminders
(brush teeth, wash hands,
use toilet, cough into
elbow). HPD-7l

• Serve food for themselves.
HPD-7m

• Help with routine care of
the indoor and outdoor
learning environment
(recycle, care for garden).
HPD-7n

• Name people who help
children stay healthy.
HPD-7o

• Use adaptive equipment,
ask for help with positioning
and movement, and/or
participate in medical care
routines as needed.
HPD-7p

• Dress and undress
themselves independently.
HPD-7q

• Gain independence in
hygiene practices (throw
tissues away and wash
hands, flush toilet). HPD-7r

• Eat with a fork. HPD-7s

• Perform tasks to maintain
the indoor and outdoor
learning environment
independently. HPD-7t

• Describe the value of good
health practices (wash
hands to get rid of germs,
drink milk to build strong
bones). HPD-7u

Some families may not
value independence in

self-care routines—in their
culture, the adults help
children with self-care

routines for a longer period
of time .

➡ ➡

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Self-Care

1. Respond quickly and consistently when
children tell you they need something. Learn
to read their cues, cries, and gestures. Ask
family members how and when children
may communicate certain needs.

2. Establish regular routines for diapering,
toileting, hand washing, eating, sleeping,
and dressing children. Do things the same
way every time as much as possible.

3. Use routine care as opportunities for one-
on-one interactions: talk about the routine
and feelings; sing a song; move legs and
arms of young infants.

4. Provide children many opportunities to
use the toilet when they show they are
ready. Support all attempts to use the
toilet. Coordinate the timing and process
of toilet learning with the family.

5. Establish routines of hand washing at
appropriate times (e.g., before and after
meals, after outdoor play, etc.) and
provide guidance for children to learn how
to wash their hands appropriately. Provide
hand-washing stations that children can
reach safely on their own.

6. Encourage children to practice cleansing
their mouths and brushing their teeth.
Model tooth brushing for older toddlers.
Provide stations for tooth brushing that
children can reach safely on their own.

7. Encourage children to take an active part
in dressing themselves. Suggest a step
the child can complete. (“Put your foot in
your pant leg.” “Pull up your pants.” “Pull
your arm out of your sleeve.”)

8. Allow plenty of time for children to try and
to participate in all self-care tasks.

9. Ask families and healthcare professionals
if a child with disabilities or special
healthcare needs has any special self-
care needs. Help children understand
and participate in these special self-care
tasks. Use picture cards to guide them
through the steps of self-care routines
like hand washing.

10. Learn about the abilities and customs
of children and their families. Set
up routines so children can do them
successfully. Make routines as similar
to home as possible.

Strategies for Infants and Toddlers

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Health and Physical Development

Self-Care

Strategies for Preschoolers

1. Teach and model hygienic practices
(e.g., washing hands, sneezing or
coughing into your elbow or sleeve, and
dental care).

2. Use interesting and entertaining ways to
practice personal care and self-help skills
(e.g., add baby doll outfits and clothing
with fasteners to the dramatic play
center, provide props that encourage
children to practice hygienic practices
such as washing their hands).

3. Provide instruction and facilitate ample
opportunities for children to practice self-
care skills as independently as they are
able (e.g., verbally or nonverbally asking
for help, feeding themselves, dressing,
washing hands, toileting, and locating
personal items).

4. Maintain environments that support
children’s ability to carry out self-care and
hygiene routines independently (child-size
sink, toilet, coat rack, toothbrushes, etc.).

5. Encourage children to show independence
in self-care practices. Provide time,
support, and equipment as needed.

6. Establish routines of hand washing at
appropriate times (e.g., before and after
meals, after outdoor play, etc.) and
provide guidance for children to learn how
to wash their hands appropriately. Provide
hand-washing stations that children can
reach safely on their own.

7. Respond consistently to children’s
expressions of need.

8. Offer children play food and kitchen
utensils from many cultures, especially
the cultures of families in your group.
Offer toys and props to practice self-care
behaviors (healthy play food, dress-up
clothes that are easy to put on, tubs to
wash baby dolls).

9. Read books about visits with the doctor
and the dentist. Offer play props so
children can pretend to visit them.

10. Teach children about the benefits of
good personal health practices. Make
sure to take into account individual family
beliefs and customs.

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Safety Awareness

Goal HPD-8: Children develop awareness of basic safety rules and begin to follow them.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Show trust in familiar
caregivers (calm
down with adult help,
make eye contact with
caregivers). HPD-8a

• Notice and imitate
adults’ reactions to new
people and situations.
HPD-8b

• Watch for adult reactions
to unfamiliar things or
situations that might be
dangerous. HPD-8c

• Show some caution
about unfamiliar and/or
unsafe situations.
HPD-8d

• Respond to simple
warnings that prevent
harm (“Stop!” “Hot!”
“Wait!”). HPD-8e

• Remember cause and
effect experiences and
apply their experiences
to future situations (avoid
touching cold railing,
walk slowly down steep
hill where fall happened).
HPD-8f

• Increase self-control over
their impulses (remind self
not to touch something;
wait for adult vs. running
ahead). HPD-8g

• With guidance, recognize
and avoid situations that
might cause harm.
HPD-8h

• Know what their bodies
can do, and play within
their abilities to avoid
injury to self or others.
HPD-8i

• Usually recognize
and avoid objects and
situations that might
cause harm. HPD-8j

• Usually follow basic safety
rules. HPD-8k

• Call a trusted adult when
someone gets injured or
is in an unsafe situation.
HPD-8l

• Avoid potentially dangerous
behaviors. HPD-8m

• Consistently recognize
and avoid people, objects,
substances, activities, and
environments that might
cause harm. HPD-8n

• Independently follow basic
safety rules. HPD-8o

• Identify people who
can help them in the
community (police,
firefighter, nurse). HPD-8p

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Health and Physical Development

Safety Awareness

1. Provide a safe environment indoors and
outdoors so infants and toddlers can
explore without hurting themselves or
others. Help families learn about safe
environments for infants and toddlers.

2. Stay near infants and toddlers at all times
and watch to keep them safe.

3. Hold, cuddle, make eye contact, and talk
with young children to build trust.

4. Model safe practices for infants and
toddlers. (Don’t stand on chairs or sit on
shelves.) Explain why and how unsafe
actions can hurt them and others.

5. Do not try to make infants or toddlers do
things they are afraid to do. Help them
learn to trust their feelings about what is
safe and what is not safe.

6. Repeat safety messages every time they
are needed. Understand that you may
have to repeat them many times. (“Please
put your feet on the ground. Chairs are for
sitting.”)

7. Give specific praise to toddlers for
remembering safety messages and safe
behaviors. (“Thank you for waiting for me.”
“That’s good. You’re sitting in your chair.”)

8. Use play with older toddlers to reinforce
safety messages and practice responding
to dangerous situations. (“Let’s pretend the
fire alarm went off. What should we do?”)

9. Continue to supervise older toddlers
closely. They are beginning to develop
self-control, but it is easy for them to get
excited and forget what is dangerous.

Strategies for Infants and Toddlers

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Safety Awareness

1. Provide a safe, healthy, supportive
environment with appropriate supervision.

2. Teach safety rules and model safe
practices (e.g., bus safety, playground
safety, staying with the group, safe use
of classroom materials, and knowing
personal identification information).

3. Teach and model appropriate responses
to potentially dangerous situations,
including fire, violent weather, and
strangers or other individuals who may
cause harm.

4. Repeat safety messages every time they
are needed. Understand that you may
have to repeat them many times. (“Please
put your feet on the ground. Chairs are for
sitting.”)

5. Use play to reinforce safety messages
and practice responding to dangerous
situations. (“Let’s pretend the fire alarm
went off. What should we do?”)

6. Talk about consequences of unsafe
behavior such as injury to self or damage
to property.

7. Help preschoolers identify people they
can go to when they feel afraid or where
to go to feel safe when they need help
(family members, caregivers, fire fighters,
and other community helpers).

Strategies for Preschoolers

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89
Language Development and Communication

Language Development and
Communication (LDC)

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

F
rom birth, children are learning
language and developing the ability
to communicate. The Language
Development and Communication
domain describes many important

aspects of children’s language and early literacy
development.

Language development begins with children’s
ability to understand what others are
communicating to them. Infants and toddlers
often can understand much more than they
can say. They learn the meaning of words
and other forms of communication first, and
gradually learn to express themselves, starting
with the ability to express their needs through
crying, gesturing, and facial expressions, and
later using words to express themselves. By the
time they are preschoolers, most children have
developed a large vocabulary and are learning
the rules of language, such as grammar.

Children also learn many important early
literacy skills as they grow and develop. The
youngest children build the foundation for
reading and writing as they explore books,
listen to songs and nursery rhymes, hear
stories, and begin to draw and scribble.
Preschoolers learn to follow along as someone
reads to them, remember familiar stories
and talk about them, learn the names of the

letters of the alphabet, and begin to be more
intentional about what they draw and scribble.

Adults who build nurturing relationships
by paying close attention to what children
are trying to communicate and responding
consistently to children’s communication
help children become good communicators.
This is especially important for infants and
toddlers as they learn first how to communicate
nonverbally, and then with words. Teachers and
caregivers also promote communication skills
and early literacy skills as they talk with, read
to, and sing with children of all ages. Children
learn that reading and writing are important
as they see adults using these skills in everyday
life and, for preschoolers, as they begin to point
out letters, help children follow print, and play
games to introduce early literacy concepts such
as the sounds included in words. Teachers and
caregivers support children’s early literacy
development through learning experiences
that introduce early literacy concepts such as
the names of letters naturally as a part of daily
routines and activities, as opposed to teaching
one letter per week or focusing on early literacy
skills outside of daily activities that children
find meaningful.

Many families speak languages other than
English at home. Children need to continue

Subdomains

Learning to Communicate

Foundations for Reading

Foundations for Writing

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Language Development and Communication

to learn and speak their family’s language
because learning their home language lays the
foundation for learning English, plus they will
learn other concepts more easily. Children whose
families speak a language other than English
will probably demonstrate progress on the
Goals and Developmental Indicators included
in Foundations in their home language, so it’s
really important to encourage children and their
families to continue to use their own language
while they are learning English.

Teachers and caregivers should also keep in
mind that children with disabilities may need
extra support when they are communicating
with others. They may need listening devices
to help them hear so that they can learn the
sounds and words used in language. They may
need therapy or assistive devices to help them
communicate clearly. Teachers and caregivers
should communicate with and observe young
children carefully to see if they are picking
up communication skills early on, and seek
additional assistance if a child seems to have a
delay in this area.

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Language Development and Communication (LDC)
Learning to Communicate
• Goal LDC-1: Children understand communications from others.
• Goal LDC-2: Children participate in conversations with peers and adults in one-on-one, small, and larger

group interactions.
• Goal LDC-3: Children ask and answer questions in order to seek help, get information, or clarify something

that is not understood.
• Goal LDC-4: Children speak audibly and express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly.
• Goal LDC-5: Children describe familiar people, places, things, and events.
• Goal LDC-6: Children use most grammatical constructions of their home language well.
• Goal LDC-7: Children respond to and use a growing vocabulary.

Foundations for Reading
• Goal LDC-8: Children develop interest in books and motivation to read.
• Goal LDC-9: Children comprehend and use information presented in books and other print media.
• Goal LDC-10: Children develop book knowledge and print awareness.
• Goal LDC-11: Children develop phonological awareness.
• Goal LDC-12: Children develop knowledge of the alphabet and the alphabetic principle.

Foundations for Writing
• Goal LDC-13: Children use writing and other symbols to record information and communicate for a variety

of purposes.
• Goal LDC-14: Children use knowledge of letters in their attempts to write.
• Goal LDC-15: Children use writing skills and writing conventions.

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Language Development and Communication

Learning to Communicate

Goal LDC-1: Children understand communications from others.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Engage in individual
and reciprocal sound
exploration and play (make
“raspberries” or other
sounds with someone).
LDC-1a

• Show interest in voices,
and focus on speech
directed at them. LDC-1b

• Respond to different tones
in speech directed at
them. LDC-1c

• Respond to simple
requests (“Come here.”
or “Do you want more?”).
LDC-1d

• Respond to others by
using words or signs.
LDC-1e

• Respond to gestures,
facial expressions,
tone of voice, and
some words that show
emotions. LDC-1f

• Follow simple directions
and/or visual cues (“Put
your pillow on the mat.”
“Please sit by me.”).
LDC-1g

• Respond when others talk to
them, using a larger variety of
words or signs. LDC-1h

• Respond to gestures, facial
expressions, tone of voice,
and some words that show
emotions. LDC-1i

• Follow two-step directions with
visual cues if needed (“Pick
up the paper and put it in the
trash.” “Get your cup and put it
on the table.”). LDC-1j

• Show understanding
of increasingly
complex sentences.
LDC-1k

• With prompting and
support, respond to
requests for information
or action. LDC-1l

• Follow simple multistep
directions with visual
cues if needed.
LDC-1m

• Show understanding
of increasingly
complex sentences.
LDC-1n

• Respond to requests
for information or
action. LDC-1o

• Follow more detailed
multistep directions.
LDC-1p

Receptive communication, or
understanding what others are

communicating, is one of the first
communication skills to emerge .

Children begin to understand what
others are communicating to them
much earlier than they are able to

express themselves to others .

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Goal LDC-2: Children participate in conversations with peers and adults
in one-on-one, small, and larger group interactions.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Respond differently to
facial expressions and
tones of voice. LDC-2a

• Pay brief attention to
the same object the
caregiver is looking at.
LDC-2b

• Engage in turn taking
during social and
vocal play with adults
and other children
(babbling, imitating
facial expressions,
repeating sounds from
languages they hear).
LDC-2c

• Establish joint
attention by looking
at an object, at their
caregiver, and back at
the object. LDC-2d

• Respond to and
initiate dialogue with
another person.
LDC-2e

• Use movement or
behavior to initiate
interaction with
another person.
LDC-2f

• Engage in short
dialogues of a few
turns. LDC-2g

• Ask questions or use
verbal or nonverbal
cues to initiate
communication with
another. LDC-2h

• Demonstrate an
understanding that people
communicate in many
ways (gestures, facial
expressions, multiple
spoken languages, sign
language, augmentative
communication). LDC-2i

• Initiate and carry on
conversations, and ask
questions about things
that interest them. LDC-2j

• With prompting and
support, make comments
and ask questions related
to the topic of discussion.
LDC-2k

• Express an understanding that
people communicate in many
ways (gestures, facial expressions,
multiple spoken languages, sign
language, and augmentative
communication). LDC-2l

• Initiate and carry on conversations
that involve multiple back and
forth communications or turns
between the persons involved in
the conversation. LDC-2m

• Initiate and participate in
conversations related to interests
of their own or the persons they
are communicating with. LDC-2n

• Participate in a group discussion,
making comments and asking
questions related to the topic.
LDC-2o

• Appreciate and use humor.
LDC-2p

Dual Language Learners who are learning
a home language that is not English most
often have stronger communication skills

in their home language . It is important
that they continue to learn communication

skills in their home language even when
they begin to learn to speak English .

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Goal LDC-3: Children ask and answer questions in order to seek help, get information,
or clarify something that is not understood.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

Emerging • Respond to simple
statements and
questions about pictures,
play, people, and things
that are happening.
LDC-3a

• Answer simple questions
(“What is she doing?”
“What happened to the
bear in the story?”).
LDC-3b

• Use simple sentences or
questions to ask for things
(e.g., people, actions,
objects, pets) or gain
information. LDC-3c

• Answer longer questions
using more detail. LDC-3d

• Use sentences or
questions to ask for things
(people, actions, objects,
pets) or gain information.
LDC-3e

• Answer more complex
questions with more
explanation (“I didn’t like
camping out because it
rained.” “Emily is my friend
because she’s nice to
me.”). LDC-3f

• Ask specific questions
to learn more about their
world, understand tasks,
and solve problems.
LDC-3g

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Goal LDC-4: Children speak audibly and express thoughts, feelings, and ideas clearly.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Repeat actions that
mean something
specific (lift arms to
be picked up, point at
desired toys). LDC-4a

• Make different sounds
for different purposes
(whimper when wet, cry
loudly when hungry).
LDC-4b

• “Jabber” and pretend to
talk using many sounds
or signs from the
languages used around
them. LDC-4c

• Communicate through
facial expressions,
sounds, and body
movements. LDC-4d

• Expect others to
understand them and
show frustration, often
through their behavior, if
not understood. LDC-4e

• Communicate messages
with expression, tone,
and inflection. LDC-4f

• Use speech that is
understood most of the
time by familiar listeners.
LDC-4g

• Communicate messages
with expression, tone, and
inflection appropriate to
the situation. LDC-4h

• Speak clearly enough to
be understood by familiar
adults and children.
LDC-4i

• Use language and
nonverbal cues to
communicate thoughts,
beliefs, feelings, and
intentions. LDC-4j

• Adapt their communication
to meet social expectations
(speak quietly in library,
speak politely to older
relative). LDC-4k

• Speak clearly enough to
be understood by most
people. LDC-4l

Children who are generally more quiet than
others and children who are learning English as
a second language may speak less often, so it’s
important for teachers and caregivers to pay

close attention when quiet children do talk . Be
sure to give them many opportunities to express
themselves in different ways, and listen carefully

to see if you can understand the child easily .
Children with disabilities may not have clear

speech . If a child has a diagnosed language delay
or disability, look for other ways in which he or she
can communicate to see if his/her communication

skills are progressing .

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Goal LDC-5: Children describe familiar people, places, things, and events.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

Emerging • Act out familiar scenes
and events, and imitate
familiar people.
LDC-5a

• Talk to themselves and others
about what they are
“working on,” what they
are doing, routines, and
events of the day. LDC-5b

• Use dramatic play to act out
familiar scenes and events, and
imitate familiar people. LDC-5c

• Talk to themselves and
others about what they
are “working on,” what
they are doing, routines,
and events of the day.
LDC-5d

• Describe experiences
and create or retell short
narratives. LDC-5e

• Describe experiences and
create and/or retell longer
narratives. LDC-5f➡

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Goal LDC-6: Children use most grammatical constructions of their home language well.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Make different sounds
for different purposes
(whimper when wet, cry
loudly when hungry).
LDC-6a

• “Jabber” and pretend to
talk using many sounds
or signs from the
languages used around
them to communicate.
LDC-6b

• “Jabber” and put
together vocalizations in
a way that sounds similar
to the rhythm and flow
of their home language.
LDC-6c

• Use a few words to
communicate (make
requests and ask
questions). LDC-6d

• Communicate in short
sentences that follow the
word order of their home
language. LDC-6e

• Combine two and three
words. LDC-6f

• Communicate in longer
sentences and use
more conventional
grammar in their home
language (plurals, tenses,
prepositions). LDC-6g

• Make grammatical errors
that follow language rules
(say, “mouses” instead of
“mice”). LDC-6h

• Speak in full sentences
that are grammatically
correct most of the time.
LDC-6i

Children learn to speak with proper grammar
slowly, over time . For instance, it takes longer

for children to understand how to use personal
pronouns like “I” or “you .” They often make

mistakes that may be puzzling or funny to adults,
but this is part of the process of learning the

rules of language . Dual Language Learners learn
grammar rules first in their home language . It takes
longer for them to get the hang of the rules of the
second language they are learning, and they may
use the grammatical constructions of their home

language even when they use English words .

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Goal LDC-7: Children respond to and use a growing vocabulary.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Make specific sounds,
facial expressions,
and/or gestures for
certain people and
objects. LDC-7a

• Imitate sounds, words,
and gestures. LDC-7b

• Recognize spoken
or signed words for
common items.
LDC-7c

• Show steady increase in
words used (e.g., name
family members and
familiar objects). LDC-7d

• Imitate parts of familiar
songs, chants, or
rhymes. LDC-7e

• Respond to simple
words and phrases that
they hear often. LDC-7f

• Use several words to
make requests (e.g.,
“done,” “wannit,”
“please”) as well as to
label people and objects.
LDC-7g

• Use new words each
day and have a word for
almost all familiar people,
objects, actions, and
conditions (hot, rainy,
sleepy). LDC-7h

• Participate in or repeat
familiar songs, chants, or
rhymes. LDC-7i

• Show they understand
many new vocabulary
words and a variety of
concepts (big and little, in
and out). LDC-7j

• Repeat familiar songs,
chants, or rhymes.
LDC-7k

• Use more than one word
for the same object and use
words for parts of objects
(e.g., dog, beagle, Rover;
arm, leg). LDC-7l

• Make up names for things
using words they know (e.g.,
dog doctor for veterinarian).
LDC-7m

• Use many kinds of cues in
the environment to figure out
what words mean. LDC-7n

• Repeat familiar songs,
chants, or rhymes.
LDC-7o

• Use a growing
vocabulary that includes
many different kinds of
words to express ideas
clearly. LDC-7p

• Infer the meaning of
different kinds of new
words from the context
in which they are used
(for example, hear
“sandals” and “boots”
used to describe two
pairs of shoes, and
infer that the unfamiliar
shoes must be sandals
because they know that
the other pair of shoes
are boots). LDC-7q

Young children first learn vocabulary words for people,
objects, and activities . Later, children begin to learn words
for more abstract concepts or things they don’t experience

directly . Dual Language Learners develop vocabulary
first in their home language . As they begin to learn their

second language, they will build their vocabulary the same
way as their home language—learning words that relate to
things and people they experience first, followed by words

that are more abstract . They may mix words from their
home language and words from their second language as

their vocabulary grows . This is typical for children who are
learning two languages .

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Learning to Communicate

Strategies for Infants and Toddlers

1. Make sure babies can see or feel your
mouth when you hold them. Then, make
sounds or repeat the sounds babies
make.

2. Respond to infants when they look at
you, cry, smile, coo, say words, and
reach or move toward you. Talk to them,
pick them up, and imitate their sounds
back to them. Show them you enjoy
these conversations.

3. Take turns with infants and toddlers
through talking, actions, and playing
games like “peek-a-boo” or other
communication games from their culture.
Ask family members to teach you some
of these games.

4. Smile big, make silly faces, use high
and low voices, and hug infants and
toddlers. Use many hand gestures and
sign language appropriate for infants and
toddlers, like waving your hand when
saying, “Come here.”

5. Take infants and toddlers outdoors to
listen to different sounds. Point out the
sounds by saying things like, “Hear the
fire truck!” or “Listen to the buzzing bees!”

6. Even if you don’t fluently speak the child’s
home language, learn to say at least a few
words. Learn greetings, words for favorite
people and things, and words or phrases for
common events and routines.

7. Play audio recordings of family
members’ voices in their own language
for infants and toddlers to hear. This will
help infants and toddlers feel connected
to their families.

8. Use a variety of words when you talk,
including labels for things, action words,
and many descriptive words. (“Look at
the squirrel with the long, fluffy tail! It is
running and jumping all over the yard.”)

9. Describe what you are doing and what
infants and toddlers are doing. (“I’m
putting lunch in the oven right now. I can
see you are all ready because you are
waiting for me at the table.”)

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10. When you speak, make your tone and
facial expression match what you are
saying. (For example, use a serious tone
and don’t smile when saying, “We don’t
hit our friends. Hitting hurts.”)

11. Imitate and repeat the child’s motions,
sounds, and attempts at words in
different languages and in a positive and
encouraging manner.

12. Recognize that young infants do not cry
or act out in order to be naughty or to
make you angry. They are simply learning
to communicate their wants and needs.
Try to meet their needs or wants.

13. Realize that toddler behaviors such as
biting or tantrums may happen because
they do not yet have the words to
communicate. Help toddlers to calm
down and give them words for their
feelings.

14. Encourage children to try out new sounds
and words, including words in different
languages (family language, school
language, and/or other language).

15. Talk with infants and toddlers in a positive
tone and speak in an encouraging way
about what they are hearing, seeing,
feeling, smelling, and tasting. Talk about
printed words they see related to these
experiences.

16. Be an appropriate language model by
using correct grammar and a variety of
different words. Show infants and toddlers
how to participate in conversations by
having many conversations with them and
with other children and adults.

17. Sing songs, say rhymes, and do finger
plays with infants and toddlers in English
and other languages.

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Learning to Communicate

Strategies for Preschoolers

1. Use facial expressions, gestures, and a
rich and varied vocabulary when speaking
and reading with children.

2. For Dual Language Learners, repeat
common phrases frequently, slowly, and
clearly.

3. Introduce new words and concepts by
labeling what children are doing and
experiencing.

4. Before reading a book or introducing a new
concept, determine which words the Dual
Language Learners in your class might
not know that are important to understand
the book. Plan strategies to teach these
words. For instance, say the word in their
home language first before introducing it in
English and/or use pictures or objects to
illustrate what the word means.

5. Use the new words you have introduced
in a variety of contexts during the day.
Be intentional in your use of new words
and phrases so children, especially
Dual Language Learners, are repeatedly
exposed to these words and phrases.

6. Learn new words in the child’s family
language and use them when introducing
new concepts.

7. Give children clear instructions that help
them move from simple directions to a
more complex sequence. State directions
positively, respectfully, carefully, and only
as needed.

8. Use visual cues such as props,
demonstrations, and gestures to help
children understand instructions, especially
children who are just beginning to learn
English and children with disabilities who
have limited language skills.

9. Engage children in conversations in
small groups so you are able to monitor
their understanding and they have more
opportunities to express themselves than
in the large group.

10. Engage children frequently in one-on-
one conversations; listen and respond
to what they are saying. Show interest by
sitting face to face at the child’s level and
maintaining eye contact.

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11. Help children discriminate sounds in
spoken language through rhymes,
songs, and word games, using various
media (e.g., CDs and tapes of music and
stories).

12. Model good conversational skills and
encourage children to use them (e.g.,
encourage children not to interrupt others,
help children to clarify what they are
saying when they feel misunderstood).

13. Model and provide opportunities for
children to communicate in different ways
(e.g., home languages and also manual
signs, gestures, pictures, and devices).

14. Encourage opportunities for Dual
Language Learners to interact with peers.
Help them communicate with English-
speaking peers by offering words,
showing them how to use gestures, etc.

15. Encourage children to describe
their family, home, community, and
classroom. Expand on what they say by
adding information, explanations, and
descriptions.

16. Help children remain focused on the main
topic of conversation by redirecting and
restating current ideas.

17. Ask open-ended questions that
encourage conversation and stimulate
children’s creativity. Take into
consideration Dual Language Learners’
process of second language acquisition
when asking questions (see section
on DLLs). Even if they cannot respond
to open-ended questions in complete
sentences in English yet, they might be
able to respond with a familiar word.

18. Allow enough wait time for children
respond to questions.

19. Make the value of bilingualism explicit in
the classroom. Reinforce children’s use of
another language.

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Foundations for Reading

Goal LDC-8: Children develop interest in books and motivation to read.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Pat and chew on
tactile books. LDC-8a

• Look at pictures of
faces and simple
objects. LDC-8b

• Listen to simple and
repetitive books,
stories, and songs.
LDC-8c

• Engage in reading behaviors
independently (choose
books, turn pages (but not
always in order, tell the
story). LDC-8d

• Show interest in books (e.g.,
tactile and picture books).
LDC-8e

• Listen to simple and repetitive
books, stories, and songs for a
brief period of time. LDC-8f

• Carry books around, “name”
them, and select books for
adults to read out loud.
LDC-8g

• Engage in reading
behaviors
independently
(choose books, turn
pages but not always in
order, tell the
story). LDC-8h

• Listen for short periods
of time to storybooks,
informational books
stories, poetry, songs
and finger plays.
LDC-8i

• Engage in reading
behaviors independently
(choose books, turn
pages but not always in
order, tell the story).
LDC-8j

• Show an interest in books,
other print, and reading-
related activities.
LDC-8k

• Listen to and discuss
storybooks, simple
information books, and
poetry. LDC-8l

• Engage in reading
behaviors independently
with increased focus for
longer periods of time.
LDC-8m

• Use and share books
and print in their play.
LDC-8n

• Listen to and discuss
increasingly complex
storybooks, information
books, and poetry.
LDC-8o

➡ ➡

Teachers and caregivers who
model reading with different types

of books and provide different
types of book-reading experiences
inspire children to want to learn to
read . Children who are developing
the motivation to read often want
to hear the same book read over
and over . This is a sign that they

are developing an interest in books
and starting to understand the

importance of reading .

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Goal LDC-9: Children comprehend and use information
presented in books and other print media.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

Emerging • Listen to and repeat
parts of simple and
repetitive books,
stories, songs, and
finger plays. LDC-9a

• Allow entire short
book to be “read”
with willingness to
look at most pages.
LDC-9b

• Make appropriate
sounds when looking
at pictures (say,
“Quack, quack”
when looking at a
duck, “Vrrrrooom”
when looking at a
car). LDC-9c

• Chime in on a repeated line
in a book while being read to
by an adult. LDC-9d

• Pretend to read familiar
books from memory; repeat
familiar phrases while
looking at a book. LDC-9e

• Begin to relate personal
experiences to events
described in familiar books.
LDC-9f

• Answer simple questions
about stories. LDC-9g

• Imitate the special language
in storybooks and story
dialogue (repetitive language
patterns, sound effects, and
words from familiar stories).
LDC-9h

• Imitate the special language in
storybooks and story dialogue
with some accuracy and detail.
LDC-9i

• With prompting and support,
use books and other media that
communicate information to learn
about the world by looking at
pictures, asking questions, and
talking about the information.
LDC-9j

• Use their knowledge of the world
(what things are, how things work)
to make sense of stories and
information texts. LDC-9k

• Relate personal experiences to
events described in familiar books,
with prompting and support.
LDC-9l

• Ask questions about a story or the
information in a book. LDC-9m

• With prompting and support,
discuss storybooks by responding
to questions about what is
happening and predicting what will
happen next. LDC-9n

• Imitate the special language in
storybooks and story dialogue
with accuracy and detail.
LDC-9o

• Use informational texts and
other media to learn about
the world, and infer from
illustrations, ask questions
and talk about the information.
LDC-9p

• Use knowledge of the world
to make sense of more
challenging texts. LDC-9q

• Relate personal experiences to
an increasing variety of events
described in familiar and new
books. LDC-9r

• Ask more focused and detailed
questions about a story or the
information in a book. LDC-9s

• Discuss storybooks by
responding to questions
about what is happening and
predicting what will happen
next. LDC-9t

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Goal LDC-10: Children develop book knowledge and print awareness.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Explore books
and paper
by tasting,
mouthing,
crumpling,
banging, and
patting.
LDC-10a

• Look at pictures
while cuddling
with caregiver.
LDC-10b

• Turn pages (but
not always in
the right order);
point to and
label pictures
in books;
sometimes treat
pictures as real
(licking a picture
of ice cream,
rubbing “fur” of
a cat in a book).
LDC-10c

• Identify some
environmental
print and logos
(favorite cereal
box, a sign for a
familiar store).
LDC-10d

• Hold a book upright, turn
some pages front to back (but
not always in the right order),
close book, and say, “done”
or “the end.” LDC-10e

• Demonstrate understanding
of the need for and the uses
of print (pretend to read a
“grocery list” during play; say,
“I want chicken” when looking
at a menu). LDC-10f

• Demonstrate an
understanding of realistic
symbols such as photographs,
and later abstract symbols
such as signs and
environmental print (know
which pictures stand for which
activities on a daily schedule;
say, “That means light” when
looking at a symbol of a light
bulb located over the light
switch). LDC-10g

• Hold a book upright
while turning pages
one by one front to
back, but not always in
order. LDC-10h

• With prompting and
support, recognize
print occurs in different
forms and is used for
a variety of functions
(sign naming block
structure, “message”
on card for family
member). LDC-10i

• Demonstrate an
understanding that
print can tell people
what to do (such as
print and symbols to
organize classroom
activities—where to
store things, when they
will have a turn).
LDC-10j

• Hold a book upright while turning pages
one by one from front to back. LDC-10k

• Recognize print in different forms for
a variety of functions (writing message
to friend, pointing to print and saying,
“Those words tell the story.”). LDC-10l

• Recognize print and symbols used to
organize classroom activities and show
understanding of their meaning (put toys
in box with correct symbol and name;
check sign-up sheet for popular activity;
check schedule to learn next activity).
LDC-10m

• With prompting and support, run their
finger under or over print as they pretend
to read text. LDC-10n

• Demonstrate understanding of some
basic print conventions (the concept of
what a letter is, the concept of words,
directionality of print). LDC-10o

• Identify their name and the names of
some friends when they see them in
print. LDC-10p

Different languages have different “print conventions” or ways
of printing the text on the page . For instance, writing in some

languages is read from left to right, and writing from other
languages is read from right to left . Dual Language Learners may
learn about how print works in more than one language . Teachers
and caregivers should be aware of these differences when helping

children learn book knowledge and print awareness skills .

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Goal LDC-11: Children develop phonological awareness.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Imitate and
take turns with
caregivers making
different sounds.
LDC-11a

• Focus on and enjoy
playing with repetitive
sounds, words, rhymes,
and gestures. LDC-11b

• Participate in rhyming
games. LDC-11c

• Notice sounds that are
the same and different.
LDC-11d

• Participate in experiences
using rhythmic patterns
in poems and songs
using words, clapping,
marching, and/or using
instruments. LDC-11e

• Participate in experiences
with songs, poems, and
books that have rhyme
and wordplay, and learn
words well enough to
complete refrains and
fill in missing words and
sounds. LDC-11f

• Repeat rhythmic patterns
in poems and songs
using words, clapping,
marching, and/or using
instruments. LDC-11g

• Play with the sounds of
language and begin to
identify rhymes (make
up silly-sounding words,
repeat rhyming words).
LDC-11h

• Enjoy rhymes and wordplay,
and sometimes add their own
variations. LDC-11i

• Repeat a variety of rhythmic
patterns in poems and songs
using words, clapping,
marching, and/or instruments
to repeat the rhythm or beat
syllables. LDC-11j

• Play with the sounds of
language, identify a variety of
rhymes, create some rhymes,
and recognize the first sounds in
some words. LDC-11k

• Associate sounds with specific
words, such as awareness that
different words begin with the
same sound. LDC-11lChildren benefit from playful experiences

where they hear lots of different types
of sounds . However, it’s important

to remember that phonological skills
emerge later in the preschool period, so
teachers and caregivers should provide

little/limited formal instruction for
phonological awareness . Remember too
that Dual Language Learners will have

more opportunities to hear and process
sounds in their home language than their
second language, so they often are more

aware of and able to produce sounds
from their home language .

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Goal LDC-12: Children begin to develop knowledge of the alphabet
and the alphabetic principle.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

Emerging Emerging • Demonstrate an interest
in letters by asking about
and/or naming some of
them. LDC-12a

• Demonstrate an interest
in learning the
alphabet. LDC-12b

• Recognize letters of the
alphabet as a special
category of print, different
from pictures, shapes,
and numerals. LDC-12c

• Recognize and name
some letters of the
alphabet, especially those
in their own name.
LDC-12d

• Demonstrate an interest
in learning the alphabet.
LDC-12e

• Show they know that letters
function to represent sounds in
spoken words. LDC-12f

• Recognize and name several
letters of the alphabet,
especially those in their own
name and in the names of
others who are important to
them. LDC-12g

• Make some sound-to-letter
matches, using letter name
knowledge (notice the letter
B with picture of ball and say,
“Ball”; say, “ A-a-apple.”).
LDC-12h

• Associate sounds with the
letters at the beginning of some
words, such as awareness that
two words begin with the same
letter and the same sound.
LDC-12i

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Foundations for Reading

Strategies for Infants and Toddlers

1. Provide daily lap reading time.

2. Read and share books with small groups
of infants and toddlers every day. Look at
and talk about pictures and read simple
stories. Choose books about things
infants and toddlers are interested in
(families, pets, trees, flowers).

3. Include books that show children with
disabilities in a natural way as part of the
stories and pictures.

4. Make available books that reflect
children’s sociocultural experiences at
home and their communities.

5. Give infants and toddlers access to
books throughout the day. Provide books
that children can put in their mouths and
books with pages that turn easily, such as
cloth and board books.

6. Place clear pictures of children and
everyday objects throughout the room.
Talk and sing about pictures in books and
in the room.

7. Make books using pictures of family
members and other familiar objects
found in magazines, catalogs, and
environmental print (such as pictures from
catalog cut-outs and labels from favorite
foods). Make books of trips, events you
have shared, and children’s art.

8. Share nursery rhymes, sing songs, and
read simple poems in different languages.

9. Make stories come alive by using
different voices and body movements.

10. Ask simple questions and make comments
about books to start conversations with
children. Talk about similar things that
young children may have experienced.
(”Do you have a pet?” “What did you see
at the zoo?”) Welcome and encourage
children’s questions too!

11. Help children tell stories and act out parts
of stories they have heard using words,
pictures, movement, puppets, and toys.

12. Place appealing books, signs, and
posters in all interest areas indoors and
outdoors at children’s eye level.

13. Point out words in books and in the
environment (street signs, toy boxes,
words on pictures in room).

14. Model respect for books and help
children care for books.

15. Introduce a new book in the children’s
family language first before reading it in
English. If you do not speak the language,
ask a parent or community member to
read aloud.

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Foundations for Reading

Strategies for Preschoolers

1. Provide and share fiction and non-fiction
books that stimulate children’s curiosity.

2. Create comfortable and inviting spaces
in different parts of the classroom for
children to read; stock these reading
nooks with a variety of reading materials.

3. Provide time when children are
encouraged to look at books on their
own.

4. Promote positive feelings about reading.
Allow children to choose books they want
to read. Reread favorite books.

5. Make multicultural books and materials
available to help children develop an
awareness of individual differences and
similarities.

6. Create a connection between home
and school through such means as
developing a take-home book program,
sharing books from home, engaging
parents in literacy experiences, holding
workshops, or creating a newsletter for
parents. Make sure you send books
home in the family language.

7. Provide multi-sensory approaches
to assist reading (e.g., tape players,
computers, and assistive technology).

8. Point out authors and illustrators; discuss
what makes a book a favorite book.

9. Provide children with materials they can
use to act out and retell stories (flannel
board cutouts, puppets, dolls, props,
pictures, etc.).

10. Respond to children’s observations about
books and answer their questions.

11. Reread books multiple times, changing
the approach as children become
familiar with the book. On occasion, ask
questions that tap their understanding of
why characters are doing things and talk
about the meaning of unfamiliar words.

12. Make books available in children’s home
languages. Help children identify the
language of the book and point out to
children the differences and similarities
in script.

13. Make available books that reflect
children’s sociocultural experiences at
home and their communities.

14. Include strategies for promoting
phonological awareness, print and
alphabet knowledge within daily
conversation, activities, and routines.

15. Discuss letter names in the context of
daily activities (as opposed to teaching
one letter per week) and provide
opportunities for children to hear specific
letter sounds, particularly beginning
sounds.

16. Introduce a new book in the children’s
family language first before reading it in
English. If you do not speak the language,
ask a parent or community member to
read aloud.

17. Ensure that Dual Language Learners can
participate in reading aloud even if they
do not have the English proficiency to
do so. For example, ask them to point to
pictures, make gestures, repeat words
and phrases, etc.

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Language Development and Communication

Foundations for Writing

Goal LDC-13: Children use writing and other symbols to record information and
communicate for a variety of purposes.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

Emerging • Make marks, scribble,
and paint (e.g., cover
easel paper with big
crayon or paint marks,
make marks with marker
or crayon). LDC-13a

• Pretend to write in ways
that mimic adult writing
(e.g., scribble on paper
while sitting with caregiver
who is writing, hold phone
to ear and make marks
with pencil). LDC-13b

• Represent thoughts and ideas
through marks, scribbles,
drawings, and paintings (draw
a picture of something they
did during the day, indicate
what they want for lunch with a
mark under the picture of the
food they want). LDC-13c

• With prompting and support,
communicate their thoughts
for an adult to write. LDC-13d

• Engage in writing behaviors
that imitate real-life situations
(e.g., make marks to take
food order during pretend
restaurant play). LDC-13e

• Represent thoughts and
ideas in drawings and by
writing letters or letter-like
forms. LDC-13f

• Communicate their thoughts
for an adult to write.
LDC-13g

• Independently engage
in writing behaviors for
various purposes (e.g.,
write symbols or letters for
names, use materials at
writing center, write lists with
symbols/letters in pretend
play, write messages that
include letters or symbols).
LDC-13h

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Goal LDC-14: Children use knowledge of letters in their attempts to write.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

Emerging Emerging Emerging • Begin to use letters and
approximations of letters
to write their name.
LC-14a

• Show they know that
written words are made up
of particular letters (point
to the first letter of their
own name, find the first
letter of their own name in
a list of letters). LC-14b

• Use known letters and
approximations of letters
to write their own name
and some familiar words.
LC-14c

• Try to connect the sounds
in a spoken word with
letters in the written word
(write “M” and say, “This is
Mommy.”). LC-14d

Children’s first attempts to write look more
like squiggly lines . Over time, they begin

to use marks that look more and more like
letters, but initially their letters may be just
random letters (not really a part of the word

they are trying to write) and/or look different
from how adults write . Their letters may

be upside down, sideways, and/or running
together . Gradually, with practice, the letters

they use will look more like conventional
writing, but many children still will be

using only some letters and writing them in
different ways on the page at the end of the

older preschool period .

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Language Development and Communication

Goal LDC-15: Children use writing skills and conventions.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

Emerging • Hold marker or crayon
with the fist. LC-15a

• Dot or scribble with
crayons, may progress to
vertical lines. LC-15b

• Explore a variety of tools
that can be used for
writing. LC-15c

• Scribble and/or imitate
an adult’s marks with
markers, crayons, paints,
etc. LC-15d

• Transition from holding a
crayon or marker in their
fist to holding it between
thumb and forefinger.
LC-15e

• Use a variety of writing
tools and materials with
purpose and control
(pencils, chalk, markers,
crayons, paintbrushes,
finger paint, computers).
LC-15f

• Make marks they call
“writing” that look different
from drawings (vertical
series of marks for a
“grocery list,” horizontal
line of marks for a “story”).
LC-15g

• Play with writing letters
and make letter-like forms.
LC-15h

• Use a variety of writing
tools and materials with
increasing precision.
LC-15i

• Imitate adult writing
conventions that they have
observed (write groups of
letter-like forms separated
by spaces, try to write on
a line, press Enter key on
computer after typing a
series of “words”). LC-15j

• Use some conventional
letters in their writing.
LC-15k

Teachers and caregivers should encourage children
to learn to write by modeling writing, providing

opportunities to pretend or practice writing
when they are playing, and letting them draw and

color with different types of writing materials .
Experiences that are fun and use writing as a way
to communicate (rather than just for the sake of

practicing letters) are the best way to teach writing
skills . Children with fine motor delays may need

adaptations such as larger crayons or special pencil
grips . For Dual Language Learners it is important
that teachers ask children in which language they
are writing, so children can become aware of the
differences between writing in each language .

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Foundations for Writing

1. Provide crayons and other art materials
for infants and toddlers to explore. Adapt
art materials if needed so children with
disabilities can use them.

2. Model the use of reading, writing, and
drawing in everyday activities.

3. Bring books, paper, and writing/drawing
tools outside for children to use and
enjoy.

4. Make sure that children often see
their name in writing, such as on their
cubby/personal space, on all personal
belongings, and on their artwork or other
creations if they wish.

5. For older toddlers, point out a few
familiar letters such as the first letter in
a child’s name and call attention to them
occasionally. If a child asks for a letter
name, provide it. Do not drill toddlers on
reciting the alphabet or naming letters.

6. Promote literacy-related play activities
that reflect children’s interests and
sociocultural experiences by supplying
materials such as telephone books,
recipe cards, shopping lists, greeting
cards, and storybooks for use in daily
activities.

7. Encourage children to retell experiences
and events that are important to them
through pictures and dictation.

8. Write down what children say and share
those dictated writings with them.

9. Assist children in making their own books
and class books.

Strategies for Infants and Toddlers

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Language Development and Communication

Foundations for Writing

Strategies for Preschoolers

1. Give children frequent opportunities to
draw, scribble, and print for a variety of
purposes.

2. Provide a variety of tools, such as
markers, crayons, pencils, chalk, finger
paint, and clay. Provide adaptive writing/
drawing instruments and computer
access to children with disabilities.

3. Promote literacy-related play activities
that reflect children’s interests and
sociocultural experiences by supplying
materials such as telephone books, recipe
cards, shopping lists, greeting cards, and
storybooks for use in daily activities.

4. Provide a variety of writing tools and
props in centers (e.g., stamps and
envelopes for the post office; blank
cards, markers, and tape for signs in the
block center).

5. Help children use writing to communicate
by stocking the writing center with letters
and cards that have frequently used and
requested words (e.g., “love,” “Mom,”
“Dad,” and children’s names with photos).

6. Show step-by-step how to form a letter on
unlined paper when a child asks.

7. Encourage children to retell experiences
and events that are important to them
through pictures and dictation.

8. Write down what children say and share
those dictated writings with them.

9. Think aloud (or describe step-by-step
what you are doing) as you model writing
for a variety of purposes in classroom
routines (e.g., thank-you notes, menus,
recipes).

10. Assist children in making their own books
and class books.

11. Display children’s writing and comment on
their successes.

12. Discuss letter names in the context of
daily activities (as opposed to teaching
one letter per week) and provide
opportunities for children to hear specific
letter sounds, particularly beginning
sounds.

13. Use unlined paper for children’s writing so
they will focus on letter formation instead
of letter orientation.

14. Provide multiple opportunities for children
to experiment writing their name (e.g.
sign-in list, waiting list, labeling pictures,
graphs, etc.).

15. Encourage children to write without an
adult model for a variety of purposes (e.g.
label their drawings, leave a note to a
friend, shopping list, etc.).

16. Ask children if they have written in English
or in another language to help them begin
to understand that writing in one language
is different from writing in another
language.

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

117
Cognitive Development

Cognitive Development (CD)

118
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

T
he Cognitive Development
domain focuses on children’s
ability to acquire, organize, and
use information in increasingly
complex ways. In their search for

understanding and meaning, young children play
an active role in their own cognitive development.
They begin to explain, organize, construct, and
predict—skills that lay the cognitive foundation
needed to explore and understand increasingly
sophisticated concepts and the world they live
in. They learn to apply prior knowledge to new
experiences, and then use this information to
refine their understanding of concepts as well
as form new understanding.

For very young children, cognitive
development is supported and encouraged
through their relationships with others. It
happens through daily activities, routines, and
interactions with adults and other children.
Through relationships, children become
aware of things in the physical environment,
as well as other people. Relationships facilitate
children’s growing awareness of self, family,
and community. They begin to understand
that their actions have an effect on their
environment and are able to think about
things that are not present. They typically
learn a great deal about themselves and form
ideas about family roles and community

helpers. They also begin to understand simple
scientific concepts by noticing, wondering,
and exploring.

As children grow older and move into the
preschool years, their thinking becomes
increasingly complex. They move from
simpler to more complex cognitive skills
and become more effective thinkers. They
begin to ask questions as they engage in
increasingly more focused explorations. They
begin to demonstrate good problem-solving
skills and also begin to express themselves
creatively using a variety of media. They
also begin to remember and use what they
learn in the areas of mathematics, science,
creative expression, and social connections,
the focus of four subdomains within the
Cognitive Development domain. As you read
through this domain, you will begin to notice
the interrelatedness among subdomains.
Processes and skills such as making
observations, comparing and classifying
objects, solving problems, asking questions,
and making predictions support learning
across all of the domains and link them
together.

Many factors can be related to the progress
children demonstrate in the Cognitive
Development domain. For instance, some

Subdomains

Construction of Knowledge:
Thinking and Reasoning

Creative Expression

Social Connections

Mathematical Thinking and Expression

Scientific Exploration and Knowledge

119
Cognitive Development

children’s home environments provide many
opportunities to explore and learn new
concepts, while other children’s homes may
be less stimulating. Children with disabilities
may need extra support to make progress
on the Developmental Indicators in this
domain because individual differences in
how they see, hear, process information, and/
or communicate can affect how they take in
information and how they express what they
learn. Similarly, Dual Language Learners may
learn new concepts and demonstrate what they
know best in their home language.

Teachers and caregivers can promote
children’s cognitive development by providing
interesting materials and experiences, and
encouraging children to explore and try
using the materials in different ways. Whether
it’s toys that require children to figure out
how they work, art materials, or blocks they
put together in different shapes, almost any
experience can be used to support children’s
understanding of the concepts included in the
Cognitive Development domain.

Cognitive Development (CD)
Construction of Knowledge: Thinking and Reasoning
• Goal CD-1: Children use their senses to construct knowledge about

the world around them.
• Goal CD-2: Children recall information and use it for new situations

and problems.
• Goal CD-3: Children demonstrate the ability to think about their own

thinking: reasoning, taking perspectives, and making decisions.

Creative Expression
• Goal CD-4: Children demonstrate appreciation for different forms of

artistic expression.
• Goal CD-5: Children demonstrate self-expression and creativity in

a variety of forms and contexts, including play, visual arts, music,
drama, and dance.

Social Connections
• Goal CD-6: Children demonstrate knowledge of relationships

and roles within their own families, homes, classrooms, and
communities.

• Goal CD-7: Children recognize that they are members of different
groups (e.g. family, preschool class, cultural group).

• Goal CD-8: Children identify and demonstrate acceptance of
similarities and differences between themselves and others.

• Goal CD-9: Children explore concepts connected with their daily
experiences in their community. ☛

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Cognitive Development (CD)(continued)

Mathematical Thinking and Expression
• Goal CD-10: Children show understanding of numbers and

quantities during play and other activities.
• Goal CD-11: Children compare, sort, group, organize, and measure

objects and create patterns in their everyday environment.
• Goal CD-12: Children identify and use common shapes and

concepts about position during play and other activities.
• Goal CD-13: Children use mathematical thinking to solve problems in

their everyday environment.

Scientific Exploration and Knowledge
• Goal CD-14: Children observe and describe characteristics of living

things and the physical world.
• Goal CD -15: Children explore the natural world by observing,

manipulating objects, asking questions, making predictions, and
developing generalizations.

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Cognitive Development

Construction of Knowledge: Thinking and Reasoning

Goal CD-1: Children use their senses to construct knowledge about the world around them.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Discover different
shapes, sizes and
textures by exploring
(put toys in mouth,
crawl over pillows,
pick up large
objects). CD-1a

• Turn head or move
toward sounds.
CD-1b

• Actively explore objects
by handling them in many
ways (moving, carrying,
filling, dumping,
smelling, and putting in
mouth). CD-1c

• Explore space with their
bodies (fit self into large
box, crawl under table,
climb over low walls).
CD-1d

• Explore objects and
materials physically
to learn about their
properties. CD-1e

• Experiment with safe
tools to learn how they
work (wooden hammer
with pegs, sifter, funnel).
CD-1f

• Express knowledge
gathered through their
senses through play
(imitate something they
have seen an adult do,
show they understand
how to sort by sorting
toys as they are playing).
CD-1g

• Explore objects,
tools, and materials
systematically to learn
about their properties
(weigh an object, observe
something from the top of
the object to the bottom).
CD-1h

• Express knowledge
gathered through their
senses using play, art,
language, and other forms
of representation. CD-1i

• Group familiar objects that
go together (shoe and
sock, brush and paint,
hammer and nail). CD-1j

• Explore objects, tools, and
materials systematically to
learn about their properties
(weigh an object, observe
something from the top of
the object to the bottom).
CD-1k

• Express knowledge
gathered through their
senses using play, art,
language, and other forms of
representation. CD-1l

• Distinguish appearance from
reality (the person behind
a mask is still the same
person; recognize that a
fantasy story could not be
real). CD-1m

• Organize and use
information through
matching, grouping, and
sequencing. CD-1n

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Goal CD-2: Children recall information and use it for new situations and problems.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Search for objects that are
hidden or partly hidden.
CD-2a

• Respond differently to familiar
vs. unfamiliar people, objects,
and situations (reach for new
interesting toy instead of old
familiar toy; move toward
familiar caregiver but hide
head on parent’s shoulder
when new person comes
near). CD-2b

• Anticipate routine events
(smile, wave arms and legs,
move toward adult holding
bottle). CD-2c

• Repeat an action to make
something happen again
(make sounds when music
stops, bounce up and down
to get adult to continue
“horsey ride”). CD-2d

• Observe and imitate sounds,
movements, and facial
expressions, including things
they have seen in the past or
in other places. CD-2e

• Search in several
places where an object
has been hidden
recently. CD-2f

• Notice a change
in familiar objects,
places, or events
(frown at parent with
a new haircut, look
for furniture that was
moved). CD-2g

• Perform routine events
and use familiar
objects in appropriate
ways (carry clean
diaper to changing
table, talk on phone,
“water” plants with
pitcher). CD-2h

• Imitate behaviors they
have seen in the past
or in other places.
CD-2i

• Identify objects and
people in pictures by
pointing or looking.
CD-2j

• Search for objects
in several places,
even when not seen
recently. CD-2k

• Show they remember
people, objects, and
events (tell about
them, act them out,
point out similar
happenings). CD-2l

• Show they remember
the order in which
familiar events happen
(finish line in story or
song, get ready to go
outdoors after snack).
CD-2m

• Choose objects to
represent something
else with similar
features during play
(block for cell phone,
large sheet for tent).
CD-2n

• Recognize whether a
picture or object is the
same as or different from
something they have seen
before. CD-2o

• Apply what they
know about everyday
experiences to new
situations (look for the
seatbelt on the bus).
CD-2p

• Describe or act out a
memory of a situation or
action, with adult support.
CD-2q

• Make predictions about
what will happen using
what they know. CD-2r

• Introduce ideas or actions
in play based on previous
knowledge or experience.
CD-2s

• Ask questions about why
things happen and try to
understand cause and
effect. CD-2t

• Demonstrate their ability
to apply what they
know about everyday
experiences to new
situations. CD-2u

• Describe past events in an
organized way, including
details or personal
reactions. CD-2v

• Improve their ability to
make predictions and
explain why things happen
using what they know.
CD-2w

• Introduce more elaborate
or detailed ideas or
actions into play based
on previous knowledge or
experience. CD-2x

• Try to reach logical
conclusions (including
conclusions regarding
cause and effect) about
familiar situations and
materials, based on
information gathered with
their senses. CD-2y

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Cognitive Development

Goal CD-3: Children demonstrate the ability to think about their own thinking:
reasoning, taking perspectives, and making decisions.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Show awareness of
others’ reactions to
people, objects, and
events. CD-3a

• Show awareness
of another person’s
intentions by establishing
joint attention (look at an
object, then at caregiver,
and back at object).
CD-3b

• Show awareness of
others’ feelings about
things by looking to see
how they react. CD-3c

• Use words like “think,”
“remember,” and
“pretend.” CD-3d

• Talk about what they and
other people want or like.
CD-3e

• Use language to identify
pretend or fantasy
situations (say, “Let’s
pretend we’re going on
a trip.” “That’s a pretend
story.”). CD-3f

• Use words like “think”
and “know” to talk about
thoughts and beliefs.
CD-3g

• Recognize that beliefs and
desires can determine what
people do (e.g., a person
will look for a missing
object based on where they
think it is rather than where
it actually is). CD-3h

• Use language to identify
pretend or fantasy
situations (say, “Let’s
pretend we’re going
on a trip.” “That’s a
pretend story.”). CD-3i

• Express understanding
that others may have
different thoughts,
beliefs, or feelings
than their own (“I
like ketchup and you
don’t.”). CD-3j

• Use language to
describe their thinking
processes with adult
support. CD-3k

Teachers and caregivers
can encourage and support
perspective taking in young
children by explaining how

another child might feel
and/or how the other child

might view a situation .

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Construction of Knowledge: Thinking and Reasoning

1. Comfort premature infants if they become
overstimulated. Premature infants
may look away, fuss, or cry when they
experience too much light, sound, or
interaction with people. Turn lights low,
keep noise down, swaddle gently, and
stop interacting with if needed. Provide
private space for children who become
overstimulated to calm themselves.

2. Provide a variety of sensory experiences
for infants and toddlers. Include fresh air;
a range of smells, sounds, temperatures,
materials to touch and feel; different
surfaces (such as vinyl floors, carpet,
grass, concrete, sand, and mud) and
movement activities.

3. Place non-mobile children where they
have opportunities to see and hear new
things, see familiar things from different
views, and watch or join in with others.
Hang clear, simple pictures, mobiles, and
unbreakable mirrors where infants and
toddlers can see and/or hear them.

4. Make large objects available to toddlers to
play with such as empty appliance boxes

(check for staples and sharp edges),
baskets, or pillows.

5. Welcome questions from children about
why things happen. If possible, show
them while you explain. (For example, if
a child asks, “Where did the ice go?” in a
pitcher of water, put out a bowl of ice and
invite children to watch what happens.)

6. Give toddlers choices to allow them to
communicate likes and dislikes, such as
deciding between two toys or choosing
which color shirt to wear. For children who
cannot point or talk, look for gazes or other
gestures that show their likes and dislikes.
Encourage use of some version of “yes” or
“no” in words, signs, or gestures.

7. Use routines and real-life situations to help
infants and toddlers learn. For example,
talk about body parts during diapering or
“hot” and “cold” while eating. Toddlers
learn about things that go together and the
concepts of “same” and “different” while
sorting laundry and picking up toys.

8. Make extra efforts to help infants and
toddlers with disabilities connect concepts

and words to their experiences. For
example, for an infant who is blind, provide
different things to touch, hear, feel and
smell as the infant explores. Make sure a
child with hearing loss is looking at you and
at the object you are communicating about
before speaking or signing about it.

9. Allow infants and toddlers to play for long
periods of time and repeat activities over
and over.

10. Hide toys while infants are watching and
encourage them to find them (under a
blanket, in your hand, behind the chair).

11. Give toddlers a chance to collect, sort,
and organize objects and materials both
indoors and outdoors. Make sure children
with disabilities and non-mobile infants
have access to the same wide variety of
materials.

12. Provide toys and household items that
pose problems for infants and toddlers
to solve, such as empty containers with
matching lids, measuring cups, pots
and pans, sorters, busy boxes, simple
puzzles, and large Duplo® blocks.

Strategies for Infants and Toddlers

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Cognitive Development

Construction of Knowledge: Thinking and Reasoning

Strategies for Preschoolers

1. Help children participate in activities
and enjoy a wide range of sensory
experiences, especially for children with
sensory impairments. For example, play
music with a bass beat that children who
are deaf can feel through their bare feet.
Make sure children see others moving
in time to the music. Remember, some
children are overly sensitive to sound,
light, or touch. Expose them to new
sensory experiences gradually.

2. Take walks around the neighborhood
to experience changes in nature. Point
out flowers, colored leaves, wind, water,
animals, and other items in nature.
Observe what children are interested in
and provide materials and books to follow
their interests.

3. Provide opportunities to play with
materials in ways that change them,
such as cutting Play-Doh® and
squishing it back together or mixing two
colors of finger paint.

4. Read and act out stories in which
the characters must work to solve
challenging problems or make decisions.
Talk about what the characters might be
thinking or feeling.

5. Introduce a problem and encourage
the children to come up with as many
solutions as possible. Then ask them
to think about possible consequences:
“What would happen if they use this
solution?”

6. Play games that involve thinking and
reasoning, such as “I Spy” or “I’m
Thinking of an Animal.”

7. Make planning a regular part of your
program day. For example, after morning
meeting or during breakfast ask children
what they would like to do and how they
plan to carry it out.

8. Ask open-ended questions that encourage
children to think about what they are doing
and possible next steps (e.g., “I wonder
what would happen if you …”).

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9. Set aside a part of each day to talk about
and reflect on the day’s activities. Gather
children into a small group and ask them
to share what they have done. Encourage
other children to be active listeners.

10. Interpret and expand on what children
do and say. Children who are nonverbal
or those beginning to learn English may
gesture or present materials to indicate
what they did. You can add words to their
actions, checking with them for cues that
indicate you understand their message.

11. Use reflective dialogue and comment on
what you see children doing as they play.
This encourages children to pay attention
to what they are doing and it makes it
easier for them to recall the event later.

12. Encourage children to carry over their
activities to the next day. For example,
if children run into a problem they had
not anticipated, they can come up with
solutions to try the following day.

13. Be aware that children might be solving
problems silently. Allow them time to do
so. Invite a child to use words to state,
or show you, what the problem is if you
believe this will lead them to a solution
(don’t require them to explain the problem
to you).

14. Invite children to tell or retell stories and
talk about recent events. Discuss the
sequencing and timing of experiences.

15. Promote decision-making for individual
and/or class decisions (such as a choice
of which author to study next or where
to go on a field trip). Talk about what you
are thinking or what children might be
thinking as decisions are made. (“I know
we need to choose what to do next, but I
like both of the choices. I think we need
to look at our choices to see which will
work best …“)

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Cognitive Development

Creative Expression

Goal CD-4: Children demonstrate appreciation for different forms of artistic expression.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Show wonder or
fascination with
objects, activities, or
experiences (gaze at an
object, become quiet
or vocal when they hear
lullabies, show bodily
excitement when they
hear music). CD-4a

• Hold, touch, and
experience different
textures (fuzzy blanket,
smooth skin, rough
carpet). CD-4b

• Show interest or
pleasure in response
to images, objects,
and music (say, “Aaah”
and reach for a brightly
colored picture, look
at or reach toward
fluttering leaves).
CD-4c

• Participate in and
explore all possible
media (use finger paint,
glue scraps of paper on
another paper, dance to
music). CD-4d

• Express pleasure in
different forms of art
(call something “pretty,”
express preferences,
choose to look at book of
photographs or listen to
music again). CD-4e

• Participate in and describe
art, music, dance,
drama, or other
aesthetic experiences
(describe dancers
spinning round and round;
talk about colors in a
painting). CD-4f

• Express pleasure in
different forms of art
(call something “pretty,”
express preferences,
choose to look at book of
photographs or listen to
music again). CD-4g

• Participate in, describe
and ask questions
about art, music, dance,
drama, or other aesthetic
experiences (describe
dancers spinning round
and round; talk about
colors in a painting).
CD-4h

• Express pleasure in
different forms of art
(call something “pretty,”
express preferences,
choose to look at book of
photographs or listen to
music again). CD-4i

• Participate in, describe
and ask questions about
art, music, dance,
drama, or other aesthetic
experiences (describe
dancers spinning round
and round; talk about
colors in a painting). CD-4j

• Use art-specific vocabulary
to express ideas and
thoughts about artistic
creations more clearly (say,
“We need a stage for our
puppet show.”). CD-4k

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Goal CD-5: Children demonstrate self-expression and creativity in a variety of forms and
contexts, including play, visual arts, music, drama, and dance.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Use toys and
household objects
in a variety of
different ways
during play (wave,
then scrunch, then
throw scarf). CD-5a

• Explore sensory
properties of art
media (smear paint,
pat and pound
dough). CD-5b

• Make a variety of
sounds with simple
instruments, toys,
and their own voice.
CD-5c

• Express themselves
by moving their
bodies (wave arms
when excited, hug
soft toy). CD-5d

• Use hats and
clothes for dress-
up make-believe.
CD-5e

• Explore art
materials freely
(make marks,
squeeze clay, tear
paper). CD-5f

• Use materials
purposefully to
create sounds
(bang blocks
together, ring bell,
shake can to make
contents jingle).
CD-5g

• Move to music
in their own way.
CD-5h

• Recreate familiar
scenes using play
materials, language,
and actions. CD-5i

• Experiment and create
art with clay, crayons,
markers, paint, and
collage materials. CD-5j

• Make up simple
nonsense songs, sign,
chant, and dance (sing
“la-la-la-la” on two
pitches, twirl around
and fall down, “march”
by lifting knees high).
CD-5k

• Express ideas and
feelings through
music, movement, and
dance. CD-5l

• Choose to participate and
express themselves through a
variety of creative experiences,
such as art, music, movement,
dance, and dramatic play. CD-5m

• Show creativity and imagination
when using materials and
assuming roles during pretend
play. CD-5n

• Explore the properties of art
materials and use them with
purpose to draw, paint, sculpt,
and create in other ways. CD-5o

• Show awareness of different
musical instruments, rhythms,
and tonal patterns as they make
music or participate in music
activities. CD-5p

• Show awareness of various
patterns of beat, rhythm, and
movement through music and
dance activities. CD-5q

• Choose to participate and
express themselves through a
variety of creative experiences,
such as art, music, movement,
dance, and dramatic play. CD-5r

• Plan and act out scenes based
on books, stories, everyday life,
and imagination. CD-5s

• Plan and complete artistic
creations such as drawings,
paintings, collages, and
sculptures. CD-5t

• Recall and imitate different
musical tones, rhythms, rhymes,
and songs as they make music
or participate in musical activities
(clap previous beat to a new
song). CD-5u

• Recall and imitate patterns of
beat, rhythm, and movement as
they create dances or participate
in movement and dance
activities. CD-5v

Most children seem to naturally enjoy
participating in creative arts activities .

Teachers and caregivers support children’s
creativity by providing lots of different

types of materials and experiences, and
then encouraging children to use them in

different ways without evaluating what
children are doing .

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Cognitive Development

Creative Expression

1. Provide musical mobiles for infants to
watch and listen to.

2. Place pictures and photographs at eye
level for infants and toddlers and talk
about them. Laminate pictures and attach
them to the wall with Velcro® so children
can handle them without damage.

3. Display children’s artwork at their eye level
and go back often to talk about it. Help
young children respect their artwork by
encouraging them to keep the art on the
walls.

4. Provide a wide variety of sensory materials
both indoors and outdoors, such as Play-
Doh®, goop (cornstarch and water), clay,
finger paint, chalk, sand, mud, and wood
pieces.

5. Provide materials for drawing, painting,
building, molding, and making collages.
Choose materials that are suitable for the
age and development of the children. For
example, use contact paper for collages
with children who cannot handle glue.

6. Invite children to talk about the art they
create. Recognize that they may not have
words for their creations or may not want
to describe them. Make specific, non-
judgmental comments about what they
have done. (“You put a lot of feathers in
this corner.”)

7. Provide toys that create life scenes
like a farm, parking lot, bus station, or
school. Use puppets and stuffed animals
to act out songs, rhymes, and stories.
Encourage children to pretend using
these materials

8. Provide dress-up materials to encourage
pretend play about a variety of themes
(gowns and top hats for a night on the
town; hardhats, big boots, and tools
for builders; dresses, ties, shoes, and
watches for house and office play).

9. Offer creative play activities both indoors
and outdoors. For example, children
might use chalk on a blackboard indoors
or on the sidewalk outdoors. Play music
outdoors where children can make large
dance movements.

10. Encourage children to move and dance
to music in many different ways (march,
clap, stomp, gallop, jump, sway). Offer
dance props such as scarves, streamers,
and shakers for toddlers to twirl and
shake.

11. Take pictures of the children doing
creative activities. Display these pictures
to help children recall what they have
done and to help families appreciate the
creative process.

12. Give infants and toddlers many
opportunities to experience beauty
through all their senses (touching snow,
looking at rainbows, smelling freshly
mowed grass, tasting different foods,
listening to birds chirp).

13. Set an example by demonstrating
spontaneity, a sense of wonder, and
excitement.

Strategies for Infants and Toddlers

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Creative Expression

Strategies for Preschoolers

1. Encourage children to talk about and/or
share their creative expressions with others.

2. Provide access to a variety of materials
(non-hazardous paints, modeling
materials, a wide variety of paper types,
writing and drawing utensils of various
sizes and types, and collage materials),
media, and activities that encourage
children to use their imagination and
express ideas through art, construction,
movement, music, etc.

3. Use a variety of horizontal and vertical
surfaces (easels, floor, and walls) and
two- and three-dimensional objects
(boxes, clay, and plastic containers) for
creative expression.

4. Develop classroom procedures that
encourage children to move materials
from one learning center to another (such
as using markers and paper in a dramatic
play area).

5. Use an abundance of multicultural
books, pictures, tapes, and CDs in the
classroom.

6. Take children to museums, galleries,
plays, concerts, and other appropriate
cultural activities.

7. Invite parents, authors, artists, musicians,
and storytellers from different cultural and
language backgrounds to the classroom
so children can observe firsthand the
creative work of a variety of people in the
arts.

8. Give children opportunities to respond
through music, movement, dance,
dramatic play, and art (e.g., following
expressive movement experiences, ask
them to draw a picture of themselves and
then tell you about the picture).

9. Provide appropriate instruments
(e.g., maracas, rhythm sticks, bells,
tambourines, drums, sand blocks,
shakers) for musical experimentation.

10. Play music, provide materials such as
scarves, streamers, and bells, and make
room indoors and outdoors for children to
move freely.

11. Encourage children to move and use
their bodies in space (e.g., pretending
to be a cat, a volcano, or a butterfly).
Assist children with modeling movement
positions as needed.

12. Furnish materials that will facilitate the re-
creation of memories or experiences that
a child can share (for example, materials
and medium to re-create a memory of a
field trip apple picking).

13. Display children’s artwork on their eye
level on a rotating basis, along with other
items of beauty (e.g., wall hangings,
tapestry, weavings, posters, stained
glass, or arrangements of flowers and
leaves).

14. Borrow library prints of great artwork
representing a variety of countries and
ethnic groups, hang them at the eye level
of the children, and have conversations
about them.

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Cognitive Development

Social Connections

Goal CD-6: Children demonstrate knowledge of relationships and roles
within their own families, homes, classrooms, and communities.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Intently observe
actions of children,
adults, pets, and
objects nearby.
CD-6a

• Seek parents,
siblings, caregivers,
and teachers
for play and for
meeting needs.
CD-6b

• Imitate routine
actions of their
caregivers (rock a
baby doll, push a
lawnmower, “read” a
magazine). CD-6c

• Know whom they
can go to for help
(regular caregiver
vs. visitor, parent vs.
neighbor). CD-6d

• Use play to show
what they know about
relationships and roles in
families and other familiar
contexts. CD-6e

• Talk about what others do
during the day (“Mommy
at work. Mimi at home.”).
CD-6f

• Help with daily routines
(put cups out for lunch,
feed pets, wash tables).
CD-6g

• Talk about close family
members, name their
relationships to each other,
and describe family routines
(“Marika is my sister.” “My
grandma takes care of me
at night.”). CD-6h

• Adopt roles of family and
community members during
play, given support and
realistic props. CD-6i

• Recognize and identify the
roles of some community
helpers (police, fire fighters,
garbage collectors). CD-6j

• Talk about a wide circle of family
members and other people
important to the family, their
relationships to each other, and
shared experiences. CD-6k

• Adopt roles of a wide variety of
family and community members
during dramatic play, using props,
language, and actions to add
detail to their play. CD-6l

• Recognize and identify the roles
of a wide variety of community
helpers (police, fire fighters,
garbage collectors, doctors,
dentists). CD-6m

Children’s families and communities
differ from each other and from their

teachers’ family and community .
Teachers and caregivers can best

support children’s understanding of
their family, home, and community
by being accepting and respecting

each child’s unique experiences with
relationships and roles .

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Goal CD-7: Children recognize that they are members of different groups
(e.g., family, preschool class, cultural group).

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Show a clear
preference for familiar
people. CD-7a

• Recognize children and
others they spend a lot of
time with (make sounds,
say name, move toward
or away from child).
CD-7b

• Put self into categories
based on age,
gender, and physical
characteristics (“I’m a
girl.” “I have long hair.”).
CD-7c

• Identify self as a part of a
specific family, preschool
class, or other familiar
group (e.g., point to
picture and say, “That’s
my family,” or “I’m in Ms.
Emily’s class.”). CD-7d

• Identify and express self
as a part of several groups
(e.g., family, preschool
class, faith community).
CD-7e

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Cognitive Development

Goal CD-8: Children identify and demonstrate acceptance of similarities and differences
between themselves and others.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

Emerging • Compare their own
physical features with
those of others by
looking and touching.
CD-8a

• Describe people who are
similar and different based
on characteristics such
as age, gender, and other
physical characteristics.
CD-8b

• Show awareness of
similarities and differences
among people and families
during play. CD-8c

• Show acceptance of
people who are
different from
themselves as well as
people who are similar.
CD-8d

• Given support and
guidance, explore
different cultural practices
during play and planned
activities. CD-8e

• Show acceptance of
people who are different
from themselves as
well as people who are
similar. CD-8f

• Talk about how other
children have different
family members and
family structures than
their own (“I live with my
Grandma and Shanika
lives with her Mom and
Dad.” “David’s dad works
but my Daddy stays
home and takes care of
me.”). CD-8g

• Show acceptance of
different cultures through
exploration of varying
customs and traditions,
past and present (how
people dress, how
people speak, food,
music, art, etc.). CD-8h

Children’s ability to identify
and demonstrate acceptance
of similarities and differences
with other people is based on

opportunities they have to see
teachers and caregivers modeling

acceptance and respect, and
opportunities to talk about the

importance of accepting people
who are similar to and different

from themselves .

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Goal CD-9: Children explore concepts connected with their daily experiences
in their community.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

Emerging Emerging • Use play to
communicate what
they know about their
community (pretend
to go to the store,
pretend to be a police
person). CD-9a

• Describe characteristics
of the places where they
live and play (say, “My
house is big and there are
trees in my yard.” “The
playground has swings and
a sandbox.”). CD-9b

• Notice changes that
happen over time (seasons,
self or others growing
bigger). CD-9c

• Notice and talk about
weather conditions. CD-9d

• With prompting and
support, participate as a
member of a democratic
classroom community (vote
for name of class pet, wait
turn to paint when easels
are full). CD-9e

• Describe characteristics of the places
where they live and play (say, “My house
is big and there are trees in my yard.”
“The playground has swings and a
sandbox.”). CD-9f

• Observe and talk about changes in
themselves and their families over time.
CD-9g

• Observe and talk about how people
adapt to seasons and weather
conditions (put out salt in icy weather,
wear rain gear). CD-9h

• Show awareness of the basic needs all
families have (food, shelter, clothing)
and how needs are met (work, help
each other). CD-9i

• Demonstrate positive social behaviors
and take personal responsibility as a
member of a group (share, take turns,
follow rules, take responsibility for
classroom jobs). CD-9j

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Cognitive Development

Social Connections

1. Hold and hug infants and toddlers
throughout the day. Learn from families
how they hold, calm, and soothe their
infant so you can do the same. This helps
each child feel safe and secure.

2. Tell infants and toddlers what you are
going to do before you perform caregiving
tasks. (“I’m going to wash your face and
then we can play.”)

3. Learn as much as you can about the
cultures of the families in your program.
Provide books, pictures, toys, music,
and other materials that are familiar to
children. This brings their cultures into the
play area in positive ways.

4. Provide materials and activities that show
other cultures and people from many
different backgrounds in positive ways
so children can see and experience how
diverse humans are (diversity of all types
including gender, race, ethnicity, sexual
orientation).

5. Learn to say a few important words
in the home language of infants and
toddlers whose families speak a different
language. (Consult with parents about
which phrases are most important.)

6. Model pleasant, polite interactions with
family members and other adults. Infants
and toddlers will imitate you.

7. Help toddlers begin to recognize and
explore differences among people. Talk
about these differences in a positive way.

8. Allow and support children’s choice of
playmates. Help children play together,
including children who are different from
each other. Model and encourage gentle
touch while playing. Make a special effort
to help children who speak different
languages play together by helping them
communicate with each other.

9. Allow toddlers to help with daily routines
such as putting out napkins, folding
laundry, feeding pets, and watering
plants. Adapt tasks so children with
disabilities can participate.

10. Share children’s pleasure in learning and
discovering new things through daily
routines and their play, both indoors and
outdoors. Take children to community
events and places such as parks,
playgrounds, and the petting zoo, farmer’s
market, and library to learn about the world.

11. Make scrapbooks or memory books and
revisit them with the children.

Strategies for Infants and Toddlers

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Social Connections

Strategies for Preschoolers

1. Equip a dramatic play area with a variety
of props reflecting different aspects of
families, communities, and cultures. This
will encourage a true understanding of
others. Change props according to the
interests of the children.

2. Provide literature and music that reflect a
variety of cultures and traditions.

3. Use literature, puppets, and role playing
to help children relate to the feelings of
others.

4. Give children access to a wide selection
of quality multicultural books.

5. Implement activities that reflect the
similarities and differences among the
children and families within the classroom
(e.g., do body tracing and provide
children with multicultural crayons to
represent the variety of skin tones).

6. Invite community helpers into the
classroom.

7. Welcome families into the classroom to
share their cultures, traditions, and talents.

8. Explore the physical, biological, and
social world beginning with your school
(e.g., a visit to another classroom) and
then into the community through field
trips.

9. Involve children in school and community
service projects.

10. Model cooperation and negotiation.
Involve children in making rules for the
classroom.

11. Hold class meetings to discuss concerns
and issues that occur in the classroom.
Encourage children to use a variety
of problem-solving strategies to work
through any concerns (e.g., use role-
playing and puppets to help children
empathize with their peers).

12. Learn to say a few important words in the
home language of children whose families
speak a different language. (Consult with
parents about which phrases are most
important.)

13. Talk with children about relevant past and
future events.

137
Cognitive Development

Mathematical Thinking and Expression

Goal CD-10: Children show understanding of numbers and quantities
during play and other activities.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Indicate they want
“more” with signs,
sounds, or looks.
CD10a

• Show interest (look
at or reach for) in
obvious differences
in quantity (look at a
tower with 3 blocks
longer than a tower
with 7 blocks, reach
for a basket with
three balls rather
than a basket with
one ball). CD-10b

• Explore quantity
(for example,
filling and dumping
containers). CD-10c

• Use words or
actions that show
understanding of
the concepts of
“more” and “all”
(ask for more food,
stop asking for more
blocks when told
they have “all” of the
blocks). CD-10d

• Recognize the
difference between
two small sets
of objects (6 or
under) that include
a different number
of objects (point to
which set of crayons
has more). CD-10e

• Use words or actions that
show understanding of
the concepts of “more,”
“all,” and/or “none” (ask
for more food, stop asking
for more blocks when
told they have “all” of the
blocks, become upset
when told there is no
more Play-Doh®). CD-10f

• Attempt to chant or
recite numbers, but not
necessarily in the correct
order. CD-10g

• Place items in one-to-one
correspondence during
play and daily routines
(one spoon at each plate;
one doll in each toy car).
CD-10h

• Rote count in order to 10
with increasing accuracy.
CD-10j

• Count up to 5 objects
arranged in a line
using one-to-one
correspondence with
increasing accuracy, and
answer the question “How
many?” CD-10k

• Compare visually two
groups of objects that
are obviously equal or
unequal in quantity and
communicate that they
are the same or different,
and which one has more
(choose a plate with four
cookies rather than a plate
with one cookie). CD-10l

• Rote count in order to 20 with
increasing accuracy. CD-10n

• Without counting, state the
number of objects in a small
collection (1-3) (when a friend
holds up two fingers, look at
her hand and say, “Two fingers”
without counting). CD-10o

• Count up to 10 objects arranged
in a line using one-to-one
correspondence with increasing
accuracy, and answer the
question “How many?” CD-10p

• Given a number 0-5, count out
that many objects. CD-10q

• Compare the amount of items
in small sets of objects (up to 5
objects) by matching or counting
and use language such as “more
than” and “less than” to describe
the sets of objects. CD-10r

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Goal CD-10: Children show understanding of numbers and quantities
during play and other activities.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers
Older Toddlers

(continued)
Younger Preschoolers

(continued)
Older Preschoolers

(continued)

• Make a small group (1-3)
with the same number of
items as another group of
items (take 3 balls from a
basket after the teacher
shows the group that she
has 3 balls and asks each
person to take the same
number of balls). CD-10i

• Show they understand that
adding objects to a group
will make a bigger group,
and taking away objects
will make a smaller group.
CD-10m

• Show they understand that putting
two groups of objects together
will make a bigger group and that
a group of objects can be taken
apart into smaller groups. C-10s

• Write numerals or number-like
forms during play and daily
activities. CD-10t

• Match numerals 1-5 to sets of
objects, with guidance and
support. CD-10u

• Recognize some numerals and
attempt to write them during play
and daily activities. CD-10v

• Show understanding of first, next,
and last during play and daily
activities (answer questions about
who is first and last to slide down
the slide; say, “The engine is first,
and the caboose is last” when
making a train). CD-10w

Children gain an
understanding of numbers
and mathematical concepts
through hands-on activities
that are related to real life
better than activities that

focus on the names of
numbers and on counting
objects just for the sake of

learning to count .

139
Cognitive Development

Goal CD-11: Children compare, sort, group, organize and measure objects and create patterns
in their everyday environment.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Discover
objects of
different sizes
by exploring
(put toys in
mouth, pick
up large
objects).
CD-11a

• Participate in
activities that
compare the size
and weight of
objects. CD-11b

• Show awareness of
different categories
during play (put
balls in a box and
dolls in a bed;
give one friend
all the cars and
another friend all
of the trucks when
playing in the block
area). CD-11c

• Group objects into
categories (cars
with cars, plates
separated from
cups). CD-11d

• Use size and amount
words to label
objects, people,
and collections
(big truck, a lot of
cookies, little baby).
CD-11e

• Use descriptive language for size,
length, or weight (short, tall, long,
heavy, big). CD-11f

• Use simple measurement tools with
guidance and support to measure
objects (a ruler, measuring cup,
scale). CD-11g

• Compare the size or weight of two
objects and identify which one is longer/
taller/heavier than the other (“That rock
is heavier than this one; I can’t lift it.” “A
snake is longer than a worm.”). CD-11h

• Identify familiar objects as the same
or different. CD-11i

• Sort familiar objects into categories
with increasing accuracy (tools
for woodworking and utensils for
cooking; rectangle blocks on one
shelf and square blocks on another
shelf). CD-11j

• Recognize simple repeating patterns
and attempt to create them during
play (repeat a movement pattern
during a song, make a line of blocks
in alternating colors). CD-11k

• Use descriptive language for size,
length, or weight (short, tall, long,
heavy, big). CD-11l

• Use simple measurement tools with
guidance and support to measure
objects (a ruler, measuring cup,
scale). CD-11m

• Directly compare more than two
objects by size, length, or weight
(“That rock is heavier than these
others; I can’t lift it.” Look at three
strings that are different lengths and
select the longest string). CD-11n

• Put a few objects in order by length (ar-
range a group of 3 blocks in order from
the shortest to the longest). CD-11o

• Sort a group of objects (0-10) using
one attribute (color, size, shape,
quantity) with increasing accuracy
(sort blocks by shape and place
like-shaped blocks on the shelf; sort
beads by color). CD-11p

• Duplicate and extend simple patterns
using concrete objects (look at a
pattern of beads and tell what bead
comes next in the pattern). CD-11q

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Goal CD-12: Children identify and use common shapes and concepts about position
during play and other activities.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Discover different
shapes by exploring
(put blocks in mouth,
roll balls). CD-12a

• Attempt to put objects
into other objects (such
as putting pieces into
holes or other spaces).
CD-12b

• Explore space with their
bodies (fit self into large
box, crawl under table,
climb over low walls).
CD-12c

• Put basic shapes into a
shape sorter using trial
and error. CD-12d

• Respond to and begin
to use words describing
positions (in, on, over,
under, etc.). CD-12e

• Name or match a few
shapes. CD-12f

• Stack or line up blocks
that are the same shape.
CD-12g

• Show they understand
positions in space by
using position words
during play and by
following directions from
an adult (say, “Stand
behind the chair.” “Put the
ball in the box.”). CD-12h

• Use 2- and 3-dimensional
shapes to create pictures,
designs, or structures.
CD-12i

• Find shapes in the
environment and describe
them in their own words.
CD-12j

• Consistently use a variety
of words for positions
in space, and follow
directions using these
words. CD-12k

• Use 2- and 3-dimensional
shapes to represent real-
world objects (say, “We are
building a castle and we
need a round block for the
tunnel.” “I glued a circle
and a square on my picture
to make a house.”). CD-12l

• Name basic shapes
and describe their
characteristics using
descriptive and geometric
attributes (“That’s a
triangle; it’s pointy.” “It’s a
circle because it’s round.”).
CD-12m

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Cognitive Development

Goal CD-13: Children use mathematical thinking to solve problems
in their everyday environment.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger
Toddlers

Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

Emerging Emerging • Use observation and
emerging counting skills
(1, 2, 3) during play and
other daily activities.
CD-13a

• Seek answers to questions by
using mathematical thinking
during play and daily activities
(determine who is taller by
standing next to classmate; find
two smaller blocks to replace
larger block). CD-13b

• Use observation and counting
(not always correctly) to find out
how many things are needed
during play and other daily
activities (figure out how many
spoons are needed for snack,
find enough dolls so each person
has one when playing in the
dramatic play area). CD-13c

• Use drawing and concrete
materials to represent
mathematical ideas (draw many
circles to show “lots of people,”
put Popsicle® sticks in a pile to
show the number of children who
want crackers for snack). CD-13d

• Seek answers to questions during
play and daily activities using an
increasing variety of mathematical
strategies. CD-13e

• Use observation and counting with
increasing accuracy to answer
questions such as “How many do
we need?” and “How many more
do we need?” during play and other
daily activities (count new children
to see how many more plates are
needed for snack; return extra drinks
to cooler at picnic to arrive at the
correct number). CD-13f

• Use drawing and concrete materials
to represent an increasing variety
of mathematical ideas (draw
shapes to represent pattern; stack
different-colored blocks to represent
classmates’ answers to a survey
question). CD-13g

• Begin to explain how a mathematical
problem was solved (“I saw that
there was always a blue flower after
a red flower so I knew to put a blue
one next.” “I counted four friends
who didn’t have cookies so I got four
more.”). CD-13h

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Mathematical Thinking and Expression

1. Teach concepts such as shapes to
toddlers through everyday routines and
interactions. For example, say, “I see that
you have red circles on your shirt.”

2. Offer toys or objects with one-to-one
relationships (e.g., containers with lids,
markers with tops).

3. During mealtimes, ask children, “Would
you like to have some more?”

4. Play games, sing songs, and read books
that use numbers and counting (e.g.,
“This Little Piggy”).

5. Begin to ask children questions such as,
“How many do you see?” or “How tall is
your tower?”

6. Talk with children about what they are
doing or how they are playing. Use words
that introduce children to concepts such
as counting or making comparisons (e.g.,
bigger/smaller, 1-2-3, etc.).

7. Read books that present basic
mathematics concepts in the context of
everyday environments or routines (e.g.,
home, going to bed, mealtimes, etc.).

8. Provide toys that have incremental sizes
(e.g., nesting cups or stackable rings).

9. Provide opportunities to notice patterns in
nature (e.g., shape of leaves or types of
flowers).

10. Provide sand and water play, giving
children opportunities to pour, fill, scoop,
and dump to develop an understanding of
volume, under adult supervision.

11. Help children pair items that go together
because they are used together (pail and
shovel).

12. Count out the number of objects as you
give them out (e.g., at snack time, count
out the number of crackers by saying,
“One, two, three ….”).

Strategies for Infants and Toddlers

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Cognitive Development

Mathematical Thinking and Expression

Strategies for Preschoolers

1. Make a variety of materials easily
accessible for children for the purpose
of developing and refining mathematical
knowledge (e.g., blocks and accessories,
collections, sand and water accessories,
art supplies, dramatic-play props,
manipulatives, and literacy materials).

2. Prompt thinking and analysis by asking
open-ended questions. (“How will you
know how many plates you need for the
guests at your party?”)

3. Provide a variety of manipulatives that
can be counted, sorted, and ordered (for
example, blocks by colors, sizes, shapes).

4. Incorporate many different types of
counting activities in the context of daily
experiences and routines.

5. Read stories, sing songs, and act out
poems and finger plays that involve
counting, numerals, and shapes.

6. Identify shapes within the classroom and
surrounding environment, and talk about
them using terms that are associated with
geometry.

7. Display a picture schedule of the daily
classroom routine that can be referred to
throughout the day.

8. Model problem-solving strategies (talk out
loud about what you are thinking as you
solve a problem).

9. Provide opportunities to observe naturally
occurring patterns within the indoor and
outdoor environments. Use art materials
and manipulatives with children to create
patterns (e.g., weaving, painting, stringing
beads, and building blocks).

10. Provide opportunities to measure (e.g.,
“How many steps does it take to walk from
the front door to your cubby?” or “How
many blocks long is your arm?”).

11. Provide opportunities to weigh objects
(comparing the weight of common
classroom objects using a balance scale).

12. Provide real-life and purposeful
experiences that are related to children’s
understanding of quantities. (“How many
graham crackers will we need for your
table at snack time?”)

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Scientific Exploration and Knowledge

Goal CD-14: Children observe and describe characteristics of living things
and the physical world.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Observe
and explore
natural
phenomena
indoors and
outdoors,
using all
senses
(rub hands
over grass,
lift face to
feel wind,
pat family
dog, splash
water).
CD-14a

• Use abilities to
observe and
explore natural
phenomena
indoors and
outdoors with
focus, using all
senses (notice
and interact with
small insects, smell
flowers, catch
falling snow, shuffle
through leaves).
CD-14b

• Participate in the care
of living things with
guidance and
support (water
plants, help to feed
classroom pet).
CD-14c

• Show curiosity and
investigate the world
of nature indoors
and outdoors (pick
up rocks, scratch
frost on window,
ask questions
about things seen
outdoors). CD-14d

• Participate in the care of living
things, with guidance and
support (water plants, help to
feed classroom pet). CD-14e

• Notice and react to the natural
world and the outdoor
environment. CD-14f

• Notice and describe
characteristics of plants and
animals, such as appearance,
similarities, differences,
behavior, and habitat. CD-14g

• Notice and describe current
weather conditions. CD-14h

• Notice and describe properties
of materials and changes in
substances (water freezes into
ice, pudding thickens, clay
hardens). CD-14i

• Participate in activities that help
to care for the environment,
with guidance and support
(pick up trash, recycle paper).
CD-14j

• Collect items from nature (rocks, leaves,
insects) and classify them using physical
characteristics (color, size, shape, texture).
CD-14k

• Notice and react to the natural world and
the outdoor environment. CD-14l

• Describe some things plants and animals need
to live and grow (sunlight, water, food). CD-14m

• Take responsibility for the care of living
things (independently feed classroom pet
as daily chore, water plant when dry, weed
vegetable garden). CD-14n

• Notice and describe weather conditions,
position of the sun and moon at different
times, and seasonal changes. CD-14o

• Notice, describe, and attempt to explain
properties of materials and changes in
substances (metal railing is hot because
the sun shines on it; ice melts when it gets
warmer). CD-14p

• Participate in activities that help to care
for the environment and explain why they
are important with guidance and support
(gathering cans for recycling, planting
trees). CD-14q


Children with disabilities may need
extra support as they observe and

describe living things and objects . Be
sure they can use different senses to

observe, and provide opportunities for
them to describe observations wtih

words, gestures, and/or pictures . Dual
Language Learners will also benefit
from opportunities to express their
observation in their home language

or in English .

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Cognitive Development

Goal CD-15: Children explore the world by observing, manipulating objects,
asking questions, making predictions, and developing generalizations.

Developmental Indicators

Infants Younger Toddlers Older Toddlers Younger Preschoolers Older Preschoolers

• Gather information
through sight,
hearing, taste,
smell, and touch.
CD-15a

• Use multiple
senses to focus
intently on objects,
displays, materials,
or events. CD-15b

• Use all senses
to examine the
environment carefully
(reach out to touch
rain, stop playing to
watch shadows, gaze
at moon). CD-15c

• Use toys and other
objects to make things
happen (kick a ball,
push a button on a
toy). CD-15d

• Explore objects and
materials by handling
them in many ways
(moving, carrying,
filling, dumping,
smelling, putting in
mouth). CD-15e

• Investigate
differences between
materials (sand,
water, goop, moving
air). CD-15f

• Use simple tools
to manipulate and
explore objects
and materials,
with guidance and
support (containers
for pouring, sand
mold, magnifying
glass). CD-15g

• Notice changes
in materials
when mixing and
manipulating (paint,
Play-Doh®, food
ingredients). CD-15h

• Represent what they
learn during scientific
exploration through
drawing, modeling,
building, movement, or
other methods. CD-15i

• Observe objects,
materials, and
phenomena and
describe what they notice
(temperature, texture,
size, weight, color, etc.).
CD-15j

• Ask questions to find out
more about the natural
world. CD-15k

• Use simple tools to
investigate objects and
materials, with guidance
and support (magnifying
glass, sifter, ramps for
rolling balls and cars).
CD-15l

• Describe and predict
changes that take
place when mixing and
manipulating materials.
CD-15m

• Represent what they learn during
scientific exploration through drawing,
modeling, building, movement, or
other methods. CD-15n

• Ask questions and identify ways to
find answers (look in a book, use the
computer, try something and watch
what happens). CD-15o

• Compare objects, materials,
and phenomena by observing
and describing their physical
characteristics. CD-15p

• Use an increasing variety of tools to
investigate the world around them
(measuring tools, balance, prism,
droppers). CD-15q

• Make and check predictions through
observations and experimentation,
with adult support and guidance.
CD-15r

• Manipulate the environment to
produce desired effects and invent
solutions to problems (attach a piece
of string to the light switch so they can
independently turn off the lights).
CD-15s

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Scientific Exploration and Knowledge

1. Offer toys that allow infants and toddlers
to experiment with cause and effect (for
example, knobs that twist to make a
sound or levers that slide open to make
an object appear).

2. Observe what infants and toddlers are
interested in (i.e., what toys/objects they
like to play with). Notice and name things
that interest them. Add toys or other
objects that may extend their current play
or make it slightly more complex.

3. Arrange the environment to encourage
exploration. For infants who are not yet
able to roll over or search for desired toys,
teachers may need to help infants find or
hold these items.

4. Use moving objects to attract an infant’s
attention and stimulate interest. Hang
mobiles or plants where children can
watch them move, as well as enjoy their
color and shape.

5. Make a telescope out of a paper towel
tube and encourage children to look
around the room or playground for certain
objects (e.g., “Do you see anything
green? or “Where is an animal?”).

6. Play “Name That Body Part” while
dressing or changing infants and toddlers.
(For example, ask “Where are your toes?”
or “Show me your ears.”)

7. Look for books with real pictures of
animals and practice making animal
sounds together. Talk about the animals.
(For example, “The goat is furry and
makes a sound like this, ‘M-a-a-a-a.’ ”)

8. Offer different textures and surfaces for
infants and toddlers to explore (e.g., furry
material, smooth silk, bumpy or hard
plastic). This helps infants and toddlers
learn about the world around them.

9. Allow infants and toddlers time to figure
out what to do with new play materials.
Take time to watch rather than direct their
actions.

Strategies for Infants and Toddlers

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Cognitive Development

Scientific Exploration and Knowledge

Strategies for Preschoolers

1. Expose children to the scientific method
of inquiry: observing, questioning,
predicting, experimenting, and
representing results.

2. Engage children in observing events,
exploring natural objects, and reflecting
on what they learn (e.g., hang a bird
feeder outside the classroom window and
use binoculars to observe the birds; go
outdoors).

3. Give children freedom to come up with
their own solutions to problems. Listen to
their ideas. Model the thinking process by
talking out loud, writing or mapping about a
problem, and reflecting on how it might be
solved.

4. Model language that encourages children
to express wonder, pose questions, and
provide evidence of discoveries.

5. Create a sensory center to stimulate
curiosity and exploration. Mix colors
(paint, markers, food coloring, crayons)
to see what happens.

6. Model and teach responsible behavior.
Guide children in the handling and care of
pets, plants, and learning tools.

7. Provide a science discovery center where
children can compare the properties of
objects such as shells, rocks, nests, and
skeletons. Also include science materials
throughout the indoor and outdoor
environments.

8. Provide simple tools (e.g., magnifying glass,
binoculars, eyedropper, sieve, simple
microscope) to use in exploration. Modify
simple tools when needed to make them
accessible to all children in the group.

9. Encourage scientific exploration
throughout the classroom (e.g., set up
sinking and floating experiments at the
water table; provide cooking experiences
that encourage the observation of
changes in matter; equip the block center
with materials that encourage exploration
of vehicles and ramps).

10. Plant gardens that change over the
seasons. Provide a diversity of plants and
trees that attract wildlife (e.g., butterfly
bushes, trees for birdhouses, and bird
feeders).

11. Provide a variety of outdoor natural materials
(smooth stones, shells, pinecones, acorns)
that children can investigate.

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Supporting
Dual Language Learners (DLL)

A
growing number of young children
in North Carolina speak a language
other than English at home. For
example, Latino children made up
the fastest-growing group of North

Carolina’s children, increasing by 34% in just
three years (2005–2008).1 Given these changing
demographics, it’s important for teachers, child
care providers, and administrators to understand
how children who speak a language other
than English develop in order to support their
progress on the skills and knowledge described
in Foundations. While this brief section cannot
provide all the information that a teacher or
caregiver might need, it provides a starting point
by describing Dual Language Learners, providing
information on how to work with Dual Language
children and families, and presenting ideas for
how to use the Foundations document when
working with Dual Language children.

Defining Dual
Language Learners
Different terms have been used to describe
children who speak a language other than
English at home: English language learner,
second language learner, limited English
proficient, to name a few. This document
uses the term “Dual Language Learners.” A
Dual Language Learner (DLL) is a child who
is learning a second language, in most cases
English, at the same time he or she is learning
his/her first or home language.2 The term
“Dual Language Learner” highlights the fact
that the child is learning two languages, or
becoming bilingual, which is an important
consideration for teachers and caregivers.
Teachers also have to consider how the child
is learning both the home language and
English. In fact, children can become DLLs
in many different ways. Some are exposed to
both languages from birth, while others are
exposed to one language at birth and then

begin to learn English when they enroll in
child care/preschool.

The Dual Language
Learning Process
The process of learning a second language
is complex, particularly when children are
learning a second language at the same time
they are learning their home language. In fact,
the process of learning a second language
is similar to learning a first language–it
happens over a period of years. Also,
children go through similar stages, such as
babbling nonsense sounds, saying their first
words, putting words together into phrases,
and eventually speaking in full sentences.
However, there are some differences in the
language learning process when children
are learning two languages at the same time.
For instance, they may use the language they
know best (their home language) when they
try to speak the second language. This is

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

called “code switching.” A child might say,
“Me gusta cookies,” mixing the Spanish words
“Me gusta” (“I like”) with an English word
(“cookies”). Examples such as this show that
children are making progress in learning the
second language, although it may seem like
they are confusing their home language and
the second language. This example also shows
that learning language takes time. Although
it might appear that children are learning the
new language “like sponges,” it actually takes
many years to learn a second language and to
learn how to use it in different contexts such
as the school and the community.

Children’s ability to learn a second language is
influenced by many factors, including how they
are exposed to the new language. Children
who interact more often with persons who
speak the second language will generally
learn the second language more quickly. Also,
the child’s temperament and her/his need to
use the language to communicate will also
affect how a child learns the second language.
Children who are shy or children who are in
settings where their home language is used
frequently may not learn the second language
as quickly as children who are outgoing and/
or children in settings where the second
language (i.e., English for many DLLs in North
Carolina) is used more frequently.

Although the pace at which children learn
the second language may vary based on a
number of factors, researchers have found that
children generally go through four stages as
they learn a second language. The four stages
are listed below and described in the table:3

• Home Language Use
• Nonverbal Period
• Telegraphic and Formulaic Speech
• Productive Language Use

Teachers and caregivers who understand
the dual language learning process and can
recognize these four stages of dual language
learning can support the children’s language
development more effectively. Remember,
children may appear to have completely
adjusted to the new language and be
functioning appropriately in the classroom
(i.e., using English and following classroom
routines and rules), but their language
learning process is far from over. It is
important to continue to provide support and
use the strategies shown in the table with DLLs
even as they move into the productive language
stage.

One myth that educators sometimes hear is
the idea that children will learn the second
language (i.e., English) more quickly if they
are in settings that use only English. Research
has shown that children actually learn

English more effectively if they are in settings
where both their home language and English
are used. It turns out that when children
can hear their own language and English,
they can pick up concepts more easily and
begin to understand what the English words
mean because they can use clues from their
home language. It is, however, difficult for
many early learning programs and schools
to provide support for children to use their
home language because the teachers and
caregivers may not speak the children’s home
language. However, providing no support in
the child’s first language can have negative
effects in many aspects of the child’s cognitive
development. Therefore it is worth trying in
any way possible to help the children use both
their home language and English. Teachers
and caregivers who speak only English might
train parents, volunteers, and members of the
community who speak the children’s language
to help in the classroom, and can encourage
family members to continue to speak to the
child in their home language.4

DLL and Culture
DLL children are not just learning a second
language. They also are growing up in a
culture that is different from the culture of an
English-speaking home. Therefore, in addition

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Dual Language Learning Stages and Suggestions for Teaching Strategies

Developmental
Sequence

of Language
Acquisition What Does it Look Like in Children? What Should Teachers Do?

Stage 1—
Home
Language
Use

• Continue using their home language.
• Become aware that there is more than one language.
• Decrease the use of their home language as they

recognize that others are speaking another language
and don’t understand them.

• Create a positive environment that values children’s language and culture.
• Allow children to use their home language to communicate.
• Simplify your sentences and speak slowly.
• Emphasize key words and phrases.
• Focus on one language at a time.
• Learn some words and phrases in the children’s home language.
• Greet children in their language.
• Encourage any attempt the children make to communicate.
• Model conversations without requiring children to repeat words (teacher says, “Who wants a

cookie?” and the co-teacher responds, “I do. I want a cookie”).
• Talk about the here and now and add words to their actions (“Maria is rocking the baby”).
• Help children to get to know each other. Use repetitive songs and activities to help children

introduce themselves.
• Encourage the children to work in small groups.
• Invite volunteers who speak the children’s language to read and tell stories, and to interact with

them.
• Label items in the classroom in both languages (use pictures and words).
• Maintain an orderly and organized classroom.
• Keep a regular routine so children learn vocabulary as you repeat activities every day.
• Use a picture schedule.
• Introduce new materials and vocabulary that you will use for any lesson or activity before the

lesson or activity.
• Provide nonverbal and verbal clues to help children understand what others are saying (pointing,

gestures, facial expressions, body movements, intonation, modeling, and role playing).
• Use a variety of visuals: real objects (realia), signs, props, maps, diagrams, charts, and pictures.
• Use all the senses and a lot of hands-on activities.
• Offer several activities that are all related to a topic the children are interested in or familiar with.
• Use songs, finger plays, rhymes, and stories with predictable text.
• Use music and movement activities frequently so children become aware of word patterns and

sounds.

Stage 2—
Nonverbal
Period

• Gather information about the new language.
• Might use nonverbal communication (gestures, visuals,

facial expressions, imitating, attention-getting).
• Observe others using the second language and build

their understanding about the new language.
• Try out new sounds.
• Might attempt conversations with those who

understand the new language.

Stage 3—
Telegraphic
and
Formulaic
Speech

• Start using one or two words (such as “Daddy shoes”
and “Fish water,” which are examples of telegraphic
sentences).

• Use phrases learned to help them communicate (such
as “I like milk” and “I wanna play,” which are examples
of formulaic speech).

Stage 4—
Productive
Language
Use

• Start to construct phrases and sentences in the new
language.

• Continue to make many mistakes as they develop their
vocabulary.

• Become aware of their errors in the new language and
use this knowledge to understand the rules of the new
language.

Adapted from Tabors, P. (2008).

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

to considering their language development
process, teachers and caregivers must also
think about the culture that children experience
in their families and communities. In fact,
the culture children experience can impact
how they use their language, their general
approach to learning, and their motivation
to learn the knowledge and skills described
in Foundations.5 When thinking of how to
best meet the needs of DLLs, teachers need
to consider variations in individual cultural
practices as well as language differences among
the children with whom they work. For instance,
there may be cultural differences in the degree
to which children are expected/taught to
explore on their own or to express curiosity.
Families may also differ in the extent to which
they want their child to show independence
and do things for him/herself. Teachers
and caregivers must be sensitive to cultural
differences in how and what children learn
across all areas of their development.

The Importance
of Families
While early educators commonly acknowledge
that members of a child’s family are the first
and most important teachers in a child’s life,

this view is especially important for DLLs.
Family members know their child best and
can provide unique insights into the child’s
development, particularly his/her language
development. For example, families can
inform teachers about the child’s home
language development, especially in those
cases when the teacher or child care provider
speaks only English. It is important to use a
strengths-based approach to working with DLL
families. The families, their culture, and their
language are assets in educating their child,
and they bring considerable resources to the
classroom as a whole. Instead of thinking
about what a family or a child does not know
or understand, we should consider and honor
what they do contribute to the education of
their own child and to the classroom.

In order to use a strengths-based approach
to working with DLL families, teachers and
caregivers should keep in mind several
considerations. First, it is important to
ensure that families have the support that
they need, including translation of written
documents and interpretation services for
oral communications, to fully participate in
their child’s education. Parents of DLLs may
have limited literacy in their own language so
materials should be available in a language that
the parents can read, and in formats such as

videos that can be understood by non-literate
parents. Also, family members may experience
difficulty participating in meetings (such as
IEP meetings) to discuss their child’s needs
or progress. Limited understanding of the
education system and language barriers can
get in the way of families’ participation. Also,
because of cultural differences, family members
may view teachers and administrators as “the
experts” and be uncomfortable voicing their
own observations of the child and/or concerns.
Other barriers such as lack of transportation,
long work hours, or multiple jobs can present
additional challenges for parents. Teachers and
caregivers should take steps to understand the
challenges that families face and to provide
information and resources that might help to
overcome those obstacles.

Another important aspect of working with DLL
children’s families is the need to build mutual
trust. Teachers and caregivers can foster
either trust or distrust, depending on how they
relate with family members. It’s important
to remember that both verbal and nonverbal
messages can convey interest and empathy,
which build trust. This is particularly true in
cross-cultural and cross-language exchanges.
Therefore, teachers and caregivers need to be
aware of both what they say and how they say
it, and be careful to treat families with respect

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and openness. Also keep in mind members of
families that have experience in the child care
or preschool program can be great allies in
building trust. They can explain what to expect
and introduce the teacher/caregiver to new
families, helping them get off to a smoother
start in the program. Relying on experienced
families to help build relationships with other
families can be a good strategy.

DLL and Standards
While it may seem that learning two languages
at a young age might interfere with a child’s
learning and development in other areas, it
turns out that being a DLL is actually beneficial
for children. In fact, research shows that DLLs
often experience improved cognitive and social
development. They are better at critical thinking
skills, are more creative, acquire some literacy
skills more quickly, and have a greater sense of
respect for differences among people.6,7

In spite of these potential advantages, there
are a number of considerations teachers
and caregivers need to keep in mind when
supporting DLL children’s progress in all of
the areas described in Foundations. The table
summarizes some strategies for how teachers
can support DLL children’s development and
learning, and this section provides additional
advice. First, it is important to remember that

at the same time they are acquiring a second
language, DLLs also need to learn the content
such as early mathematics skills, early literacy
skills, science, and social studies. Therefore,
when planning learning experiences in areas
such as science and mathematics, teachers
need to take steps to make the content more
accessible or understandable to children who
speak another language. This may mean that
teachers have to use props and/or pictures
to show children a concept rather than just
talking about what they are supposed to learn,
or try other strategies to explain the skill
they are teaching. Although strategies such
as these are helpful for all children, they are
particularly important for DLL children.

Teachers and caregivers also need to pay
especially close attention to DLL children’s
thinking related to areas such as mathematics
and science. Because DLLs may still be learning
the vocabulary the teacher/caregiver is using,
it’s important to check to make sure they really
understand the concept rather than relying on
a simple correct answer that they might offer
to questions. When working with any child but
particularly with DLLs, teachers can get a better
understanding of what the DLL child is thinking
by asking why she/he gave a particular answer
or how she/he decided what to say (or do if
they are demonstrating a skill with actions).

Teachers can also check for understanding by
asking the children to demonstrate concepts
such as using manipulatives to indicate a
specific number, etc. Probes such as this will
help teachers get a better feel for whether the
child really understands the concept they are
trying to teach.

It is also important to think about how to
integrate children’s sociocultural experiences at
home into the curriculum. Building on what the
children experience at home is more effective
than introducing new skills and concepts in
a way that is unfamiliar to DLLs. Young DLLs
acquire knowledge of mathematics and science
while they are engaged in daily routines and
activities that are part of the cultural practices
of their families and communities.8 Teachers
need to incorporate families’ daily routines that
involve mathematical and science learning into
their curriculum.

Finally, teachers and caregivers should help
DLLs demonstrate what they know in different
ways, beyond just answering questions verbally.
Young DLLs might demonstrate what they know
through gestures, their first language, using
pictures, or using props such as blocks or other
objects.9 A knowledgeable and observant teacher
can often determine children’s understanding
of concepts even if they cannot express them
verbally in academic English.

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Conclusion
All children, including DLLs, should have
experiences that help them make progress
on the skills and knowledge described
in Foundations. Teachers and caregivers
who provide support for the children to
continue to use their home language, who are
knowledgeable about and value the children’s
home culture and family, and who intentionally
seek to help children learn both English and
concepts from Foundations will most effectively
support the learning and development of DLLs.

Endnotes
1 Action for Children North Carolina. (2010). Latino children

in North Carolina: An Action for Children North Carolina
Data Report. Available at http://www.ncchild.org/publication-
or-research-type/latino-children-north-carolina-2010

2 Center for Early Care and Education Research – Dual Language
Learners. (2012). Primary definition of dual language
learners (DLLs) used by the CECER-DLL. Available at
http://cecerdll.fpg.unc.edu/

3 Tabors, P. (2008). One child, two languages: A guide for
early childhood educators of children learning English as a
second language (2nd ed.). Baltimore, MD: Paul H. Brookes.

4 Espinosa, L. M. (2008). Challenging common myths about
young English language learners. Foundation for Child
Development Advancing PreK–3rd Series No. 8. Available at
http://fcd-us.org/resources/challenging-common-myths-about-
young-english-language-learners

5 Espinosa, L. M. (2005). Curriculum and assessment
considerations for young children from culturally, linguistically,
and economically diverse backgrounds. Psychology in the
Schools, 42(8), 837–853.

6 Genessee, F. (2008). Early dual language learning.
Washington, DC: Zero to Three.

7 Hammer, C. S., & Miccio, A. W. (2006). Early language and
reading development of bilingual preschoolers from low-
income families. Topics in Language Disorders, 26, 322–337.

8 Rogoff, B. (2003). The cultural nature of human
development. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.

9 Moschkovich, J. (2002). A situated and sociocultural
perspective on bilingual mathematics learners. Mathematical
Thinking and Learning, 4(2–3), 189–212.

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Glossary

Active exploration – Activities that promote
and encourage child development and
learning through movement or by doing
something.

Active learners –Children who learn by
doing, participating, and/or playing.

Active physical play – Playful physical activities
(structured or free-play) that promote
physical fitness and motor development.

Accommodate – To make changes in
materials, activities, interactions,
or environments so all children can
participate fully.

Activities – Experiences planned by
the teacher or caregiver that create
opportunities for children to explore and
learn about their world.

Adaptive equipment – Devices or equipment
designed to be used to support development
and learning by helping a child more easily
participate in play, curriculum activities,
and caregiving routines.

Age levels – Overlapping ages of young
children described in broad categories:
infants, young toddlers, older toddlers,
young preschoolers, and older preschoolers.

Alignment – The relationship between
content addressed in two sets or age levels
of standards.

Alphabetic principle – The understanding
that letters and letter patterns represent
the sounds of spoken language.

Appropriate – What is typically expected for
a child’s age and ability level.

Artistic expression – A child’s effort to
express thoughts, feelings, and experiences
through some form of art (e.g., painting,
drawing, sculpting, music, etc.).

Assessment – The act of gathering information
about a child’s level of development and
learning for purposes of making decisions
that will benefit the child.

Assistive technology – A range of devices
and strategies used to promote a child’s
access to and participation in learning
opportunities, from making simple
changes to the environment and materials
to helping a child use special equipment.

Attach/Attachment – The strong emotional
tie children feel with special people in
their lives (family members and other
caregivers).

Attentiveness – The ability to focus and
maintain attention on one topic or thing.

Audibly – Capable of being heard.

Augmentative communication – A term that
refers to communication methods that can
be used to supplement or replace speech
or writing for children who are impaired
in the production or comprehension of
spoken or written language.

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Book knowledge – Knowledge of the basic
features of a book such as the cover, title,
author, etc.

Caregivers – Adults who care for infants and
toddlers in homes, child care centers,
family child care homes; adults who are
kith and kin or family, friend and neighbor
care providers; and adults who are early
intervention professionals or specialized
service providers.

Caregiving routines/care routines –
Everyday experiences that meet young
children’s needs such as diapering,
feeding, and dressing.

Checklist – A list of characteristics used to
indicate mastery of specific areas and used
to evaluate a child’s progress.

Child-directed play – Allowing children to
choose their own play in an environment
that includes several options or choices.

Confidence – The general belief that one will
be successful or can do something well.

Communication – The act of understanding
and/or expressing wants, needs, feelings,
and thoughts with others. Forms of
communication may include crying,
vocalizing, facial expressions, speech,
gestures, sign language, pictures, and/or
objects.

Consistent relationships – Relationships
that develop when a child experiences
predictable care from a primary
caregiver(s) such as a parent or child care
provider.

Construct knowledge – To gain
understanding and knowledge of the world
through experiencing things and then
reflecting on those experiences.

Coo – Production of vowel sounds, often in
response to a human face or voice, usually
beginning around the second month of life
expressing happiness or contentment.

Cooperate – To work or act with others
willingly and agreeably.

Creative expression – Expressing one’s
own ideas, feelings, experiences, and/or
perceptions through artistic media such as
dance, music, and/or visual arts.

Creativity – The ability to move beyond
the usual ideas, rules, patterns, or
relationships.

Culture – A way of life of a group of people,
including the behaviors, beliefs, values,
traditions, religion, and symbols that are
typical for the group and generally done/
accepted without thinking about them.

Curriculum – A written set of materials that
provides an integrated framework to guide

decisions adults make when providing
experiences for children.

Demonstrate – To show clearly.

Developmental delay – When children’s
development in one or more domains lags
behind what is typical for their age.

Developmental Indicator – Specific
statement that defines what children are
able to do at a particular age level.

Developmental Indicator Continuum –
A chart that shows the Goals and
Developmental Indicators for each age
level for a domain.

Developmental milestone – A set of skills
or tasks that most children can do in a
certain age range.

Developmental stage – The typical
progression in children’s physical, social,
emotional, and cognitive development,
which includes developmental milestones
or specific skills or tasks that most
children can do in a certain age range.

Dexterity – Skill and grace in physical
movements.

Disability – A delay or impairment that
is physical, cognitive, mental, sensory,
emotional, or some combination of these.

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Diversity – Refers to the variety of
characteristics that make individuals
(and/or families) unique (e.g., culture,
ethnicity, education, religion, economic
background, etc.).

Domain – One of the five broad categories
of learning and development in which
goals and strategies are grouped, such as
Emotional-Social Development.

Dramatic play – Refers to the various kinds
of play where children can take on roles
and act them out (e.g., pretending to be a
parent or using dolls to tell a story).

Dual Language Learner (DLL) – Refers
to children who are learning a second
language at the same time they are
continuing to develop their native or home
language.

Early literacy – Describes the foundations of
reading and writing that begin to develop
in infancy and continue to emerge through
the toddler, preschool, and kindergarten
age periods.

Engage – To become involved or to be
attentive.

Enthusiasm – Great excitement and interest.

Examine – To observe, test, or investigate.

Experiment – An action used to discover
something unknown, to test a principle
or idea, or to learn about a cause and its
effect.

Expressive language – The ability to use
words or gestures to communicate
meaning.

Extend – (1) To make a longer sentence or add
a thought to what the child has said; (2) to
allow for more play by adding new ideas or
materials to the setting; (3) to lengthen or
stretch the human body, torso, arm, or leg.

Explore – To investigate or study.

Family – Refers to the closest relationships
that a child has, including the child’s
mother, father, foster or adoptive parents,
grandparents, and/or others who are the
primary caregivers in a child’s life.

“Feeling” words – Words used by adults to
name the common feelings experienced
by people (happiness, anger, fear, and
sadness) to help young children learn to
connect specific feelings with words.

Gaze – To look steadily and intently with
curiosity, interest, pleasure, or wonder.

Generalization – The ability to take what has
been learned in one situation and apply it
to new and different situations (e.g., when
children use a previously used or observed
strategy to solve a new problem).

Gestures – Moving the limbs or body as an
expression of thought or emphasis.

Goal – Statement that describes a general area
or aspect of development that children
make progress on throughout the birth
through age five period.

Grammatical construction – Words that are
put together according to the conventional
rules of grammar to form sentences.

Hand-eye coordination – The ability to
coordinate vision and hand movement in
order to accomplish a task.

Hands-on learning experiences –
Learning activities that enhance children’s
understanding of a concept through
activities that they do with materials, toys,
etc., rather than just listening to an adult
or rotely practicing isolated skills or
knowledge.

Home language – The language that a child’s
family typically speaks and that the child
learns first.

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Imagination – Forming mental images or
concepts of things that are not actually
present to the senses.

Imitate – To copy, pretend or practice the
activity of another individual.

Impulsive – A sudden spontaneous action
based on needs or wants.

Inclusive setting/Inclusion – The
environment, attitude, and knowledge
that encourages the enrollment and
participation of all children, including
children with disabilities.

Independence – The child’s ability to do,
think, and learn on his/her own with little
or no assistance from others.

Independent choices – Choosing freely
between developmentally appropriate
alternatives.

Informational text – A type of non-fiction
writing that conveys factual information
about the natural or social world.

Initiative – The inclination or ability to start
or begin an activity.

Interest areas – Areas in a child care
environment where similar materials, such
as dramatic play materials, are grouped
together to capture children’s interest and
engage them in play and learning activities.

Inventiveness – The ability to invent or create
with one’s imagination.

Intervene – (1) To step in to a situation to
help; (2) To alter or hinder an action.

Investigate – To study the details, to examine,
or to observe in order to gain knowledge.

Jabber – Rapid sounds or vocalizations made
by infants and young children that sound
like sentences or conversations but do not
yet include words.

Joint attention – A state in which the child
and the caregiver pay attention to the same
object or event, and the caregiver often
talks about what they are looking at.

Label – To attach a word to a picture, object,
action, or event, either verbally or in
writing.

Language – Words, signs, and symbols used
by a group of people to communicate.

Large muscle control – Ability to use the
large muscle groups, such as the muscles
in the arms and legs, in a relatively
coordinated manner.

Manipulatives – Materials that allow
children to explore, experiment, and
interact by using their hands. Such items
include, but are not limited to, beads and
laces, puzzles, small blocks, and items that
can be snapped or hooked together.

Materials – Resources that caregivers add to
the environment to enhance development
and learning, including toys, pictures, and
other things children can explore.

Model – The act of teaching others (children)
through the example of doing the desired
behavior.

Motivation to read – A child’s eagerness to
learn to read and to read.

Motor coordination – Various parts of
the body working together in a smooth,
purposeful way.

Natural reflexes – The body’s automatic
response to specific stimuli (leg kicks
upward when knee is tapped).

Numeral – A written symbol used to represent
a number.

Observe – Taking notice of the unique
characteristics of each child or something
in the environment.

One-to-one correspondence – The ability
to match each item in one set to another
item within a different but equal set (e.g.,
matching a set of socks with a set of
shoes).

Parallel talk – Adults talking to a child,
describing what the child is doing.

Persistence – Continued effort; steadfastness.

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Phonological awareness – An individual’s
awareness of the sounds and structure of
spoken words.

Pincer grasp – Putting the index finger and
the thumb together.

Play – Spontaneous actions chosen by
children and considered by them to be fun
and meaningful.

Policymaker – An individual who works to
create laws, rules, and/or guidelines that
can affect children and families.

Primary caregiver – The adult caregiver
who is responsible for developing an
emotional connection with a specific
infant or toddler and who is usually first to
respond to the child when needs arise.

Print awareness – The basic understanding
of how print works—what print looks like,
how it works, and the fact that print carries
meaning.

Print conventions – The concept of the
basic features of print, including what a
letter is, the concept of words, and the
understanding of the directionality of print.

Problem-solving – Behaviors practiced by
young children that allow them to explore
questions or situations and try different
solutions.

Prompt – To encourage an action or behavior.

Prop – Any object used by children during play.

Random movements – Unexpected and
unplanned body movements in a young
child.

Reading behaviors – An understanding
of the reading process, including the
developmental skills and strategies children
need to become proficient readers.

Recall – The act of remembering; to bring
back from memory.

Redirect – A teaching strategy used to re-
focus a child’s attention on an alternative
object, feature in the environment, and/or
activity rather than directly correcting the
child’s behavior.

Reinforce – To strengthen a response with
some type of physical, emotional, or verbal
reward.

Repetitive books – Books that repeat the
same words or phrases over and over again.

Represent – To use something to stand for or
symbolize something else.

Respect – To show esteem for another
person; to communicate that his or her
ideas, feelings, and needs are worthy of
consideration.

Responsive – Warm, sensitive, well-timed,
and appropriate to the child’s needs; used
to describe caregiver-child interactions
that promote healthy development.

Reciprocal – Refers to something that goes
both ways or to something that is done in
return for a similar behavior (e.g., mom
blows a kiss to her child and the child
responds by blowing a kiss back to mom).

Role – Behavior exhibited by a person
that identifies their work, status, or
responsibilities.

Rote count – The act of counting out loud.

Routines – A pattern of events or interactions
planned and occurring on a regular basis.

Rhythm – A musical term that refers to the
repeated pattern of sounds or silences.
Also referred to as the “beat” of a song.

Safe environments – Environments where
children can be actively involved in things
that interest them and are appropriate for
them to use without getting hurt.

Security – Freedom from care, anxiety, or
doubt; feelings of safety and trust.

Self-awareness – Being aware of oneself,
including feelings, behaviors, and
characteristics (e.g., “I like playing
baseball”).

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Self-care routines – Tasks or routines
carried out to take care of health and
hygiene needs.

Self-identity – Refers to a person’s view of
him/herself and how he/she might identify
with certain groups (such as racial or
ethnic group).

Sensitive adults – Adults who accept
that each child is different, interact
with children in ways that match their
individual needs, and show warmth and
caring for all children.

Sensory – Related to the senses: hearing,
seeing, touching, tasting, and smelling.

Sensory impairments – Vision or hearing
losses or other sensory disabilities that
may require specialized assistance or early
intervention.

Sensory materials – Materials and
experiences that stimulate at least one of
the five senses: hearing, seeing, touching,
tasting, and smelling.

Separation anxiety – The stress experienced
by a child when separated from a parent or
primary caregiver.

Setting – Any place where children receive care.

Sleep routine – The process by which a child
settles down, with or without the assistance
of an adult, and allows sleep to occur.

Small muscle control – Ability to use the
small muscles of the hands in a relatively
coordinated manner.

Social Connections – A subdomain that
describes Goals and Developmental
Indicators related to children’s knowledge
of and ability to function successfully in
groups of people; roughly equivalent to the
Social Studies academic content area.

Specialized care – Care routines or
services needed to ensure the successful
development of children with special needs
or special health care needs.

Special circumstances – Situations in a
child’s life that may call for additional care
or nurturing from the caregiver.

Special needs – Developmental disabilities
that may require specialized care.

Stamina – The ability to maintain prolonged
physical or mental effort.

Stimulation – Any number of sounds,
textures, temperatures, tastes, or
sights that impact a child’s senses or
development.

Strategies – Suggested activities, materials,
and ways of interacting that promote
development and learning in the areas
described by the Goals and Developmental
Indicators.

Subdomain – Subtopics that fall within a
domain, such as “Developing a Sense of
Self” which is included in the Emotional
and Social Development domain.

Symbol – Something that represents
something else by association.

Teachers – Adults who care for infants and
toddlers in homes, child care centers,
family child care homes; adults who are
kith and kin or family, friend and neighbor
care providers; and adults who are early
intervention professionals or technical
assistance experts.

Temperament – The unique way a child
responds to the world.

Themes – Activities, materials, or interest
areas in the child care environment that
center around a certain concept or topic.

Tonal pattern – Sequence of notes, individual
pitches, and durations that form a pattern.

Tools – Anything used or created to
accomplish a task or purpose.

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Trial and error – Attempting to solve a
problem by randomly trying different
approaches.

Transition – To move or change from one
activity or location to another activity or
location.

Turn-taking games – Games between adults
and young children where an adult makes
a sound or action and waits for the child
to mimic or copy them. Once the child
responds, the adult makes a sound or action.

Two-dimensional shape and three-
dimensional shape – A two-dimensional
shape is a flat image of the shape; a three-
dimensional shape appears to have width
and height and allows for rotation and
depth.

Visual effects – Results of a child’s artistic
efforts that can be seen by others.

Vocabulary – The collection of words
that a child understands or uses to
communicate.

Writing conventions – Generally accepted
rules for writing, such as spelling,
punctuation, and capitalization.

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Selected Sources

T
he team that revised Foundations
consulted many research-
based sources and publications
when writing the Goals and
Developmental Indicators. The

following list presents selected resources
that were invaluable in the effort to describe
expectations for children’s development from
birth through age five.

Berk, L. E. (2008). Child development (8th
ed.). New York, NY: Pearson Education.

Center on the Social and Emotional
Foundations for Early Learning.
http://csefel.vanderbilt.edu/

Council for Exceptional Children,
The Division for Early Childhood.
http://www.dec-sped.org/

Dickinson, D. K., & Neuman, S. B. (Eds.).
(2006). Handbook of early literacy
research, Vol. 2. New York, NY: Guilford
Press.

Gonzalez-Mena, J., & Eyer, D. W. (2009). Infants,
toddlers, and caregivers: A curriculum of
respectful, responsive care and education
(9th ed.). Boston, MA: McGraw Hill.

Hyson, M. (2008). Enthusiastic and engaged
learners: Approaches to learning in the
early childhood classroom. New York, NY:
Teachers College Press.

National Early Literacy Panel. (2008).
Developing early literacy: Report of the
National Early Literacy Panel. Washington,
DC: National Institute for Literacy.

National Governors Association Center for Best
Practices and Council of Chief State School
Officers. (2010). Common core state
standards. National Governors Association
Center for Best Practices, Council of
Chief State School Officers, Washington
D.C. http://www.corestandards.org/the-
standards/download-the-standards

National Research Council. (2009).
Mathematics learning in early
childhood: Paths toward excellence
and equity. Committee on Early
Childhood Mathematics, Christopher
T. Cross, Taniesha A. Woods, and
Heidi Schweingruber, Editors. Center
for Education, Division of Behavioral
and Social Sciences and Education.
Washington, DC: The National Academies
Press.

National Research Council and Institute of
Medicine. (2000). From neurons to
neighborhoods: The science of early
childhood development. Committee on
Integrating the Science of Early Childhood
Development. Jack P. Shonkoff and
Deborah A. Phillips (Eds.). Board on
Children, Youth, and Families, Commission
on Behavioral and Social Sciences and
Education. Washington, DC: National
Academy Press.

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

North Carolina Department of Public
Instruction (n.d.). Instructional support
tools for achieving new standards:
English/language arts, unpacked content.
http://dpi.state.nc.us/docs/acre/standards/
common-core-tools/unpacking/ela/
kindergarten.pdf

Parlakian, R. (2003). Before the ABCs:
Promoting school readiness in infants and
toddlers. Washington, DC: Zero to Three.

Raikes, H. H., & Edwards, C. P. (2009).
Extending the dance in infant & toddler
caregiving: Enhancing attachment and
relationships. Baltimore, MD: Brookes
Publishing.

Trawick-Smith, J. (2010). Early childhood
development: A multicultural perspective
(5th ed.). New York, NY: Pearson
Education.

Wittmer, D. S., & Petersen, S. H. (2006). Infant
and toddler development and responsive
program planning: A relationship-
based approach. Upper Saddle River, NJ:
Pearson/Merrill Prentice Hall.

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History of This Foundations Document

North Carolina has a long-standing commitment to supporting the learning and development of young children. This commitment is evident in numerous efforts
to improve the quality of children’s early experiences,
including initiatives designed to describe goals for
children’s learning and development. In 1999 the
North Carolina Ready for School Goal Team, in concert
with the State Board of Education, was charged
with defining school readiness for the state of North
Carolina. The Ready for School Goal Team’s report
recommended that school readiness be defined as the
condition of children when they enter school and the
capacity of schools to serve all children effectively,
with families and communities playing supporting
roles. This definition established the importance of
five developmental domains for children’s school
readiness: health and physical development, social and
emotional development, approaches toward learning,
language development and communication, and
cognition and general knowledge.

Although the Goal Team definition of school
readiness was a useful guide for early childhood
policy initiatives, there was a need for a more
specific description of goals for children’s learning
and development that teachers could use as a
guide for what to teach. Therefore, in 2005, the

North Carolina Department of Public Instruction
published Foundations: Early Learning Standards
for North Carolina Preschoolers and Strategies for
Guiding Their Success. Developed by a large and
diverse task force of stakeholders, this document
described widely held expectations for preschool
children’s development in each of the five domains
and provided strategies that could be used to
support children’s progress on the widely held
expectations. The document and corresponding
professional development were widely available to
pre-kindergarten, child care, Head Start and family
child care home programs.

In 2007 the North Carolina Division of Child
Development published Infant–Toddler Foundations:
Guidelines for Development and Learning for
North Carolina’s Infants and Toddlers (birth to 36
months). Infant-Toddler Foundations, developed
by a multi-disciplinary task force of early childhood
experts, described goals for North Carolina’s
youngest children in five developmental domains. The
document also included strategies that adults could
use to support babies’ development and learning.
Teachers and caregivers in North Carolina infant-
toddler programs used the document as a resource to
guide their interactions and the learning experiences
they provided for babies in their care.

These efforts to define goals for North Carolina’s
children affirmed the importance of children’s learning
and development before school entry, and highlighted
the benefits of intentional, goal-directed teaching for
young children. They did not, however, support the
vision of a seamless birth-through-five-years system of
early care and education because the goals for infants
and toddlers were included in a separate document
from goals for preschoolers and were, in some cases,
expressed differently in the two documents. To address
the need for a comprehensive set of early learning
and development standards that cover the full age
range, in 2011 North Carolina’s Early Childhood
Advisory Council (ECAC) convened a leadership
team with representatives from the Division of Child
Development and Early Education and the Department
of Public Instruction to revise Foundations. With the
help of a broadly representative stakeholder group,
the leadership team combined and updated North
Carolina’s early learning and development standards
for infants, toddlers, and preschoolers. As a result
of this work, North Carolina now has one document
that articulates our state’s goals for children on
a continuum that includes infants, toddlers, and
preschoolers— North Carolina Foundations for Early
Learning and Development.

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