The Guidelines are a resource that is meant for people who want to understand more about how babies and toddlers grow and develop. The Guidelines are for caregivers, program directors, teachers, early intervention specialists, parents, policymakers, and anyone else who is concerned about the well-being of children, birth to age 3.
The Guidelines were originally printed as a book, about 170 pages long. The book is divided into chapters and illustrated with photographs of babies, toddlers, and their parents and caregivers. It is meant to be easy to understand and relatively quick to read. You can read this book online or download the entire document as a printer-friendly PDF. The Illinois Early Learning (IEL) Project has made an HTML version available in English and Spanish.
The Guidelines were developed by people from several groups in Illinois that focus on the well-being of babies and toddlers.
The Infant Toddler Committee of the Illinois Early Learning Council appointed a work group to create the Illinois Early Learning Guidelines. Teams of specialists in the work group studied reliable research findings and consulted with experts to find out as much as possible about how babies and toddlers grow and develop. Then they organized that information into sections related to different aspects of development. They asked other specialists to read drafts of the Guidelines and make comments so that the finished product would be as clear and accurate as possible. (You can find the names of the people and organizations involved in creating the Guidelines here.)
Finally, after about two years of work, the Guidelines were ready to be published.
The Guidelines have several purposes.
The Illinois Early Learning Guidelines are organized like a book, starting with a table of contents and an introduction, followed by separate sections about the newborn period, self-regulation, four “domains of development,” and approaches to learning.
The first main section of the Guidelines covers the newborn period, from birth to about 4 months. You will find information about what’s going on with new babies: the reflexes and skills they are born with, the ways they adapt to what goes on around them, the ways they interact with others.
The next six sections begin with an introduction and include several subsections. Each subsection includes a related standard, which states something that children usually know or are able to do by 36 months (3 years) of age. For example, the standard for Physiological Regulation is “Children demonstrate the emerging ability to regulate their physical processes in order to meet both their internal needs and external demands in accordance with social and cultural contexts.” (This means that children gradually learn many things, such as how and when to use the toilet, in line with what their families and society expect of them.)
The subsections also include short descriptions of what a child is usually able to do during four overlapping age categories: birth to 9 months, 7 months to 18 months, 16 months to 24 months, and 21 months to 36 months. Each age category includes a short description of what a child is usually able to do at that age. Each age category also includes a list of “indicators,” or behaviors that you or a caregiver might notice. Below the indicators is a list of “strategies for interaction,” things family members and caregivers can do to promote a child’s learning and development. Many subsections end with a “real world” example that describes an infant or toddler “in action” along with a summary of what the example illustrates. Many subsections of the Guidelines also end with a few paragraphs titled “Keep in Mind,” which include important points to remember about little ones.
The second main section of the Guidelines focuses on self-regulation—how children take in and respond to information from the world around them and from their own bodies. Following the section on self-regulation are the sections related to developmental domains: social emotional development; physical development and health; language development, communication, and literacy; and cognitive development. The final section, Approaches to Learning, discusses ways that babies and toddlers investigate and make sense of the world (including the other people in it).
The last part of the Guidelines includes a glossary of terms. It also provides information for directors and policymakers about how the Guidelines fit with the Illinois system of program services for babies and toddlers (horizontal alignment) and how they align with the learning standards used by many preschools, Head Start programs, and schools in Illinois (vertical alignment).
The Guidelines are meant to be a source of information about babies and toddlers. People who might want to use them include caregivers, program directors, parents, college instructors, and anyone who makes decisions that affect the lives of young children. They are meant to present a way of thinking about babies and toddlers that can help improve the quality of services that are offered to very young children and families by child care programs, family service groups, and many other organizations and agencies in Illinois.
The authors of the Guidelines make it clear that there are some purposes the Guidelines were not meant to serve:
If your child’s caregiver uses information in the Guidelines to help with planning what to do with your child, your baby or toddler is likely to have a rich, positive experience in child care. For example, the caregiver can use the “strategies for interaction” in the Guidelines to plan and implement activities that fit your child’s abilities and interests.
As a parent, you can also get new ideas from the Guidelines for things you can do to help your child learn and be healthy. You can find out about important topics such as brain development and infant temperament that can help you better understand your baby or toddler.
When you and your child’s caregiver talk about your child, it might be helpful for both of you to refer to the specific Guidelines as you talk about what your child does and what you and the caregiver are doing to help your child learn and thrive. Your child is likely to benefit when you and the caregiver have some ideas about him in common.
The Guidelines may also have an indirect effect on your child. If state and local policymakers base their work on information about babies and toddlers in the Guidelines, they may create more child-friendly and family-friendly laws and policies.
As a parent, you might use the Illinois Early Learning Guidelines in several ways. For example, reading the Guidelines can give you an idea of the kinds of skills and abilities your child’s caregivers will expect him to have. When you know what they will expect, you can ask the caregiver how the child care program’s activities will help your child learn and grow.
The Guidelines also provide information similar to what you might get from your health care provider about “developmental milestones,” or the things children are usually able to do at certain ages. You may even want to print a specific part of the Guidelines to take to your child’s appointments to help you talk with the health-care provider about your questions and concerns.
The Guidelines can also give you ideas about experiences you may want your child to have at home and in child care.
The Guidelines define words that professionals such as teachers, health-care providers, and other specialists use when they talk about children’s development and learning—terms such as “joint attention” and “private speech” that most people do not use every day. These definitions can help you when you need to ask a caregiver or health-care provider about your child or when you want to better understand something they are saying about your child.
In order to cover all aspects of babies’ and toddlers’ development and learning, the Guidelines are very long. Some parents may wonder if it’s best to read the entire Guidelines all at once or if they can approach it in “bite-sized” pieces.
Either way is fine. You don’t need to read through it all to find valuable information. If you are wondering about your child’s emotional self-regulation or her language development, you can skip the other sections and look only at the ones that interest you at the time. The Guidelines will still be available when you are ready to find out more about other aspects of your child’s development and learning.June 2013
The opinions, resources, and referrals provided on the IEL Web site are intended for informational purposes only and are not intended to take the place of medical or legal advice, or of other appropriate services. We encourage you to seek direct local assistance from a qualified professional if necessary before taking action.
The content of the IEL Web site does not necessarily reflect the views or policies of the Illinois Early Learning Project, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, or the Illinois State Board of Education; nor does the mention of trade names, commercial products, or organizations imply endorsement by the Illinois Early Learning Project, the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, or the Illinois State Board of Education.