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Illinois Early Learning Guidelines: For Children Birth to Age Three

Children’s experiences in the first three years of life influence how they develop, learn, and interact with their world. This period is marked by an extraordinary amount of growth and sets the foundation for children’s future learning and ongoing development.

The Illinois Early Learning Guidelines for Children Birth to Age 3 provide early childhood professionals and policy makers a framework for understanding child development by presenting information on what children know and should do and what development looks like in everyday life. The main goal of the Guidelines is to offer early childhood professionals a cohesive analysis of children’s development with common expectations and common language. These Guidelines also provide suggestions and ideas on how to create early experiences that benefit all children’s learning and development.

Introductory Material


Self-Regulation: Foundation of Development

Developmental Domain 1: Social & Emotional Development

Developmental Domain 2: Physical Development & Health

Developmental Domain 3: Language Development, Communication, & Literacy

Developmental Domain 4: Cognitive Development

Approaches to Learning


IEL is providing our users access to the Guidelines in two formats:

  • HTML version
    Table of contents for the HTML version of the Guidelines.
    English | Spanish
  • PDF version
    IEL is providing access to a PDF of the full 170-page printed version of the Guidelines.
    English | Spanish (7.66 MB and 3.87 MB PDF files)

Our new HTML version (in both English and Spanish) allows users to easily access the Guidelines from a variety of platforms. The HTML version allows users to easily go to other interconnected sections of the Guidelines. It also provides an easy-to-use drop-down view of the age descriptors that describe the progression of development for four different age groups across the birth-to-three age range.


  • Guidelines FAQ
    IEL also has an FAQ on what parents need to know about the Guidelines.
    English | Spanish
  • List of standards
    IEL has created a convenient HTML list of the standards included in the Illinois Early Learning Guidelines.
    English | Spanish
  • Guidelines Webinar
    Presented by Penelope Smith and Donna Emmons
    Illinois State Board of Education
    Webinar | Presentation

Print Version

IEL is providing access to a PDF of the full 170-page printed version of the Guidelines:

The IEL Project is in the process of adding resource lists, illustrative videos, and other materials to support the use of the Illinois Early Learning Guidelines.


View the Ounce of Prevention Training Materials that trainers can use in their presentations.


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.

About IEL

The Illinois Early Learning Project Web site is a source of evidence-based, reliable information on early care and education for parents, caregivers, and teachers of young children in Illinois.

Fax: 217-244-7732
Toll free: (877) 275-3227
View additional contact information.


View available Tip Sheets in:

You can also view the IEL website in Spanish (español).

Featured Sites

IECAM EI Clearinghouse IL Parents

University of IllinoisUniversity of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
College of Education
Early Childhood and Parenting Collaborative

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