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Illinois Early Learning Guidelines

2013 Illinois Early Learning Guidelines


  • Alignment refers to how these early learning standards relate to the sets of standards in place for older children. It also illustrates the interconnectedness of these standards within state systems and early childhood programs, producing healthy outcomes.
  • Attachment figures refer to a few, select caregivers, with whom children have an attachment relationship. Attachment figures can include parents, grandparents, relatives, and childcare providers.
  • Attachment refers to the bond between a child and their primary caregiver(s). The secure attachment relationship provides emotional and physical security for the child, and is the foundation for development and learning.
  • Attending refers to children’s ability to remain focused on objects and people for brief periods of time. As they get older, children can attend, or remain engaged, for longer periods of time.
  • Attention is the ability to focus and concentrate on something in the environment.
  • Attributes are characteristics or properties of objects, such as shape, color, or size.


  • Bio-behavioral shifts are changes in behavior triggered by biological changes in the brain. These shifts allow children to grow and gain new skills.
  • Biological rhythms are patterns that occur within people’s bodies. These include sleeping, waking, eliminating, and maintaining normal body temperature.


  • Caregivers are those who are primarily responsible for the care of the child. Caregivers include parents, grandparents, other relatives, and childcare providers.
  • Causation refers to the relationship between cause and effect. Children understand that specific actions and words affect objects and people in their environment.
  • Code-switching is the practice of moving back and forth between two languages within the same dialogue or conversation.
  • Concept refers to a general notion or an abstract idea formed in the mind, derived from specific occurrences. Early experiences form schemes, which form into concepts.
  • Co-regulator refers to the child’s primary caregiver(s) who assist the child in achieving regulation through responses, interactions, and communication.
  • Cultural variations refer to the differences in beliefs, practices, and attitudes within the same cultural group.
  • Culture consists of the beliefs, behaviors, objects, and other characteristics common to the members of a particular group or society.
  • Curiosity is an instinctive drive to learn about the world.


  • Delayed imitation occurs when a child imitates an action after a significant amount of time has passed.


  • Early literacy encompasses the foundation for reading and writing.
  • External states refer to what the environment demands, such as sounds, actions, touch, or objects.


  • Familiar others are people who are a common presence in the life of the child. These may include family members, additional childcare providers, family friends, occasional caregivers, and neighbors.
  • Fine motor refers to the movement and coordination of small muscles, such as those in the hands, wrists, and fingers.


  • Gaze aversion is the child’s purposefully looking away and avoiding eye contact.
  • Gross motor refers to the control and movement of large muscle groups such as the torso, head, legs, and arms.


  • Habituation refers to becoming accustomed to and not distracted by stimuli occurring in the environment.
  • Homeostasis refers to the infant’s ability to remain regulated and form basic cycles of sleep, wakefulness, feeding, and eliminating.


  • Intentional or goal-directed behaviors are purposeful and deliberate. Intentional behaviors become increasingly complex as children grow.
  • Internal states refer to bodily conditions, such as hunger, discomfort, or tiredness.


  • Joint attention is the shared experience of looking at an object, person, or event, established by pointing, gesturing, or the use of language and/or vocalizations.


  • Large muscles refer to the muscles found in the arms and legs. Large muscle movements include crawling, kicking, walking, running, and throwing.
  • Linguistic variations are slight differences within a language and/or dialect.


  • Object permanence refers to children’s understanding that objects continue to exist even though they can no longer be seen or heard.
  • Object properties are observable characteristics that define objects. Examples of object properties include: size, weight, shape, color, and temperature.
  • Overstimulation refers to excessive sounds, textures, temperatures, and sights that impede children’s ability to make a meaningful connection with others or objects.


  • Perceptual development refers to taking in and interpreting sensory stimuli; it is through these stimuli that children learn about and interact with their environment.
  • Persistence is the ability to see a process through in order to accomplish a particular goal. Children demonstrate persistence when they work through challenges to complete tasks and/or actions.
  • Pincer grasp refers to grasping small objects with the index finger and thumb.
  • Play is integral in how children learn about and make sense of their world. Play is enjoyable and spontaneous, and children use play to discover, pretend, and problem-solve.
  • Private speech is children’s use of self-directed language to guide, communicate, and regulate their behavior and emotions. While this self-directed language can be heard, it is not intended for others.
  • Proximity–seeking behaviors are those that the child uses to remain physically and emotionally connected to a caregiver, e.g., crawling over, making eye contact.


  • Schemes are early frameworks that organize information and help infants make sense of their environment.
  • Secure base behavior is described as the child’s ability to use their primary caregiver(s) as both a physical and emotional base while exploring their environment. This behavior emerges between seven and 18 months of age.
  • Self-concept refers to the child’s developing ability in realizing that one’s body, mind, and actions are separate from those of others.
  • Self-regulation is the ability to regulate or control attention, thoughts, emotions, and behaviors.
  • Sensory stimuli are sounds, textures, tastes, sights, and temperatures found in children’s environments.
  • Separation anxiety begins to occur between nine and 14 months and is expressed in tears, sadness, or anger when a child is physically separated from his or her primary caregiver(s).
  • Small muscles refer to the muscles found in the hands, fingers, feet, and toes.
  • Social referencing is the term for the way young children take their cues from familiar others in deciding what emotions and actions are appropriate.
  • Soothe is the action of providing comfort and reassurance.
  • Spatial relationships refer to where objects and people are located in space in relation to other objects and people, and how they move in relation to each other.
  • Spontaneous refers to an action that is not preplanned.
  • Stimulation refers to any number of sounds, textures, temperatures, tastes, and sights that impact a child’s senses or development.
  • Stimuli are sounds, textures, tastes, sights, and temperatures found in children’s environments.
  • Stranger anxiety is a normal part of development where children may cling to a familiar adult, cry, or look frightened when an unfamiliar person appears too soon or too close.
  • Symbolic representation refers to children’s understanding of how an image or different objects can represent familiar objects.


  • Telegraphic speech is known as the “two-word” stage and is the use of combining two words to convey meaning, e.g., “Daddy go.”
  • Temperament refers to the unique personality traits that children are born with and that influence how they interact with their environment and with others.
  • Textures refer to the different feel, appearance, and/or consistency of objects, surfaces, or substances.
  • Toxic stress is detrimental to the developing child and includes exposure to physical or emotional abuse, chronic neglect, extreme poverty, constant parental substance abuse, and family and community violence.
  • Transitions are changes in children’s activities or locations. Transitions are hard for young children, as they may feel out of control. Therefore, it is essential caregivers prepare children for transitions.
  • Trial and error refers to a child’s use of different strategies while attempting to solve a problem.
  • Tummy time is the time babies spend lying and playing on their stomachs while awake. This time is important for the development of head control and neck strength.


IEL Resources

  • List of standards
    IEL has created a convenient HTML list of the standards included in the Illinois Early Learning Guidelines.
    English | Spanish
  • IEL FAQ: What Do Parents Need to Know About the Illinois Early Learning Guidelines for Children Birth to Age 3? About

Guidelines Posters and Brochures

  • Guidelines poster
    IEL has a large poster that lists all of the standards in the Guidelines.
    English | Spanish
  • Guidelines brochure
    This handy pamphlet, which also lists all the standards, can be handed out to parents and others interested in learning more about the Guidelines.
    English | Spanish
  • Order online
    Use our online form and IEL will mail up to 10 posters and 20 brochures free of charge to any address within the state of Illinois.

Additional Resources

Print Version

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

Guidelines Webinar

This webinar provides a short overview of the Illinois Early Learning Guidelines for Children Birth to Age Three. It also provides a tour of the resources available on the Illinois Early Learning Project website that can support the use of the guidelines in practice and at home.


Find resources related to the Illinois Early Learning Birth to 3 Guidelines:


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.