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About ELG

This publication is dedicated to South Dakota’s early childhood professionals, teachers, caregivers, parents and all of the adults who nurture and support the development of young children.

The South Dakota Early Learning Guidelines are adapted, with permission, from the North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development. Additional resources consulted in the development of this document include the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework (2015) and early learning and development guidelines/standards documents from Alaska, Georgia, Iowa, NAEYC Saudi Arabia, North Dakota, Rhode Island, Vermont and Washington.

The South Dakota Early Learning Guidelines were developed by a panel of professionals and parents from the early childhood community throughout the state including: child care, Head Start, private and public preschool, kindergarten, special education, university early childhood programs, state agencies, and representatives from the South Dakota Association for the Education of Young Children (SDAEYC).


Dr. Gera Jacobs Professor of Early Childhood, USD. Past President, NAEYC

The Early Learning Guidelines can be used to:

Purpose of The South Dakota Early Learning Guidelines

Children's experiences before they enter school matter. Research shows that children who experience quality care and education are better prepared for school and throughout their lves. The Early Learning Guidelines (ELG) serve as a shared vision for young children. This document describes developmentally appropriate goals for children’s development and learning at each age level: infant, toddler, and preschooler. These goals apply to all children regardless of what language they speak, what strengths or disabilities they may have, or their specific unique family circumstances. Strategies to enrich the environment, support development and learning, and adaptations provide a variety of ideas to consider.

The goals outlined within the Early Learning Guidelines document for children can be used by teachers, home and center-based child care providers, Head Start staff, child care and school administrators, early childhood special educators, librarians and other professionals who support and promote children’s development and learning. It is, however, important to remember that while the ELG can help determine what is “typical” for children in an age group, what is written for a child’s age may not always describe an individual child’s development. If a child’s development and learning does not seem to fit with what is included in ELG under his/her age level, look at the younger or older age group to see if there is a better fit for the child. The 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.

The Early Learning Guidelines can also be used as a resource for parents and other family members. Parents can use the Goals and Developmental Indicators to identify appropriate goals for their child to support learning and developing skills to support future success in school.

In addition, the Early Learning Guidelines are intended to be a guide for teaching. They are not a curriculum or checklist that is used to assess children’s development and learning or be a barrier to keep children from entering kindergarten. They are a resource used to define skills and abilities that support learning experiences provided. Efforts should be made so all children have opportunities for play-based experiences that provide a foundation for kindergarten along with the K-12 system accommodating each child’s transition based upon their unique strengths and challenges upon entering school.

Finally, The Early Learning Guidelines 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 in this document. Administrators can use ELG as a guide to evaluate the types of learning experiences provided in their program. They 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 teachers and caregivers to ensure that professional development is consistent with what is presented within the ELG. Furthermore, the ELG can be used as a textbook in higher education courses and a training manual for in-service professional development. In summary, The ELG are designed to be a resource for teachers, caregivers, parents, child care and school administrators, and professional development providers as they work together to support the learning and development of South Dakota’s youngest children.