Skip to content


  • There are no suggestions because the search field is empty.

Purpose, children's success, and working together

The work of the South Dakota Early Learning Guidelines was led by the Department of Education, SD Head Start Collaboration Office and the Department of Social Services, Childcare Services as well as panels of professionals from the early childhood community throughout South Dakota.


The South Dakota Early Learning Guidelines were adapted, with permission, from the North Carolina Foundations of Early Learning and Development. Additional resources included the Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework and other state guidelines/standards.

The Early Learning Guidelines can be used to:

  • Improve knowledge of child development.
  • Inform age-appropriate expectations for children's development and learning.
  • Establish goals for children's development and learning.
  • Guide plans for developing curricula and activities.
  • Promote school readiness in children birth to entering Kindergarten.
  • Align transition continuity of pre-Kindergarten Guidelines to Kindergarten Standards.


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 lives. The South Dakota Early Learning Guidelines (SD 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 abilities 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 SD ELG document can be used by teachers, home and center-based childcare providers, Head Start staff, childcare 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 guidelines 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 the SD ELG under the 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 daily.

The SD ELG 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 skill development for future success in school.

**Throughout this document, the title South Dakota Early Learning Guidelines may be shortened to SD ELG or ELG and Dual Language Learners could be shortened to DLL.

In addition, the SD ELG is intended to be just that, a “guide” for educators working with young children. They are not a curriculum or checklist 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 the 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 SD 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 the learning environment, teaching materials, experiences, activities, and interactions are supporting children’s development in the areas described in this document. Administrators can use the 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 educators may 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 guidelines. Furthermore, the guidelines can be used as a textbook in higher education courses and a training manual for in-service professional development. In summary, the guidelines are designed to be a resource for teachers, caregivers, parents, childcare and school administrators, and professional development providers as they work together to support the learning and development of South Dakota’s youngest children.

The South Dakota Early Learning Guidelines and Children's Success in School

What children learn between birth and the time they start kindergarten creates the foundation for learning and development for years to come. The Goals and Developmental Indicators reflect precursor skills that research suggests are important for what children learn later. For instance, kindergarten children may begin to read words and short sentences. The 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.

In addition to helping early adults prepare young children for success in school, the SD Early Learning Guidelines can also be a resource for kindergarten teachers as they support children’s success once they enter school. Kindergarten teachers can use the document 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 is expected of very young children. They can use this understanding as a starting point for what they teach early in the kindergarten year. When there is some continuity between children's early learning experiences and what is taught in kindergarten, it is easier for children to transition to school.

Kindergarten teachers may also find it helpful to look at the SD Early Learning Guidelines when teaching children who may have not fully achieved the precursor skills that are important for making progress in kindergarten. The kindergarten teacher can use the Goals and Developmental Indicators as a basis for helping children learn the precursor skills and knowledge they may not have developed during their early years.

While the Early Learning Guidelines describe the goals South Dakota has for young children, it is the adults in our state who are responsible for supporting their progress in the areas described.

Working Together to Help Children Make Progress

Adults can provide enriched environments with experiences that promote growth and learning in all areas described in the Early Learning Guidelines through age-appropriate activities, materials, and daily routines. The roles that different adults can play in supporting children’s progress are as follows:


Families are children’s first and most important teachers. The use of the ELG offers a unique opportunity to bring parents, family members, and early educators together to support children’s development and learning. When families use the guidelines, they can better understand how children develop and can get ideas for specific strategies and activities to use at home.


Educators can use the guidelines daily. This document does not tell educators how to teach but defines what children should know and be able to do. As a result, educators must be able to design appropriate experiences to support children’s learning in the areas described within the document. Technical assistance and professional development are available to support educators in learning more about the Goals and Developmental Indicators to improve their teaching skills.

Administrators and School Personnel

Program directors and school personnel are the instructional leaders of their programs. As such, they play a vital role in ensuring the successful use of the guidelines. Administrators influence the available resources, as well as the attitudes and practices of the adults working directly with young children. They can use the ELG for staff development and should look for opportunities to share the document with families.

Professional Development

Many professionals support teachers’ and caregivers’ ability to provide high-quality, individualized, appropriate experiences for children. The Early Learning Guidelines help educators understand how children develop and why it is important to provide specific activities or experiences for children (understand that 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).