The Colorado Early Learning and Development Guidelines for ages birth to age 36 months describe the development of infants and toddlers during their first 3 years of life and provide suggestions and guidelines for parents and other caregivers. The Guidelines are broken into four age groups. The first age, birth to 4 months, is presented as a narrative that describes the unique needs of newborns and how caregivers can support the early development of very young infants. The remaining three age groups list indicators and examples that describe what infants and toddlers may do that are typical of development at 4–8 months, 9–18 months, and 19–36 months. These components of the Guidelines are adapted from the California Infant/Toddler Learning and Development Foundations, which are based on extensive and well-documented research about the skills and attributes young children exhibit during these early years. The Guidelines also provide a variety of suggested supports, with ideas about how caregivers can support the development of infants and toddlers at each group, including environmental supports they may provide.
Resources for Caregivers of Infants and Toddlers
- Early Intervention Colorado: http://www.eicolorado.org
- Zero to Three: http://www.zerotothree.org
- March of Dimes: http://www.marchofdimes.com
- National Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center: http://www.nectac.org
- The Division for Early Childhood: https://www.dec-sped.org/
- Earlier is Easier: https://www.earlieriseasier.org
- National Association for the Education of Young Children: www.naeyc.org
- Head Start, Early Learning and Knowledge Center: https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/learning-environments/article/resources-infanttoddler-learning-environments
Although the Guidelines identify specific indicators of growth and development that are typical for infants and toddlers at each age group, young children’s acquisition of skills and abilities are also widely variable. Infants and toddlers will grow and develop particular skills at their own unique pace. A family’s cultural beliefs and values may also shape a child’s development. While caregivers should provide experiences for infants and toddlers that encourage their development, they should not push a young child to perform skills for which they are not yet ready. Infants and toddlers with a developmental disability or delay may show differences in one or more domains of learning, which are described in the sections that follow. For example, a child with cerebral palsy may need to explore the environment differently which may impact overall development. Developmental delays may be identified from the time of birth or may not be recognized until a specific milestone has passed. Additionally, children born prematurely may show a delay in reaching developmental expectations. Therefore, it is important for caregivers to understand the developmental continuum in each domain and be aware of resources for screening and referral if a developmental concern arises. Caregivers should talk with a health care provider or other trusted professional with any questions or concerns.
The Guidelines provide descriptions of child development for infants and toddlers that are organized in six domains: Physical Development and Health, Social Development, Emotional Development, Language & Literacy Development, Cognitive Development, and Approaches to Learning. Developmental milestones are described within separate domains to provide an organizational structure for the document. In practice, child development and learning across domains are highly interrelated.