The Colorado Early Learning and Development Guidelines describe the trajectory of children’s learning and development from birth to 8 years old in Colorado. They include a broad description of children’s growth to ensure a holistic approach to creating positive early childhood environments. Approaches to learning, health and physical development, social and emotional development, language, literacy, numeracy, logic and reasoning, and other subject-specific learning are included for each age level. The domains used to organize descriptions of children’s development evolve within the Guidelines to reflect the specific requirements of each age group. However, they maintain a broad view of the whole child and describe all aspects of children’s growth.

The Colorado Early Learning and Development Guidelines

  • Focus on children throughout the birth to age 8 continuum;
  • Include all areas of development and learning;
  • Recognize and are responsive to variations in cultures, languages, and abilities;
  • Recognize and are responsive to variations in a child’s and family’s developmental trajectories and environments;
  • Apply to a variety of settings including, but not limited to, child care, preschool, Head Start, K–3, health care, home, and other community settings;
  • Provide targeted information for parents, caregivers, teachers, higher education personnel, early interventionists, health providers, home visitors, early learning professionals, and family educators;
  • Include strategies based on research or promising practices; and
  • Complement and align with the Preschool–3rd grade portion of 2020 Colorado’s P–12 academic standards and the 2015 Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework, as well as build from other relevant state and national initiatives.

The Guidelines are designed to acknowledge and be responsive to variations in culture, languages, and abilities. For instance, child rearing practices, developmental expectations, the role of different family members, and a child’s individual versus collective identity, may vary across cultures. Therefore, the Guidelines include examples and resources that address the particular requirements of children who are learning English as a second language and children with learning or physical challenges. The Guidelines also acknowledge the great variation in when and in what order children attain particular developmental milestones. The knowledge and skills described are designed to provide support and information to families, caregivers, and educators concerning children’s development within certain age spans, rather than dictate exactly when or how each child should progress.

These Guidelines are aligned with and complement the 2020 Colorado Academic Standards for preschool through third grade and with the 2015 Head Start Early Learning and Outcomes Framework. They show the continuum of development from birth to age 8 and complement the variety of existing expectations and models being used in the State of Colorado with each age group. Thus, the Guidelines were informed by a wide variety of state and national documents, including current research on early learning and best practice in early education. Additionally, representatives from a wide variety of Colorado agencies were involved in planning the document’s design, providing input and information, and in reviewing the final contents.

By including the full breadth of children’s development, addressing diversity, and aligning content across all early childhood settings and early grades, these Guidelines are intended to produce greater collaboration and consistency across early childhood systems in Colorado. With collaboration and common reference points, we can create positive early childhood environments that lay a critical foundation for our young children’s later success.