Like K–12 education systems, ECE has standards to provide a framework on content areas that must be taught and assessed in young children birth to 5 years of age. Early learning standards have been adopted by nearly every state. State ECE agencies or state departments of education typically oversee curricula and educational programs provided to ECE facilities, especially state-administered ECE programs, to prepare young children for entry to school. Curriculum components often include language, literacy, science, math, fine and gross motor skills, social and emotional health, and other developmental standards.
According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), early learning standards should:1
As state agencies create new or revise existing early learning standards, opportunities exist to emphasize nutrition, breastfeeding, physical activity, and screen time.
Delaware’s (DE) early learning standards, referred to as foundations, integrate nutrition and physical activity requirements into their infant/toddler and preschool standards. The early learning foundations (ELFs) are the guidelines for curriculum and activities that must be followed by all licensed early childhood programs including state-funded pre-kindergarten and federally funded Head Start programs. In the section for physical development and health, each set of standards emphasizes:
Revisions to the ELFs were one piece of a multicomponent approach for obesity prevention in ECE that was pursued by the DE Office of Child Care Licensing and the DE CACFP, with the support of Nemours Health and Prevention Services. Given that improved licensing and CACFP regulations were already being implemented, the ELFs team found little resistance to adding consistent wording to the early learning standards.
Focus groups were held with family ECE providers to review the revised ELFs before distributing them. A statewide training was developed and the obesity prevention content was integrated into the overall training. During the rollout of the new early learning standards, family ECE providers participated in the ELF training events. More than 87 trainings were offered throughout the state to administrators and providers. For more information on the standards, see here.