Practice Guideline on Child Development
Use this guideline to help you learn about:
- the important role educators and families play in children’s development;
- the unique rights of children and ways of viewing and supporting every child;
- the different factors that influence children’s development;
- the broad patterns associated with development, and how understanding them can help you be attuned and responsive; and
- strategies to co-create diverse and inclusive learning environments that support the children and families in your care.
This responsibility is outlined in the Early Childhood Educators Act, 2007 and defines an RECE’s practice as “the planning and delivery of inclusive play-based learning and care programs for children in order to promote the well-being and holistic development of children.”
Standard I says RECEs are knowledgeable about child development theories and understand that children’s development is integrated across multiple domains and within a variety of contexts and environments (B.1). To uphold their ethical and professional responsibilities, RECEs stay informed about new and evolving information and ways to support children’s well-being, development, learning and health. One way to do this is by accessing research led and informed by the knowledge and experiences of diverse communities. This can help ensure that RECEs gain and strengthen their understanding of the multiple factors that influence the developing child and their surrounding community.
RECEs are reflective, intentional professionals and leaders who engage in continuous professional learning (CPL) (Standard IV). Through self-reflection, collaboration and expanding practice knowledge and skills, RECEs work toward ensuring high-quality early childhood education which includes promoting healthy child development.
This practice guideline is framed around the understanding that children develop at different rates within the contexts of diverse family structures, communities and cultures. It’s also grounded in the idea that educators, families and communities are partners in supporting children’s development. Standard I describes collaborative relationships with families as being essential. It says that RECEs recognize the value and diversity of all families who “are of primary importance in children’s development and well-being. [Children] are best understood in the context of their families, cultures and communities” (Standard I: B.3).
How Does Learning Happen? (HDLH?) (2014) highlights the importance of engaging and working in partnerships with families. “Children are influenced by multiple factors such as the family, social and cultural contexts in which they live and play, their own unique perspectives, and their life experiences” (HDLH?, 2014, pp. 17-18).
The important role of educators and families is also described in The Kindergarten Program (2016) which “starts with the understanding that all children’s learning and development occurs in the context of relationships – with other children, parents and other family members, educators, and the broader environment” (p. 9).
RECEs play a vital role in children’s lives – they intentionally collaborate with others and make practice decisions that put children’s best interests at the forefront.
Responsive relationships are directly linked to a child’s well-being and development. RECEs are knowledgeable about the research and theories related to the impact of caring and responsive relationships on children’s development, learning, self-regulation, identity and well-being (Standard I, B.1).
RECEs are familiar with common developmental domains. These domains, while often discussed independently, are linked as they support and influence one another:
- Social and emotional;
- Communication and language;
- Cognitive; and
For more information about your professional responsibilities related to child development, review the Practice Note on Child Development (2022) which outlines some of the more familiar and common domains of child development (i.e., physical, social, emotional, cognitive, language and literacy). In comparison, this practice guideline goes more in-depth to explore the nuances of children’s development, including those of the common domains.
Taking global research and information into consideration, this resource highlights factors that influence children’s development. It reminds and encourages you to consider the responsibilities you have to guide all children in their unique development.
There were many individuals who shared valuable insights, personal stories and experiences that were included in this practice guide. Thank you for your contributions and support.
About this publication
Suggestions for using this guideline
- Take your time to review the material and additional resources.
- Focus on areas that are most relevant to your current practice or sections that challenge you.
- Engage in collaborative inquiry and critical reflection during a staff or team meeting, or share in a community of practice.
- Actively engage in collaborative discussions to reflect on, challenge and question the complexities of practice.
- Use this resource to support you with your related Continuous Professional Learning (CPL) portfolio goals and activities.
Berman, R., Daniel, B. J., Butler, A., McNevin, M. & Royer, N., (2017). Nothing, or Almost Nothing, to Report: Early Childhood Educators and Discursive Constructions of Colorblindness. International Critical Childhood Policy Studies Journal, 6(1), 62-65.
Balter et al., 2021a – Balter, A.S., van Rhijn, T., Gores, D., Davies, A.W.J, & Akers, T. (2021). Supporting the development of sexuality in early childhood: The rationales and barriers to sexuality education in early learning settings. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 30(3), 287-295. https://doi.org/10.3138/cjhs.2021-0034
Balter et al., 2021b – Balter, A.S., Gores, D., van Rhijn, T., Katz, J., Kassies, I., Gleason, M., & Joseph, J. (2021). An outcome evaluation of a professional development opportunity focusing on sexuality education for early learning professionals. eceLINK, 5(1), 18-32. Retrieved from: An_Outcome_Evaluation_of_a_Professional_Development_Opportunity.pdf (nationbuilder.com)
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College of Early Childhood Educators. (2019). Practice Guideline on Inclusion of Children with Disabilities.
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Other useful resources
Statement of Commitment to Anti-Racism (2020)
Practice Guideline on Inclusion of Children with Disabilities (2020)
Practice Guideline on Supporting Positive Interactions with Children (2016)
Practice Note on Beliefs and Biases (2022)
Practice Note on Ethical Decision-Making (2019)
Practice Note on Professional Judgment (2018)
Professional Advisory on Duty to Report (2019)
Reflection Guide on Beliefs and Biases (2022)
Reflection Guide on Duty to Report (2019)
Abawi, Z & Berman, R. (2019). Politicizing Early Childhood Education and Care in Ontario: Race, Identity and Belonging. Journal of Curriculum, Teaching, Learning and Leadership in Education, 4(2), 4-13.
Association francophone à l’éducation des services à l’enfance de l’Ontario. (May 4, 2020). Une perspective de construction identitaire francophone.
Best Start. (2008). How to Reach Francophones: Maternal and Early Years Programs. Health Nexus.
Canadian Mental Health Association. Social Determinants of Health.
Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology. (2017). 24-Hour Movement Guidelines.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Adverse Childhood Experiences.
Centre on the Developing Child. What is Early Childhood Development: A Guide to the Science. Harvard University.
Centre of Excellence for Early Childhood Development. Encyclopedia on Early Childhood Development. Université de Montréal.
Government of Canada. (November 14, 2017). Rights of Children.
Government of Canada. (June 14, 2022). Social determinants of health and health inequalities.
Halton Region. Healthy Living, Healthy Children: Helping Children to Eat Healthy, Be Active and Feel Good about Themselves.
Ineese-Nash, N. (2020). View of Disability as a Colonial Construct: The Missing Discourse of Culture in Conceptualizations of Disabled Indigenous Children. Canadian Journal of Disability Studies, 9(3).
Nxumalo, F. (2021). Decolonial Water Pedagogies. Bank Street Occasional Paper Series, 2021(45). Bank Street College.
Toronto Public Health. Sexual Health Promotion – Support for Parents and Caregivers.
Trans Student Educational Resources. (2015). The Gender Unicorn.
Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada. (2015). Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Canada: Calls to Action.
Pause and Reflect exercises from each section
- What you’ve learned about child development (Word | PDF)
- The meaning of ‘typical’ development (Word | PDF)
- Your lived experiences (Word | PDF)