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Practice Guideline on Child Development

Practice Guideline on Child Development

Practice Guideline - Communication and Collaboration

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 Practice Guideline supports Registered Early Childhood Educators (RECEs) in understanding and applying the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice (Code and Standards) as it relates to children’s development. One of the main responsibilities of an RECE is to understand, promote and support a child’s overall development and well-being. 

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 developmentlearning, 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
  • Physical.

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
Practice guidelines communicate certain expectations of Registered Early Childhood Educators as outlined in the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice. Guidelines also highlight how those expectations may be applied in practice. They include recommendations and provide opportunities for self-reflection and professional learning. The Code and Standards, current research and related legislation should be consulted when considering practice guidelines. Practice guidelines support the College’s role to promote high standards and continuous professional learning and to govern the conduct of RECEs.
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.
Guideline references

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) 

Blaise, M. (2014). Gender Discourses and Play. In Brooker, L., Blaise, M., & Edwards, S. (Eds.), The SAGE Handbook of Play and Learning in Early Childhood (pp. 115-127). SAGE Publications. 

Clinton, J. (2020). Returning to On-site Work (Video recording from The College of Early Childhood Educators)

Clinton, J. (2014). Brain Development: Quality of interactions (Video recording from the Ontario Ministry of Education) 

Farley, L., Sonu, D., Garlen, J., & Chang-Kredl, S. (2021) How teachers remember their own childhoods affects how they challenge school inequities

Greenwood, M., & De Leeuw. S.N. (2012). Social determinants of health and the future well-being of Aboriginal children in Canada. Pediatric Child Health. 

Janmohamed, Z. (2010). Queering early childhood `studies: Challenging the discourse of developmentally appropriate practice. The Alberta Journal of Educational Research, 56(3), 304-318. 

Karetak, J., Tester, F. & Tagalik, S. (2017). Inuit Qaujimajatuqangit: What Inuit Have Always Known to be True (Fernwood Publishing) 

Langford, R. (2010). Critiquing Child-Centred Pedagogy to Bring Children and Early Childhood Educators into the Centre of a Democratic Pedagogy, Contemporary Issues in Early Childhood 11(1), 113-127. 

Malaguzzi, L. (1994). Your image of the child: Where teaching begins. Exchange, 3, 52–56. 

Ministry of Education, British Columbia (2019). Early Learning Framework

OECD (2017). Starting Strong

Ontario Ministry of Education (2013). Think, feel, act: Lessons from research about young children

Ontario Ministry of Education (2016). The kindergarten program 2016 

Osgood, J. & Robinson, K.H. (2017). Celebrating Pioneering and Contemporary Feminist Approaches to the Study of Gender in Early Childhood. In Feminists Researching Gendered Childhoods: Generative Entanglements (pp. 1-22, London: Bloomsbury). 

Pyne, J. (2014). Gender independent kids: A paradigm shift in approaches to gender non-conforming children. The Canadian Journal of Human Sexuality, 23(1), 1-8. 

The Kindergarten Program (2016). Thinking about self-regulation and well-being

Toronto Public Health: Sexual Health Promotion

World Health Organization (2020). Guideline: Improving early childhood development 

World Health Organization (2018). Nurturing care for early childhood development 

Other useful resources

Abawi, Z., Eizadirad, A. & Berman, R. (2021). Equity as Praxis in Early Childhood Education and Care. Canadian Scholars 

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) 

Abawi, Z., Berman, R., & Powell, A. (2019). Gender, Race, and Precarity – Theorizing the Parallels Between Early Childhood Educators and Sessional Faculty in Ontario (Atlantis: Critical Studies in Gender, Culture and Social Justice, 40.1, 45-60) 

Atwal A., Davis, K., Doucet, G. & Underwood, K. (2021). Systemic knowledge at school entry: learning from disabled children and their families

Berman, R., Daniel, B., Butler, A., MacNevin, 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), 52-65) 

Burman, E. (2017). Deconstructing Developmental Psychology (Routledge, NY)

Canada Heritage Services (The UN Rights of the Child)

Elementary Teachers’ Foundation of Ontario (2019). What Have You Heard? Addressing misconceptions about Indigenous Peoples in Canada

Escayg, K-A., Berman, R. & Royer, N. (2017). Canadian Children and Race: Toward an Antiracism Analysis. Journal of Childhood Studies, 42(2), 10-21 

Escayg, K-A., Gordon, M., & Veerapan, R. (2017). How do we talk about racism? (webinar)

Escayg, Kerry-Ann (2018). The Missing Links: Enhancing Anti-Bias Education with Anti-Racist EducationJournal of Curriculum, Teaching, Learning and Leadership in Education, 3(1)

Farley, L. (2018). Childhood beyond pathology: A psychoanalytic study of development and diagnosis (Albany, NY: SUNY) 

Ineese-Nash, N. (2021). Ontologies of Welcoming. Occasional Series #45. Bank Street College of Education. 

McGowan-Madu, N. (2021). Humanizing Black Boys

Nxumalo, F. (2021). Decolonial Water Pedagogies. Occasional Series #45. Bank Street College of Education

The Centre for the Developing Child (Harvard University) 

Trent, M., Dooley D.J. & Dougé, J. (2019). The Impact of Racism on Child and Adolescent Health (The American Association of Pediatrics)

Pause and Reflect exercises from each section
Section 1

  • Children as capable and active citizens (Word | PDF)

Section 2

  • Concept of children’s autonomy (Word | PDF)
  • Supporting wellness (Word | PDF)

Section 3

  • What you’ve learned about child development (Word | PDF)
  • The meaning of ‘typical’ development (Word | PDF)
  • Your lived experiences (Word | PDF)

Section 4

  • How bias can influence practice (Word | PDF)

Section 5

  • Equitable policies and practices (Word | PDF)
Practice Scenarios from section 4
  • My hair, my crown! The following days
  • My name is Sanjiv
  • Look at me!
  • A social gender transition
  • Mariam wears a hijab, too!
  • From smiles to tears