What You Need to Know About Tracking Developmental Milestones at Your Early Childhood Education Center
Developmental milestones are physical and behavioral signs in infants and children that occur as they grow and develop. Tracking developmental milestones at your Early Childhood Education center is an important role of the childcare professional. In the following guide, we provide an overview of tracking developmental milestones at your childcare program and suggest practical tools and resources that will help you equip your team to track milestones in children under your care. Read on to find out more.
Why Track Developmental Milestones in Children?
Children fall into a wide range of what is considered “normal development” according to their age and stage. Some children may quickly develop in speech and language skills. Others may show rapid progress in gross and fine motor skills. Some children may be slow to develop age-appropriate social skills. Still others may lag behind in emotional development. If there is such a variety of outcomes within the typical child development process, then why is it so important to track developmental milestones in young children? Here are several reasons:
- A child’s parents, doctor, and caregiver are partners in observing and guiding his or her development. As an integral part of the team, you have a unique capacity to observe and guide child development and pick up on signs of a possible developmental delay that requires developmental screening and/or early intervention. Tracking developmental milestones will help you learn these signs and act on them early.
- Tracking developmental milestones gives you an opportunity to partner with parents and keep them informed of their child’s progress. Parents want to feel included in their child’s day-to-day happenings at your early learning center. Providing updates on growth, development, and milestones can help them feel included and in-the-know about important aspects of their child’s early years.
- Practically speaking, tracking developmental milestones helps you and your team of teachers keep track of healthy child development at your center. Doing so will help you understand where each child is along the continuum of development. Gain insight into each child’s abilities, behavior, and interactions with adults and children. Your staff can then set realistic expectations for children in each age group.
What Resources Are Available to Track Developmental Milestones at Your Early Learning Center?
Fortunately, there are a lot of great resources available for free that you can integrate with your childcare team in order to effectively track development milestones at your early learning center. Let’s take a look at some of them below.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has put together a comprehensive list of free resources for childcare providers to help them “Learn the Signs” and “Act Early” in the area of childhood developmental milestones. Using these research-backed resources can help you and your childcare team with the following:
- Track and celebrate each child’s developmental milestones
- Communicate with parents about development
- Learn how to effectively discuss developmental concerns
- Help parents know what milestones to expect next
- Complement and support developmental screenings
- Aid in early identification of developmental delays or disabilities
According to the CDC, as many as one in four children through age five are at risk for a developmental delay or disability. For many children, these delays are not identified as early as possible. As a result, help and intervention are delayed.
To improve these statistics, the CDC offers the following resources to Early Childhood Education professionals as well as parents:
- Free, one-hour online training course called Watch Me! Celebrating Milestones and Sharing Concerns
- Milestone Checklists and Milestone Moments Booklet for children from birth through five years
- Tip Sheet for talking with parents about developmental concerns, available in English and Spanish
These resources, along with many more, are available on the CDC’s resource webpage for Early Care and Education Programs.
The following websites are recommended resources by the CDC that also provide valuable information about childhood development tracking for your childcare team:
Birth to 5: Watch Me Thrive! is a coordinated federal effort to encourage healthy child development, universal developmental and behavioral screening for children, and support for the families and providers who care for them.
National Association for the Education of Young Children NAEYC provides accreditation for schools that meet certain standards, as well as resources, tools, and information for families and childcare providers.
Early Childhood Technical Assistance Center ECTA works to strengthen the systems that provide early childhood services under the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). The center’s mission is to ensure that children with disabilities (birth through 5) and their families receive and benefit from high-quality, culturally appropriate, and family-centered supports and services.
Zero to Three provides professionals with very young children and their families an extensive collection of resources aimed at supporting the work of professionals in a variety of early childhood settings.
Child Care Aware is a program that helps families learn more about the elements of quality childcare and how to locate programs in their communities. Child Care Aware also offers resources for families and for childcare providers.
We hope this brief guide offers practical insights for tracking developmental milestones in children at your early learning center. The many online and printable resources available are designed to equip your childcare team with the know-how necessary to track child development, partner with parents, and engage in meaningful conversations that celebrate progress as well as identify potential concerns as early as possible.
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