Child Development and Learning

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About this Competency

This competency area addresses the knowledge, skills, and dispositions that early childhood educators are expected to have regarding the development and learning of young children — and which in many ways provide the foundation for sensitive, responsive caregiving and high-quality early childhood practice. This competency area encompasses an understanding of major developmental theories and current research, as well as the ability to apply that knowledge to practice; the implications of early experiences and brain development; the role of early childhood educators and family members in supporting young children's development and learning; and the biological, individual, family, community, and cultural factors that can influence young children's development (California Department of Education 2006; 2008a; 2008b; 2010). Key concepts include the interrelatedness of developmental domains, the significance of relationships in supporting children's healthy development and learning, the sequential nature and individual variability of early childhood development, and the role of play as a key context for development and learning.

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Watch the Video Overview for this Competency

California Early Childhood Educator Competencies

California Early Childhood Educator Competencies Wheel

Framing Questions

Framing questions identify some of the major themes in this competency. They provide you with a starting point. As you explore this competency, add your own framing questions for issues you want to further examine.

  • Who is this child and how do I connect with him or her?
  • What does this child need from me in order to support his or her development and learning?
  • What is development and learning about for this child?
  • What is involved in knowing a child full well?


Keep these dispositions in mind as you explore the Framing Questions. If you mindfully adopt these dispositions, you will realize the Desired Outcomes for Practitioners and for Children.

  • Shows support for the individual development and learning of all children.
  • Recognizes and facilitates the primary role of families in children's development and learning.
  • Values play as essential to a young child's development and learning.

Desired Outcomes for Practitioners

If I have these dispositions, then I will…

  • have less frustration with children's behaviors.
  • see children as competent.
  • know children "full-well".
  • find excitement in child development theory.
  • strengthen relationships with the child's family.
  • creatively support complex play and learning.

Desired Outcomes for Children

If teachers and caregivers have these dispositions, then children will…

  • see themselves as competent.
  • have a sense of belonging and identity.
  • experience mastery in their play.
  • feel connected to their families even while in care.

Keys to Reflection and Inquiry

The CompSAT Keys to Reflection and Inquiry offer you a protocol to use in whatever setting you work as an early childhood educator. Learn how you can integrate the six Keys into your work. Select one of the Keys below to practice reflecting with questions related to the competency area of Child Development and Learning.


Choose from one of the Keys below to view additional information related to this Competency!

Build Your Portfolio

Presentation tools help you organize and display your documentation.

Portfolio screenshot

"A Story Unfolds" is an example of how one practitioner documented her growth using Presentation software. As you explore this segment, notice how she used a consistent background to frame her work, almost like a window into her experience. Notice also, that she uses the CompSAT Keys to Reflection and Inquiry to examine her perceptions and to take action to further her understanding and growth.

View the Portfolio Sample

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