Four Early Learning Guidelines


Ohio Voices for Learning advocates four guidelines of early learning which follow. You can read more about each guideline by selecting the down arrow, located to the right of each title.

Guideline 1 - Communication is Critical

Communicating with others, whether it is done through talk, written material, gestures, or expression through the arts is critical to sharing with the world who we are and what we know. Research has shown that young learners are capable learners of language, are good problem solvers, and are willing to offer their ideas when given appropriate, meaningful, and interesting experiences and activities.

There is much that children learn about letters, numbers, words and stories before they enter formal schooling. Much of what children learn about communication is done through play. Early literacy experiences are strengthened by:

  • Spending time one-on-one with children in conversation;
  • Reading to children daily;
  • Providing writing materials for children to “draw” their words;
  • Demonstrating reading and writing to children through daily life;
  • Singing songs and playing rhyming games with words;
  • Helping children listen to and identify the beginning and ending sounds of words

Guideline 2 - All Children are Born Ready to Learn

All children, from birth, are meaning makers. Each day and in every way they are set on a course to figure out and make sense of their world (Bruner, 1996; Elkind, 1993 Katz, 2000). This principle is so widely held that no research exists to the contrary. In fact, the last decade of brain research has deepened our understanding of the extraordinary strengths of young children.

As children develop an understanding of the world, they build a collection of ideas about how the physical and social world works. Recent research on brain development and young children’s abilities suggest that we have underestimated what children can do. And since early experiences are the foundation for later schooling, early education-what we give young children to think about-matters greatly.

Guideline 3 - Relationships are Influential

It is now clear that relationships and the effects of the relationships children have with adults and peers are the building blocks of healthy development.
Research highlights the importance of any adult in the life of the child. From research we know that all children need:

  • Reliable support
  • Responsiveness
  • Protection
  • Affection
  • Opportunities to resolve conflict
  • Support for growth of new skills
  • Reciprocal interaction
  • Respect

Who the child spends time with matters greatly. The schools of Reggio recognize the importance and value of the many relationships in a child’s life-those that are developed in school are equally as important as family.

Guideline 4 - Environments Matter

Young children are constantly generating and testing their ideas and theories about how the world and people work. “Early environments that are not designed with this in mid do children a disservice” (Phillips, 2001). We know that education and care continuously interact over the course of human development. Thus, the quality of a child’s environment— at home and at school —matters.

Quality environments at school have the following characteristics:

  • Clean, neat, organized, and safe spaces;
  • Teachers who know how children think, learn, and grow;
  • Programs with limited teacher turnover;
  • On-going improvement and self-assessment of their program;
  • Intentional, well thought out experiences that address standards and goals of learning;
  • Experiences that promote children talking about and explaining their ideas to other children and to adults;
  • Experiences that support children’s interests in reading, writing, counting, and exploring;
  • Teachers that honor children’s cultural background, help them build self-respect as well as respect for the culture of others;
  • Regular, appropriate assessment that provides and informs teachers, as well as parents, with progress;
  • Positive interactions where teachers demonstrate warmth, interest and respect for children (Katz, 2002).