This page provides a brief overview of the Head Start Child Development and Early Learning Framework. For more information about the Framework, visit the Head Start website.

The Framework represents the foundation of the Head Start Approach to School Readiness. It lays out 11 essential areas of learning and development for 3-5 year old children, including dual language learners and children with disabilities. These 11 areas are described below. Further details, plus strategies and resources for every domain element in all 11 domains are available on the
Child Development and Early Learning Framework section of the Head Start Website.

Three of the domains are aligned with ECRR1 and ECRR2 in the Ohio Early Literacy Crosswalk: Literacy Knowledge & Skills, Language Development, and English Language Development (for dual language learners). Links below go to the crosswalk pages for those domains.

Literacy Knowledge and Skills Crosswalk
Refers to the knowledge and skills that lay the foundation for reading and writing, such as understanding basic concepts about books or other printed materials, the alphabet, and letter-sound relationships. Early literacy is the foundation for reading and writing in all academic endeavors in school. It is considered one of the most important areas for young children’s development and learning. Early literacy learning provides children with an opportunity to explore the world through books, storytelling, and other reading and writing activities. It is a mechanism for learning about topics they enjoy and acquiring content knowledge and concepts that support progress in other domains. It is critical for supporting a range of positive outcomes, including success in school and other environments.

Language Development Crosswalk
Refers to emerging abilities in receptive and expressive language. This domain includes understanding and using one or more languages. Language development is among the most important tasks of the first five years of a child’s life. Language is the key to learning across all domains. Specific language skills in early childhood are predictive of later success in learning to read and write. Also, children who are skilled communicators are more likely to demonstrate social competence.

English Language Development Crosswalk
Is the development of receptive and expressive English language skills for children who speak a home language other than English. This domain only applies to these children, often referred to as dual language learners (DLLs). Learning English lays the foundation for a successful start as children transition to public school. When children are able to understand and speak some English, they are better prepared to learn from teachers and engage with peers in English-speaking environments. Because the home language serves as a foundation for learning English, ongoing development of the home language also is essential.

Approaches to Learning
Refers to observable behaviors that indicate ways children become engaged in social interactions and learning experiences. Children’s approaches to learning contribute to their success in school and influence their development and learning in all other domains. Children’s ability to stay focused, interested, and engaged in activities supports a range of positive outcomes, including cognitive, language, and social and emotional development. It allows children to acquire new knowledge, learn new skills, and set and achieve goals for themselves. Many early learning experts view approaches to learning as one of the most important domains of early childhood development.

Creative Arts Expression
Refers to participation in a range of activities that allow for creative and imaginative expression, such as music, art, creative movement, and drama. The creative arts engage children’s minds, bodies, and senses. The arts invite children to listen, observe, discuss, move, solve problems, and imagine using multiple modes of thought and self-expression. The creative arts provide ways for young children to learn and use skills in other domains.

Logic and Reasoning
Refers to the ability to think through problems and apply strategies for solving them. Logic and reasoning skills are an essential part of child development and early learning and a foundation for competence and success in school and other environments. Children’s ability to think, reason, and use information allows them to acquire knowledge, understand the world around them, and make appropriate decisions.

Mathematics Knowledge and Skills
Refers to the conceptual understanding of numbers, their relationships, combinations, and operations. Mathematics also includes shapes and their structure; reasoning; measurement; classification; and patterns. Because math is also about generalizations and abstractions, math skills during the early years help children to connect ideas, develop logical and abstract thinking, and to question, analyze, and understand the world around them. Math knowledge, interest, and skills are basic to children’s success in school and later life. Early math skills are highly predictive of later academic achievement in multiple subject areas.

Physical Development and Health
Refers to physical well-being, use of the body, muscle control, and appropriate nutrition, exercise, hygiene, and safety practices. Early health habits lay the foundation for lifelong healthy living. Equally important, physical well-being, health, and motor development are foundational to young children’s learning. Motor skills permit children to fully explore and function in their environment, and support development in all other domains. Health problems, delays in physical development, and frequent illnesses interfere with children’s ability to learn and are associated with a range of poor developmental and educational outcomes.

Social and Emotional Development
Refers to the skills necessary to foster secure attachment with adults, maintain healthy relationships, regulate one’s behavior and emotions, and develop a healthy concept of personal identity. Positive social and emotional development provides a critical foundation for lifelong development and learning. In early childhood, social and emotional well-being predicts favorable social, behavioral, and academic adjustment into middle childhood and adolescence. It helps children navigate new environments, facilitates the development of supportive relationships with peers and adults, and supports their ability to participate in learning activities. Children with emotional or behavioral challenges are likely to receive less adult support for development and learning and to be more isolated from peers.

Science Knowledge and Skills
Refers to the emerging ability to gather information about the natural and physical world and organize that information into knowledge and theories. Young children are often called natural scientists. Their inclination to be curious, explore, ask questions, and develop their own theories about how the world works makes science an important domain for enhancing learning and school readiness. Science learning during the early childhood years encourages children to discover the world around them and refine their understanding of it. It provides opportunities for rich vocabulary learning and collaboration with peers. It fosters a sense of curiosity and motivation to learn.

Social Studies Knowledge and Skills
Refers to understanding people and how they relate to others and the world around them. Social studies helps children to understand themselves, their families, and communities. Through learning experiences related to history, culture, and the environment, children enhance their self-identity and expand their experiences beyond the walls of their home and early childhood setting.

In all domains but English Language Development, programs need to ensure that children who are dual language learners can demonstrate their abilities, skills, and knowledge in any language, including their home language.
—U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Head Start