California Learning Foundations are critical to the California Department of Education’s efforts to strengthen preschool education and close the school-readiness gap in California. The foundations describe competencies that most children can be expected to exhibit in a high-quality program and identify paths of learning that, with appropriate support, children typically move along during the infant, toddler and preschool years.
The Foundations are designed to promote understanding of young children’s development of knowledge and skills and to help teachers, program administrators, families, and policymakers consider appropriate ways to support children’s learning. Teachers use best practices, curricular strategies, and instructional techniques that assist children in learning the knowledge and skills described in the Preschool Learning Foundations and Infant/Toddler Learning and Development Foundations.
Learning Foundations is based on the principle that the support young children need varies from child to child, where many children learn simply by participating in high-quality child care and preschool programs that offer children environments and experiences that encourage active, playful exploration and experimentation. With play as an integral part of the curriculum, high-quality programs include purposeful teaching to help children gain knowledge and skills.
The practical elements of teaching young children include setting up environments, supporting children’s self-initiated play, selecting appropriate materials, and planning and implementing teacher-guided learning activities. Two major considerations underlie the practical teaching elements. First, teachers can foster early learning by thoughtfully considering the Learning Foundations in the planning of environments and activities. And second, during every step in planning, teachers have an opportunity to tap into the prominent role of play, supporting young children both by encouraging the rich learning that occurs in children’s self-initiated play and by introducing purposeful instructional activities that playfully engage young children in learning.