Delaware’s Early Learning Foundations (ELFs)

Delaware’s early learning standards, referred to as foundations, integrate nutrition and physical activity requirements into infant/toddler and preschool standards.

The early learning foundations (ELFs) are the guidelines for curriculum and activities that must be followed by all licensed early childhood programs, including state-funded pre-kindergarten and federally-funded Head Start programs.

Revising the Early Learning Standards

In the section for physical development and health, each set of Delaware’s early learning standards emphasizes:

1) gross motor activity to increase strength, balance, coordination, flexibility and stamina
2) reduced screen time
3) healthy lifestyle practices
4) children’s knowledge and respect for their bodies

Revisions to the early learning foundations (ELFs) was one piece of a multicomponent approach for obesity prevention in Early Care and Education (ECE) that was pursued by the Delaware Office of Child Care Licensing and the Delaware Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), with the support of Nemours Health & Prevention Services. Given that improved licensing and CACFP regulations were already being implemented, the ELFs team found little resistance to adding consistent wording to the early learning standards.

Training on the New Standards

Focus groups were held with family early care and education (ECE) providers to review the revised early learning foundations (ELFs) before distributing them. A statewide training was developed and the obesity prevention content was integrated into the overall training. More than 87 trainings were offered throughout the state to administrators and providers.

Lessons Learned

It is important to embed information about early learning standards as often as possible into general trainings for ECE staff to ensure that the message is heard often and consistently.

The ELFs team suggests connecting the early learning standards to the overall K–12 education system so there is consistency from birth to 18 years of age. It was critical to train all trainers of the early learning standards on nutrition, physical activity and screen time material so they could also embed the message and information into other types of trainings. An alignment analysis was completed to ensure that there was a close and effective link between the preschool ELFs, the kindergarten-level expectations and the Common Core (i.e., the name of the standards for primary and secondary school).