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North Carolina
Foundations for
Early Learning
and Development

North Carolina Foundations Task Force

North Carolina
Foundations for
Early Learning
and Development
North Carolina Foundations Task Force

ii
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

North Carolina Foundations for
Early Learning and Development
© 2013. North Carolina Foundations
Task Force.

Writers

Catherine Scott-Little
Human Development and Family Studies Department
UNC-Greensboro

Glyn Brown
SERVE Center
UNC-Greensboro

Edna Collins
Division of Child Development and Early Education
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Editors

Lindsey Alexander
Lindsey Alexander Editorial

Katie Hume
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
UNC-Chapel Hill

Designer

Gina Harrison
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
UNC-Chapel Hill

Photography

Pages:
60 and 143 courtesy of
UNC-Greensboro, Child Care Education Program.

36, 54, 135, 136, front cover (group shot), and
back cover (infant) courtesy of
NC Department of Health and Human Services,
Division of Child Development and Early Education.

All others:
Don Trull, John Cotter
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute

UNC-Chapel Hill

The North Carolina Foundations for Early
Learning and Development may be freely
reproduced without permission for non-profit,
educational purposes.

Electronic versions of this report are available
from the following websites:
http://ncchildcare.dhhs.state.nc.us
http://www.ncpublicschools.org/earlylearning

Suggested citation: North Carolina
Foundations Task Force. (2013). North
Carolina foundations for early learning and
development. Raleigh: Author.

Funding for this document was provided by
the North Carolina Early Childhood Advisory
Council using funds received from a federal
State Advisory Council grant from the
Administration for Children and Families, U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services.

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Table of Contents

Acknowledgements . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . v

Introduction . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Purpose of Foundations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Organization of This Document . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 3
How to Use Foundations . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
Domains, Subdomains, and Goals Overview . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8
Guiding Principles . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Effective Use of Foundations with All Children . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 15
Foundations and Children’s Success in School . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
Helping Children Make Progress on Foundations Goals:
It Takes Everyone Working Together . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .20
Frequently Asked Questions . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 22

Approaches to Play and Learning (APL) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 26
Curiosity, Information-Seeking, and Eagerness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .30
Play and Imagination . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 34
Risk-Taking, Problem-Solving, and Flexibility . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 38
Attentiveness, Effort, and Persistence . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 42

Emotional and Social Development (ESD) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 48
Developing a Sense of Self . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 52
Developing a Sense of Self With Others . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 56
Learning About Feelings . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 61

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Health and Physical Development (HPD) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 66
Physical Health and Growth . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .70
Motor Development . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 75
Self-Care . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .80
Safety Awareness . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .84

Language Development and Communication (LDC) . . . . . . 88
Learning to Communicate . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 93
Foundations for Reading . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .104
Foundations for Writing . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 111

Cognitive Development (CD) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 116
Construction of Knowledge: Thinking and Reasoning . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 121
Creative Expression . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 127
Social Connections . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 131
Mathematical Thinking and Expression . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 137
Scientific Exploration and Knowledge . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .144

Supporting Dual Language Learners (DLL) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
Defining Dual Language Learners . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
The Dual Language Learning Process . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
DLL and Culture . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . .150
The Importance of Families . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 152
DLL and Standards . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153
Conclusion . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154

Glossary . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 155

Selected Sources . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Acknowledgments

I
n 2011, the North Carolina Early Childhood
Advisory Council (ECAC) launched and
funded the important project of revising
the Infant-Toddler Foundations and
Preschool Foundations to create the North

Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and
Development—a single document that describes
children’s development and learning from birth
to age five. Leaders from the Division of Child
Development and Early Education as well as
the Office of Early Learning in the Department
of Public Instruction provided critical advice,
oversight, and vision on the Foundations and its
implementation. As listed below, many individuals
from across the state devoted their time and
expertise to this task force. We are grateful to
everyone’s work on this important resource for
our state.

This publication is dedicated to North Carolina’s
early childhood professionals, teachers, and
caregivers who nurture and support the
development of many young children while their
families work or are in school.

Expert Reviewers

Laura Berk
Professor Emeritus, Psychology Department
Illinois State University

Sharon Glover
Cultural Competence Consultant
Glover and Associates

Melissa Johnson
Pediatric Psychologist
WakeMed Health and Hospitals

Patsy Pierce
Speech Language Pathologist
Legislative Analyst
NC General Assembly Research Division

NC Foundations Task Force
Inter-Agency Leadership Team

Division of Child Development and Early Education
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Deb Cassidy
Anna Carter
Edna Collins
Jani Kozlowski
Lorie Pugh

Office of Early Learning
NC Department of Public Instruction

John Pruette
Jody Koon

Human Development and Family Studies Department
UNC-Greensboro

Catherine Scott-Little, Co-Facilitator
Sheresa Boone Blanchard

Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
UNC-Chapel Hill

Kelly Maxwell, Co-Facilitator

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

NC Foundations Task Force (cont .)
Foundations Revisions Expert

Workgroup

Norm Allard
Pre-K Exceptional Children Consultant
Office of Early Learning
NC Department of Public Instruction

Joe Appleton
Kindergarten Teacher
Sandy Ridge Elementary School

Cindy Bagwell
Co-Chair of Cognitive Development Workgroup
Early Childhood Education Consultant
Office of Early Learning
NC Department of Public Instruction

Harriette Bailey
Assistant Professor
Birth-Kindergarten Program Coordinator
Department of Education, Shaw University

Sheila Bazemore
Education Consultant
Division of Child Development and Early Education
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Bonnie Beam
Director
Office of School Readiness, Cleveland County Schools

Gwen Brown
Regulatory Supervisor
Division of Child Development and Early Education
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Paula Cancro
Preschool Director
Our Lady of Mercy Catholic School

Deborah Carroll
Branch Head
Early Intervention, Division of Public Health
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Kathryn Clark
Professor, Child Development Program Coordinator
Child Development, Meredith College

Renee Cockrell
Pediatrician
Rocky Mount Children’s Developmental Services Agency

Lanier DeGrella
Infant Toddler Enhancement Project Manager
Child Care Services Association

Sherry Franklin
Quality Improvement Unit Manager
Division of Public Health
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Kate Gallagher
Child Care Program Director
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
UNC-Chapel Hill

Khari Garvin
Director, Head Start State Collaboration Office
Office of Early Learning
NC Department of Public Instruction

Cristina Gillanders
Scientist
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
UNC-Chapel Hill

Pamela Hauser
Child Care Licensing Consultant
Division of Child Development and Early Education
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Ronda Hawkins
Chair of Emotional and Social Development Workgroup
Early Childhood Program Coordinator
Sandhills Community College

Patricia Hearron
Chair of Approaches to Learning Workgroup
Professor, Family and Consumer Sciences
Appalachian State University

Staci Herman-Drauss
Infant Toddler Education Specialist
Child Care Services Association

Vivian James
619 Coordinator
Pre-K Exceptional Children, Office of Early Learning
North Carolina Department of Public Instruction

LaTonya Kennedy
Teacher
Mountain Area Child and Family Center

Doré LaForett
Investigator
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
UNC-Chapel Hill

Beth Leiro
Physical Therapist
Beth Leiro Pediatric Physical Therapy

Gerri Mattson
Pediatric Medical Consultant
Division of Public Health
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Janet McGinnis
Education Consultant
Division of Child Development and Early Education
NC Department of Health and Human Services

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

NC Foundations Task Force (cont .)
Margaret Mobley

Manager, Promoting Healthy Social Behavior in
Child Care Settings
Child Care Resources, Inc.

Judy Neimeyer
Professor Emerita
Specialized Education Services
UNC-Greensboro

Eva Phillips
Instructor, Birth-Kindergarten Education
Winston-Salem State University

Jackie Quirk
Chair of Health and Physical Development Workgroup
Project Coordinator
NC Child Care Health and Safety Resource Center
UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

Amy Scrinzi
Co-Chair of Cognitive Development Workgroup
Early Mathematics Consultant
Curriculum and Instruction Division
NC Department of Public Instruction

Janet Singerman
President
Child Care Resources, Inc.

Diane Strangis
Assistant Professor
Child Development, Meredith College

Dan Tetreault
Chair of Language and Communication Workgroup
K–2 English Language Arts Consultant
Curriculum and Instruction Division
NC Department of Public Instruction

Brenda Williamson
Assistant Professor, Birth-Kindergarten Teacher Education
Program Coordinator
NC Central University

Gale Wilson
Regional Specialist
NC Partnership for Children

Catherine Woodall
Education Consultant
Division of Child Development and Early Education
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Doyle Woodall
Preschool Teacher
Johnston County Schools

Dual Language Learners Advisory
Team

Catherine Scott-Little, Chair
Associate Professor, Human Development and Family Studies
UNC-Greensboro

Tanya Dennis
Telamon Corporation

Shari Funkhouser
Pre-K Lead Teacher
Asheboro City Schools

Cristina Gillanders
Scientist
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
UNC-Chapel Hill

Belinda J. Hardin
Associate Professor, Specialized Education Services
UNC-Greensboro

Norma A. Hinderliter
Special Education Expert

Adriana Martinez
Director
Spanish for Fun Academy

Tasha Owens-Green
Child Care and Development Fund Coordinator
Division of Child Development and Early Education
NC Department of Health and Human Services

Gexenia E. Pardilla
Latino Outreach Specialist
Child Care Resources Inc.

Jeanne Wakefield
Executive Director
The University Child Care Center

Strategies Workgroup

Sheresa Boone Blanchard, Chair
Child Development and Family Studies
UNC-Greensboro

Patsy Brown
Exceptional Children Preschool Coordinator
Yadkin County Schools

Kristine Earl
Assistant Director
Exceptional Children’s Department
Iredell-Statesville Schools

Cristina Gillanders
Scientist
Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute
UNC-Chapel Hill

Wendy H-G Gray
Exceptional Children Preschool Coordinator
Pitt County School System

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

NC Foundations Task Force (cont .)
Patricia Hearron

Professor, Family and Consumer Sciences
Appalachian State University

Staci Herman-Drauss
Infant Toddler Education Specialist
Child Care Services Association

Tami Holtzmann
Preschool Coordinator
Thomasville City Schools

Renee Johnson
Preschool Coordinator
Edgecombe County Public School

Jenny Kurzer
Exceptional Children Preschool Coordinator
Burke County Public Schools

Brenda Little
Preschool Coordinator
Stokes County Schools

Karen J. Long
Infant Toddler Specialist
Child Care Resources, Inc

Jackie Quirk
Project Coordinator
NC Child Care Health and Safety Resource Center
UNC Gillings School of Global Public Health

Brenda Sigmon
Preschool Coordinator
Catawba County/Newton Conover Preschool Program

Teresa Smith
Preschool Coordinator
Beaufort County Schools

Susan Travers
Exceptional Children Curriculum Manager and
Preschool Coordinator
Buncombe County Schools

Rhonda Wiggins
Exceptional Children Preschool Coordinator
Wayne County Public Schools

1
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Introduction

North Carolina’s young children. This document,
North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning
and Development (referred to as Foundations),
serves as a shared vision for what we want for our
state’s children and answers the question “What
should we be helping children learn before
kindergarten?” By providing a common set of
Goals and Developmental Indicators for children
from birth through kindergarten entry, our
hope is that parents, educators, administrators,
and policy makers can together do the best job
possible to provide experiences that help children
be well prepared for success in school and life.

This Introduction provides important
information that adults need in order to
use Foundations effectively. We discuss the
purpose of the document, how it should be
used, and what’s included. We’ve also tried
to answer questions that you might have, all
in an effort to help readers understand and
use Foundations as a guide for what we want
children to learn during their earliest years.

Foundations
can be used to:

• Improve teachers’ knowledge of child
development;

• Guide teachers’ plans for implementing
curricula;

• Establish goals for children’s
development and learning that are
shared across programs and services;
and

• Inform parents and other family
members on age-appropriate
expectations for children’s development
and learning.

C
hildren’s experiences before they
enter school matter—research
shows that children who experience
high-quality care and education,
and who enter school well prepared,

are more successful in school and later in
their lives. Recognizing the importance of the
early childhood period, North Carolina has
been a national leader in the effort to provide
high-quality care and education for young
children. Programs and services such as Smart
Start, NC Pre-K, early literacy initiatives, Nurse
Family Partnerships and other home visiting
programs, and numerous other initiatives
promote children’s learning and development.
Quality improvement initiatives such as our
Star Rated License, Child Care Resource and
Referral (CCR&R) agencies, T.E.A.C.H. Early
Childhood® Scholarship Project, and the Child
Care W.A.G.E.S.® Project are designed to improve
the quality of programs and services and, in turn,
benefit children. Although the approaches are
different, these programs and initiatives share a
similar goal—to promote better outcomes for

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Purpose of
Foundations
North Carolina’s Early Childhood Advisory
Committee, Division of Child Development and
Early Education, and Department of Public
Instruction Office of Early Learning worked
together to develop Foundations to provide
a resource for all programs in the state.
Foundations describes Goals for all children’s
development and learning, no matter what
program they may be served in, what language
they speak, what disabilities they may have,
or what family circumstances they are
growing up in. Teachers and caregivers can
turn to Foundations to learn about child
development because the document provides
age-appropriate Goals and Developmental
Indicators for each age level—infant, toddler,
and preschooler. Foundations is also intended
to be a guide for teaching–not a curriculum
or checklist that is used to assess children’s
development and learning, but a resource
to define the skills and abilities we want
to support in the learning experiences we
provide for children. The Goals for children
can be used by teachers, caregivers, early
interventionists, home visitors, and other
professionals who support and promote
children’s development and learning. It is,

A Note About Terminology

Foundations is designed to be useful
to a broad range of professionals who
work with children. In this document we
refer to “teachers and caregivers.” This
terminology includes anyone who works
with children—teachers, caregivers, early
educators, early interventionists, home
visitors, etc. The document also refers to
“children” generically, which is intended
to include infants, toddlers, and preschool
children.

however, important to remember that while
Foundations can help you determine what
is “typical” for children in an age group, the
Developmental Indicators may not always
describe a particular child’s development.
When a child’s development and learning
does not seem to fit what is included in the
continuum under his/her age level, look at the
Developmental Indicators for younger or older
age groups to see if they are a better fit for the
child. Your goal is to learn what developmental
steps the child is taking now, and to meet the
individual needs of that child on a daily basis.

Foundations can also be used as a resource
for parents and other family members. All
parents wonder if their child is learning what’s
needed in order to be successful in school.
Parents will find it helpful to review the Goals
and Developmental Indicators to learn what
most early educators in North Carolina feel are
appropriate goals for young children.

Finally, Foundations is a useful document
for individuals who do not work directly
with children, but who support teachers
and caregivers in their work. It is important
to take stock to see if a program’s learning
environment, teaching materials, learning
activities, and interactions are supporting
children’s development in the areas described

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

in Foundations. Administrators can use
Foundations as a guide to evaluate the types
of learning experiences provided in their
program. Foundations can also be a resource
to identify areas where teachers and caregivers
need to improve their practices and as a
basis for professional development. Training
and technical assistance providers should
evaluate the support they provide to teachers
and caregivers to ensure that the professional
development is consistent with the Goals and
Developmental Indicators. Furthermore,
Foundations can be used as a textbook in
higher education courses and a training manual
for in-service professional development. In
summary, Foundations is designed to be a
resource for teachers, caregivers, parents,
administrators, and professional development
providers as we work together to support the
learning and development of North Carolina’s
youngest children.

Organization of
This Document
This document begins with this Introduction,
which provides background information
on the use of Foundations. Following the
Introduction, you will find the Goals and
Developmental Indicators, which describe

expectations for what children will learn prior
to kindergarten, starting with infancy and
covering all ages through kindergarten entry.
A glossary with definitions of key terms that
are used throughout Foundations is included
at the end of the document.

The Goals and Developmental Indicators are
divided into five domains:
• Approaches to Play and Learning (APL)
• Emotional and Social Development (ESD)
• Health and Physical Development (HPD)
• Language Development and

Communication (LDC)
• Cognitive Development (CD)

Because infants’, toddlers’, and preschool
children’s bodies, feelings, thinking skills,
language, social skills, love of learning, and
knowledge all develop together, it is essential
that we include all five of these domains in
Foundations. None of the domains is more
or less important than others, and there is
some overlap between what is covered in one
domain and what’s covered in other domains.
This is because children’s development
and learning is integrated or interrelated.
The progress that a child makes in one
domain is related to the progress he or she
makes in other domains. For example, as
a child interacts with adults (i.e., Social

Development), she/he learns new words
(i.e., Language Development) that help her/
him understand new concepts (i.e., Cognitive
Development). Therefore, it is essential that
Foundations address all five domains, and
that teachers and caregivers who are using
Foundations pay attention to all five domains.

At the beginning of each domain section,
you will find a domain introduction that
describes some of the most important ideas
related to the domain. This introductory
information helps you understand what
aspects of children’s learning and development
are included in the domain. The introduction
is followed by the Goal and Developmental
Indicator Continuum (sometimes called a
“Continuum” for short in this document) for
each domain. The Continuum for each domain
is a chart that shows the Goals for the domain,
and the Developmental Indicators related to
each Goal for each age level. As the sample
chart on the next page shows, North Carolina
has elected to arrange our Developmental
Indicators along a continuum so that all of
the Developmental Indicators for the age
levels between birth and kindergarten entry
are included on the same row. This format
allows teachers and caregivers to easily look
across the age levels to see the progression
that a child might make toward the Goal.

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

The Goals are organized in subdomains
or subtopics that fall within the domain.
Goals are statements that describe a general
area or aspect of development that children

make progress on through birth through
age five. The Developmental Indicators
are more specific statements of expectations
for children’s learning and development

that are tied to particular age levels. A Goal
and Developmental Indicator Continuum is
provided for each Goal.

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North Carolina Foundations for Early Learning and Development

Approaches to Play and Learning (APL)
Curiosity, Information-Seeking, and Eagerness

Goal APL-1: …