Organization of the Standards

Rhode Island’s Early Learning and Development Standards are organized into domains, components, learning goals, and indicators.

Domains represent the broad areas of early learning:

The emphasis in this domain is on physical health and motor development as an integral part of children’s overall well-being.

Social and emotional skills, developed in early childhood, are essential for lifelong learning and success.

The development of children’s early language skills is critically important for their future academic success.

Development in the domain of literacy serves as a foundation for reading and writing acquisition.

Young children grow and change in their abilities to pay attention to and think about the world around them.

Mathematics contributes to children’s ability to make sense of the world and to solve problems they encounter in their everyday lives.

Children are scientists from the moment they are born, using their senses to observe and gain knowledge about the world around them.

The area of social studies involves children’s ability to understand how they relate to their family and community.

The arts provide children with a vehicle and organizing framework to express ideas and feelings.


Components are specific areas within a domain. For example, the domain of physical health and motor development is divided into three components: health and safety practices, gross motor development, and fine motor development.

Learning goals state those general categories of competencies, behaviors, knowledge, and skills that children develop in increasing degrees and with increasing sophistication as they grow. For example, the gross motor development component includes two learning goals:

a) Children develop large muscle control, strength, and coordination
b) Children develop traveling skills

The goals remain the same throughout childhood, although how they are realized changes and becomes more complex as children grow and develop.

Indicators establish the specific developmental benchmarks for the competencies, behaviors, knowledge, and skills that most children possess or exhibit at a particular age for each learning goal. Seen altogether, the indicators depict the progression of development over time. While the first set of benchmarks is positioned at nine months, it’s important to remember that a tremendous amount of growth and development occurs before that age.

Early Learning Continuum: The early learning and development standards outline a birth- to-60-month continuum, with six developmental benchmarks:

The Early Learning Continuum is represented by this series of silhouettes:

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Throughout this resource the 9 domain icons are used in combination with the 6 silhouettes to visually represent the indicators across the document. For example, at right, the 18 month silhouette in combination with the science domain icon which helps to easily access information.


* A child develops tremendously before this nine-month benchmark. The indicators here may identify what the child has already been doing for weeks, if not months. As such, these indicators represent a starting point for gauging the progress of development.