~ early education care ~ where our play supports our learning

Maine’s Early Learning Guidelines

Here are thoughts and examples of activities and how they support a child’s development, specifically related to the Maine Early Learning Guidelines.

What are they? Are they needed? Who will use? How will they be used?
These are just a few of the questions that popped into my head when the State Early Childhood Learning Guidelines booklet arrived.
These guidelines are first and foremost just that guidelines. They are not trying to tell one what to do or even how to do it. Their purpose is to provide a place for all early educators to start to get on the same page when it comes to developmentally what to look for and expect for children ages 3 to entering school. They also correlate to the State K-12 Learning Standards.
These guidelines recognize the importance of play in the active learning style of this age population. They are all about the whole child.
It will be interesting to see how implementation of these guidelines occurs across early education. Will they ensure high-quality early learning environments? Hopefully early educators and the larger community, especially parents, will work together as these guidelines affect curriculum development, child assessment, planning, observation, professional development and setting up learning environments. There is a real chance for growth in best practices for all concerned. It will continue be a challenge to develop appropriate curriculum that encourages active learning through children’s play. Using children’s natural curiosity and eagerness for new experiences as we intentionally incorporated these new guidelines should prove to be a growing experience for all. The goal – develop skills to become Life Long Learners.

First what does one mean by observation? For myself in my educational setting, observation means watching and listening to what is happening around me. I pay attention to not only what is being said, but tone and mannerisms of all involved. I take into account time, place and kind of activity.

Observing is how I spend my day. I am continually watching and listening to the interactions of my children. I observe them individually and in groups, using the knowledge gained to change my learning environment and focus of activities offered as children grow and develop. Without observing these children day in and out how could I possibly know what needs to change, what needs more work, what needs a different approach. I combine the information gained from the observations with that from my past educational experiences and ongoing training, doing my best to implement plans that will support my children developmentally.

Here is where I see the guidelines having strong value. The Early Education Guidelines offer indicators of developmentally appropriate behaviors and knowledge for children ages 3 through starting school in a nice direct package. I can and do use the indicators as a checklist. By relating my observations with each domain’s indicators I can see if each child and the group in general are progressing along as expected. I can see if there is an area that I need to improve my curriculum in. This checklist quickly shows the individual child’s needs for future attention.

I can discuss my general observations and use the checklist as an informational tool for parents. Not all educational jargon, the indicators are written in language with examples that most parents can relate to. It puts everyone on the same page and opens the way for discussion of what is seen at home and here. We are able to compare the abilities of the child as we both see him/her. This allows us to work together to developmentally do what is best for the child. It isn’t about right or wrong, but about any change needed to meet important educational needs.


Cooking/Baking Activities

We often don’t think about all the learning that is occurring in the everyday activities our children are involved in. Learning doesn’t only occur in structured programs. To best service our students, children in our care, the future – we need to approach the opportunities that arise daily with intention and instill the concept that learning is occurring all the time and is fun – as early as possible.

Simple baking activities easily cover indicators in a majority of the Early Learning Guideline Domains.
Those that chose to do the activity washed their hands and helped get the baking supplies needed for the recipe. We discussed how to sit so all could be involved, how to count as we measured, reviewed the different measuring tools and got going.
As each item was added to the bowl, we looked at it’s texture, smelled and or tasted. We talked about what we were experiencing. As baking continued we discussed the changes as each new item was added – why changed, how changed, etc.
Students reminded me to wash hands after doing eggs and that we couldn’t sample it any more – safety!
Took turns mixing dough. Dropped cookie dough onto cookie sheets. Helped set temperature of oven and timer. Placed sheets into oven.
All done baking, everyone helps put everything back where it should be.

Personal and Social Development – Self Control/Demonstrates increasing capacity to follow rules and routines
–Follows our routine of cleaning hands, prepping baking areas, and clean-up
Self Concept/Develops and communicates a growing awareness of self as having certain abilities, characteristics, preferences, and rights
–”I can mix with one hand.” mixing hard
Self Competence/Interacts with one or more children
–”Try the brown sugar. It’s sweet. You’ll like it.”

Approaches to Learning – Initiative and Curiosity/Expresses an eagerness to participate in and learn about a widening range of topics, ideas, and tasks
–First one to cooking area. Right over bowl as mixing. Tries each element of recipe.
Persistence and Reflection/Applies prior experiences, senses, and knowledge to new learning situations
–Remembers past cooking/baking projects in school and home, how to count out measured items, names of specific items, how to mix

Health and Physical Education – Healthy Habits/Uses basic personal hygiene practices and understands that those practices help to maintain good health
–Washes hands before cooking. Wash hands after handle eggs

Mathematics – Numbers and Number Sense/Matches a number of objects with written numeral
–Counts as pouring into bowl relating number to written recipe
–Counts out each student’s mixing turns
/Understands that numbers have multiple uses
–oven temp and timer

Science – Scientific Process/Identifies problems and proposes ways to solve them
–Getting margarine from measuring cup          problem solved
/Observes, describes and investigates changes in materials and cause and effect relationships
–Cream margarine into sugar
–Mix liquid with solids
–Finished cookie shape and texture

Social Studies – Families and Communities/Demonstrates the knowledge and skills needed to perform particular jobs and tasks
–prep, cook, clean-up
/Identifies tools and technology used at home, school and work
–Got recipe off computer site
–Tools used for baking
/Knows and discusses where some products come from
–discussion of products used in recipe – smell, taste, where comes from, other forms find in

For recipes and to see our current cooking/baking activities visit CF is Cooking.



Personal and Social Development

Personal and Social Development from my perspective is the domain that affects all the others. Growth developmentally in this domain is the underpinning for growth in the other domains. Why?

All people need a safe and nurturing environment to have the opportunity to reach their full potential. This is especially true for children. The foundation for future learning is laid in the early educational years. When the environment in which a child develops is safe and nurturing, the child is free to explore themselves, those around them and how it all fits. They can become a full contributing member of the larger community. A healthy sense of self and social skills are developed which will allow for future involvement in society. Through play, exploration, and interaction, a child can develop their own interests, skills and goals while learning to become a respectful and responsible member of a group.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs:

1. Physiological – physical needs, such as food, air, sleep

2. Safety – security, stability, consistency

3. Love – feeling love, needed, belonging

4. Esteem – feeling competent and recognized for abilities

5. Self-Actualization – fulfilment, reaching greater potential

Look at this list. Think about yourself and how this hierarchy works with your growth and successes. To me it makes sense. To survive we need food, water, etc. To develop we do so much better in a safe place where we have someone who cares. When we feel good about ourselves we get so much more accomplished. We try new things. We push ourselves. We reach goals, feel good about accomplishments = fulfillment.

What do we want for our children, but for them to be the best they can be and be happy. With a good start in the Personal and Social Development domain we are setting them up for success at their individual potential.

Personal and Social Development

A) Self Control
Indicators –

  • Seeks adult help when needed for emotional support
  • Demonstrates increasing competency in recognizing own and others’ emotions
  • Demonstrates increasing competency in describing own and others’ emotions
  • Shows progress in expressing feelings, needs, and opinions in difficult situations and conflicts without harming themselves, others, ot property
  • Demonstrates increasing capacity to follow rules and routines
  • Uses materials and equipment purposefully, safely, and respectfully

B) Self Concept
Indicators –

  • Develops and communicates a growing awareness of self as having certain abilities, characteristics, preferences, and rights (e.g., making choices during the day based on personal interests)
  • Separates from family to participate in early education setting
  • Increases ability to adjust to new situations
  • Explores and experiments with new interests
  • Develops a growing understanding of how own actions affect others
  • Begins to accept the consequences of own actions
  • Expresses pride in accomplishments

C) Social Competence
Indicators –

  • Demonstrates an understanding of and follows through with basic responsibilities (e.g., dressing, clean-up)
  • Interacts appropriately with familiar adult(s)
  • Interacts with one or more children
  • Interacts respectfully and cooperatively with adults and peers
  • Increases abilities to participate successfully as a member of a group through sustaining interactions with peers (e.g., helping, sharing, and discussing)
  • Listens with interest and understanding to directions
  • Listens with interest and understanding during conversations
  • Shows increasing abilities to use compromise and discussion in play, and resolution of conflicts with peers
  • Demonstrates some understanding of others’ rights, uniqueness, and individuality


One of the Early Learning Guideline indicators has to do with children understanding the idea of measurement and measuring using different units of measure. Most of us who work with young children probably have a good idea of how to do this. I had planned on doing the standard body tracing and measure that. Simple in need for materials, time and instruction. Best time to do is good outdoor weather. So why did I do it today, with snow 6″ deep and bearly 20 degrees warm?

We watched Curious George this morning as a group and the episode was one where he needed to be a certain height to ride the roller coaster. George measured himself with a stick of candy, that kept getting smaller as he ate it.  Questions came up and my teaching intention came to full alert. Here as a great opportunity to teach  needed skills, interest was there, and I needed to figure out how to use that to the fullest. I always have paper, markers, on hand. Plenty of items to use for measuring were available. Space was the issue – solved – move the toys, kitchen, climbing gym to the walls and we could take turns, help one another to keep all involved and have just enough open space for those full body tracing.
During snack I began moving items and the children immediately asked where I was moving things this time. I told them it was a school surprise and they would find out after snack. I continued to gather supplies – large roll of paper, markers, scissors. I told each child to get two different sized toys from around the room and bring them over to me when snack finished. I rolled out the paper pieces and had the first child lay down and I began to trace around their body. Did the questions start to fly. I just kept tracing until everyone who wanted to join in was done. I then asked each child to pick a marker color and I wrote “How many (tall) am I? on each paper piece. I then drew a line just below their feet and just above their head. “Remember how George was 4 candy sticks.” Picking up a toy spoon I asked how many spoons were they? One in the group picked a number, so I said “Let’s check.” I then laid out the spoon and moved it from feet to head, counting as I went. They were 11 spoons. Immediately it was “How many spoons am I?” I modeled and we discussed how to measure and count using the spoon. Everyone tried. We compared the numbers. Talked about what it meant to measure. Each children picked another toy and measured themselves. Next I brought up the idea of measuring with body parts like feet, arm, hands. We decided to use hands. I had the children hold up their hands to one another and then to me. Discussed the size differences. what would this mean when we measured. They quickly understood that it would take less hands for me when measuring each of them. I then went ahead and measured each with my hands,  their own hands, and then a friend’s hands. We were then able to talk about why it is important to know what you are measuring with and everyone should measure with the same thing if you are comparing. Measuring continued and then some choose to color their tracings in.
This group of 3-5 year olds was actively involved/learning for a little more than 1 hour on this lesson.  They were excited. For the little time and disruption to the space, what a great learning opportunity. I’m glad I have been really focusing on intention in my curriculum, these last few months especially. I might have missed a golden opportunity otherwise. As teachers, we need to be alert for learning chances to be enhanced in our everyday experiences/activities. We need to be flexible and not afraid of a little disruption. My job is to teach, encourage self-discovery and personal growth. I know I did my job well today.


Through observation I am able to see how many areas of the Maine Early Learning Guidelines are being met through our daily activities and free play. Here’s an example of just some of the Domains and Indicators to be found in the accompanying videos.

Personal and Social Development: self concept – pride in accomplishments / social competence – interacts cooperatively with familiar adult and peers; interacts with one or more children; listens with interest and understanding to directions

Approaches to Learning: initiative and curiosity  – engages in individual or group activities that express real life experiences, ideas, knowledge, feelings and fantasy / persistence and reflection – demonstrates a capacity to maintain concentration for a meaningful period of time on a task

Creative Arts: uses props to enhance role playing and dramatic play

Early Language and Literacy: communicating and listening – ability to understand and use language to communicate information, ideas, needs; communicates clearly enough to be understood

Health and Physical Education: healthy habits – regularly participates in active games, outdoor play and other forms of exercise that enhances physical fitness / gross and fine motor skills – increasing levels of proficiency, control and balance in walking, climbing, running, jumping, etc.; makes successful transitions between sequential motor skills; demonstrates cooperative skills while participating in physical activity

Math: shape and size – builds increasing understanding of directionally

Science: scientific knowledge – expands knowledge of and respect for their environment

Social Studies: families and communities – demonstrates the knowledge and skills needed to perform particular jobs and tasks; identifies tools used at home, work and school

raking leaves

marble raceway



Hopefully you not only enjoyed the videos, but saw all the learning and growth the children are achieving.


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