Parent Guides

Early Childhood Development

The first five years are a rapid time of growth. By the age of 5, 90% of the brain is developed. This development is primarily based on early childhood experiences. Children have the best opportunity to succeed when they grow in healthy environments with trusted adults and have access to high-quality early childhood education. As a child’s first and most important teacher, you have a special role in giving your child the greatest opportunity to succeed. So how can you help your child thrive? By making the most of everyday opportunities. It is not necessary to spend one hour every day of instructional time to help your child learn. When you talk, sing, or read to your child, you help to boost his or her brain. The Parent Guides listed below offer simple activities that you can do to help your child grow in every way. You can also download the Vroom app ( which gives you great on-the-go ideas of ways to encourage learning during common routines like grocery shopping or changing a diaper.

Each child's development is unique and complex. Although children develop through a generally predictable sequence of steps and milestones, they may not proceed through these steps in the same way or at the same pace. A child's development is also greatly influenced by factors in his or her environment and the experiences he or she has. The resources below will explain what child development experts consider to be "widely-held expectations" for what an average child might achieve within a given year. Please consider what you read in the context of your child's unique development.

Parent Guides

Parents, as a child’s first and best teacher, play the most important role in giving their child the greatest opportunity to succeed. That’s why the Governor’s Office of Early Childhood, in partnership with the Kentucky Department of Education, developed Parent Guides in 2006 from the Kentucky Early Childhood Standards to help parents prepare their children for school and life.

Families, early care and education providers, school staff, and community partners must work together to provide environments and developmental experiences that promote growth and learning to ensure that all children in Kentucky enter school eager and excited to learn. Parent Guides can be a bridge for families and early care and education providers to work together to encourage school readiness. Parent Guides are also available in Spanish.

In 2012, this document was updated by the Assessment Work Group of the Kentucky Early Childhood Advisory Council, chaired by Felicia Smith and Amy Hood Hooten, to include alignment with the Kentucky Early Learning Standards, the Kentucky School Readiness Definition, the Head Start Standards and information on the Common Kindergarten Screener. Special thanks go to the following workgroup members: Bill Buchanan, Carol Elder, Paula Goff, Jaesook Gilbert, Jennifer Grisham-Brown, Nancy Lovett, Sherri Meyer, Joe Roberts, Debbie Schumacher, Barbara Singleton, Whitney Stevenson, and Kathy Stovall.

How Do I Use the Parent Guides?

The guides use parent-friendly language to share tips and activities that families can use on a daily basis to encourage learning. The guides are separated into two publications for the zero to three and three through four age groups and focus on the five developmental areas of the school readiness definition:

  • Approaches to Learning
  • Health and Physical Well-Being
  • Language and Communication Development
  • Social and Emotional Development
  • Cognitive and General Knowledge

Printer-friendly versions of the Parent Guides are available. Please feel free to download, print and share these guides throughout your community.