Alert: Beginning July 1, 2018, the Department of Early Learning will become the Department of Children, Youth, and Families (DCYF). After June 30, 2018, this website will no longer be updated. For the latest information on early learning, visit the DCYF website at

Washington State Early Learning and Development Guidelines


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The Department of Early Learning (DEL), in partnership with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) and Thrive Washington, has published the Early Learning and Development Guidelines (guidelines) for children from birth through third grade. The guidelines replace the Early Learning and Development Benchmarks, which were first created in 2005 to outline what children know and are able to do at different stages of their development. 


The state Department of Early Learning, the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and Thrive Washington led the recent revision of the guidelines in close partnership with a 51-member workgroup that included statewide representatives from Head Start, the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP), parents, Tribes, child care providers, special needs experts, K-12 staff and our state’s ethnic commissions. 


We understand the importance of updating these guidelines, and plan to do so in the future following the alignment of child care licensing standards.  

The guidelines:

  • Celebrate Washington's increasingly diverse population.
  • Support ECEAP and Head Start standards.
  • Extend the guidelines through third grade and align with the K-3 learning expectations, including Common Core Standards.
  • Reflect what we've learned about child development since 2005.
  • The guidelines' easy-to-read format also better supports parents as their child’s first and most important teachers with information about what children can do and learn at different stages of development.
Download a PDF of the guidelines by right-clicking on the link and saving it to your computer:


Order hard copies from the state Department of Enterprise Services. The books are free; however, requesters must pay for handling and shipping fees incurred by DES. Order at: 


Without a doubt, the early years—ages birth through five—are the most extraordinary period of growth and development in a child's lifetime. Infants begin life totally dependent on adults and then develop into children who walk, talk, write, express themselves, and communicate with the world around them.
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We’ve distributed more than 10,000 copies of the Guidelines around the state. Here are some of the ways families, child care providers and others are using them in communities.
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Many states have developed their own early learning guidelines.
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