This Spotlight focuses on how to best prepare young children for success in school, career, and life. The recent IES Practice Guide, Preparing Young Children for School, offers the following seven recommendations based on research and informed by an expert panel:

  1. Regularly provide intentional, engaging instruction and practice focused on social-emotional skills.
  2. Strengthen children’s executive function skills using specific games and activities.
  3. Provide intentional instruction to build children’s understanding of mathematical ideas and skills.
  4. Engage children in conversations about mathematical ideas and support them in using mathematical language.
  5. Intentionally plan activities to build children’s vocabulary and language.
  6. Build children’s knowledge of letters and sounds.
  7. Use shared book reading to develop children’s language, knowledge of print features, and knowledge of the world.

The resources in this Spotlight can be explored within the context of these research-based recommendations. The resources offer guidance on how to integrate play into early education, improve math outcomes for young children, and promote joyful learning.

Exploring the Powerful Role of Play in Early Education Webinar Series

Children love to play. Through play, children notice what goes on around them and experiment with and joyfully investigate objects and people. Play is essential for young children’s learning, yet despite this, play is disappearing from some childhood and early learning settings. This two-part webinar series introduces The Powerful Role of Play in Early Education, a recent publication published by the California Department of Education that invites early childhood professionals to reflect on what is needed to reverse this alarming trend.

The series, developed by the California Department of Social Services, Child Care and Development Division, in partnership with WestEd’s Program for Infant/Toddler Care (PITC), explores the importance of play as a right of childhood and the roles of teachers, providers, and administrators in supporting authentic play as the foundation for learning in early care and education programs. In addition to highlighting research and policy, practical examples for providers and teachers are shared to emphasize the importance of play in supporting optimal learning and development.

Improving Math Outcomes for Young Children

Teacher with young childrenTo improve math outcomes for children ages 0–8 and increase awareness of the importance of early math, the California Department of Education (CDE) funded the California Statewide Early Math Initiative (CAEMI), led by the Fresno County Superintendent of Schools in partnership with the AIMS Center and WestEd.

The CAEMI professional learning and coaching model aimed to build early childhood directors, coordinators, and lead teachers’ positive math identities and raise their confidence, knowledge, and capacity to implement high-quality, equitable early mathematics education.

Thirty local education agencies participated in the CAEMI’s model and successfully implemented early math training and coaching with early childhood educators in their communities using various resources and activities offered by the CAEMI to implement a train-the-trainer approach.

Osnat Zur is the Director of the Early Childhood Learning and Development content area at WestEd. In this Q&A, Zur discusses WestEd’s formative evaluation of the CAEMI’s professional learning and coaching model and its impact on educators.


Joyful Reading, Writing, and Creative Expression with Young Children

young boy reading a bookThis collection of REL West resources share practical strategies for teachers to promote joyful learning experiences—through interactive reading, creative writing, and the arts—for children in preschool through the early elementary grades. The guidance emphasizes educating the whole child, culturally and linguistically sustaining practices and social-emotional learning.

The resources draw from the What Works Clearinghouse practice guide, Improving Reading Comprehension in Kindergarten through 3rd Grade, the National Clearinghouse for English Language Acquisition teaching practice brief, Integrating Language Into Early Childhood Education, and other research-based guidance.


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WestEd E-BulletinStay informed about WestEd’s research, resources, services, events, and career opportunities by subscribing to our E-Bulletin. Our latest issue explores early childhood development and learning in more depth. Topics include:

  • Supporting Development and Learning in Group Care
  • Making a Successful Transition to Kindergarten
  • Explore the Role of Play in Early Education
  • New Network Supports California Early Learning Staff and Caregivers
  • Improving Math Outcomes for Young Learners
  • Promoting Healthy Development with the PITC Curriculum
  • Increasing Access to Quality Early Care and Education
  • Enroll In Free Self-Paced, Online Professional Learning


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