First Look: The Early Learning Toolkit expands with four new Early Childhood Development Strategies

Duncan McCullough

The Early Learning Toolkit, housed within Results for Development’s Center for Education Innovations, provides users with actionable resources and information to improve the quality of early learning. In addition to strategies for improving learning in primary grades and program management, next week the Early Learning Toolkit will officially launch four new strategies that target early childhood programs.

The inclusion of Early Childhood Strategies on the Early Learning Toolkit is the result of R4D’s collaboration with the LEGO Foundation, which aims to build a future where learning through play empowers children to become creative, engaged, life-long learners.

Recognizing the importance of children’s early years to their long-term development, this expansion of the Early Learning Toolkit represents our shared commitment to connecting implementers working to improve outcomes for children aged 0-12 with the latest knowledge and resources they need to improve their impact.

Overview of Early Childhood Strategies

Across different countries, early childhood development (ECD) programs are working to improve the lives of young children and their families. These programs, which span the education, health and nutrition, water and sanitation, and protection sectors, provide essential services that support children’s cognitive, linguistic, physical, and social and emotional development.  While these programs provide critical services, practitioners often encounter challenges in ensuring their quality.

These challenges are not due to the availability of information; there are in fact many useful research findings, tools, and stories of program experiences that can help. However, in our work with programs, we have often been reminded that there is a real need to compile this information in a way that is accessible and useful to practitioners working in the field. It is to respond to this exact need, that we are launching four new Early Childhood strategies on the Early Learning Toolkit – Integrating Services for Young Children, Stimulating and Responsive Caregiving, Playful Learning, and Supporting Early Childhood Practitioners. By leveraging existing evidence, input from organizations working directly with children and families around the world and expert advisors, we have made sure that these four strategies reflect the latest evidence and program needs. 

A Look Inside the Early Childhood Strategies

Each of the four strategies consists of tools and tips, case studies, and relevant research studies to support program managers seeking additional information on how to improve the quality of their program.

Tips and practical tools for implementing strategies

In this section, short digestible tips are offered to guide a program’s work. For example, the Integrating Services for Young Children strategy suggests that programs “Understand when and where each sector has contact with children from birth to age 6 and their families.” Tips like this are followed by a set of curated tools, such as the Stakeholder Analysis Matrix Template, which a program could use as support in carrying out a stakeholder mapping to identify where various sectors have contact with children and families.

Case studies of programs with experience implementing strategies

This section shares experiences from other programs who have implemented these strategies. For example, we were able to draw upon our team’s recent visit to TREE in South Africa, to highlight challenges and success factors related to implementing Playful Learning. The case study describes that while TREE often faces challenges due to existing attitudes around playful learning, it has been successful in implementing this approach due to a number of factors. These including the program’s use of community toy libraries and provision of support to practitioners around topics such as making toys from locally available materials.  


Research behind the strategies

This section includes a summary of the rigorous evidence behind the strategies, followed by links to evaluations and evidence reviews with greater details. For example, in the Responsive and Stimulating Caregiving Strategy, we have highlighted how interventions that support responsive caregiving are linked to a reduction in violence in the home, which positively supports a young child’s development.  

We will be announcing these new resources to the broader education community next week, but wanted to give our CEI audience an early look at our work. Stay tuned for the official launch of the Early Childhood Strategies to hear more about this resource, and we hope you’ll help us spread the word!

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