Iowa Early Learning Standards (IELS)

The Iowa Early Learning Standards (IELS) are for everyone who cares for, educates and works with young children. The standards are a resource to support and enhance children’s learning and development. The standards are a tool to share information among families, caregivers, child care providers, family support, mental health & health care professionals, teachers, program administrators and others who care for or work with children during the first 2,000 days of life.

Training Credit

  • 2 hours

Training Audience

  • Child Care Centers (CCC) and preschools
  • Child Development Homes (CDH)

i-PoWeR Professional Workforce Registry

Iowa's Early Childhood and School Age Professional Workforce Registry (i-PoWeR) is a comprehensive registry where you can find and enroll in the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) approved professional development opportunities related to early childhood and school-age professionals. It will also maintain a record of your professional achievements. Approved training opportunities can be accessed by visiting i-PoWeR below.

i-PoWeR Link

Training Narrative

Iowa Early Learning Standards

Section 1:

The Cover presents the color coding used throughout the IELS. The IELS document is the product of Early Childhood Iowa. The Table of Contents provides a summary and page numbers for each of the eight Areas: Social and Emotional Development; Physical Well-Being and Motor Development; Approaches to Learning; Social Studies; Creative Arts; Communication, Language, and Literacy, Mathematics, and Science. The Invitation Letter encourages every adult in Iowa to learn more about the necessity for quality experiences during the first years of a child’s life and the impact of these experiences on future learning and success. The Iowa Early Learning Standards 3rd edition was approved by the Early Childhood Iowa State Board and the Iowa State Board of Education. The revision committee, representing individuals from every region of Iowa and from a variety of positions within early care and education, recognized the efforts of the 2006 and 2012 writing committees. A list of the 2006, 2012, and 2017 committees is included in the Iowa Early Learning Standards Writing and Revision Committees. The Introduction describes the intent of the IELS, the sections of the IELS document, the history of early learning standards in Iowa, revisions and updates to the 2012 version, and where to access the document online. The Essential Considerations explains the connection of the IELS to the principles contained in the Iowa Core Knowledge of Child Development, developed in 2016. Additional information includes the role of relationships in learning, the importance of physical and mental health, diversity and inclusion, the importance of play, the role of technology and interactive media, the role of observation and monitoring child’s development, and understanding school readiness. The Index provides a list of the standards for the age levels of infant and toddler (birth - 3 years) and preschool (3 - 5 years) in each of the eight Areas, and a list of the alignments of the IELS to the Iowa CORE and Iowa Fine Arts Standards. The Rationale provides details of why each standard is important for every child. This information provides a foundation for all adults to consider the impact of each standard. Research is noted throughout the Rationale section.

Section 2:

This Standards, Benchmarks, Examples, and Adult Supports section offers each standard within the Area; and the benchmarks, examples of reaching a benchmark, and supports an adult can provide for a child to reach the benchmark. As with all sections in the IELS, color coding is provided for easy recognition of the Area, and if held in a fanned position, the color is viewed for easy access to the Area. In most cases, the infant and toddler standard and benchmarks are viewed at the top with a list of examples and a short list of potential support to provide for children to reach the benchmark. The lists are provided to encourage consideration of other examples and supports. The landscape format assists lesson plan development, and promotes conversations by the child care provider with supervisors, parents, and others. Throughout the IELS document, the lower left corner of every page identifies the section and page within the section, and the page number for the entire document is provided in the lower right corner of every page.

Section 3:

It is critical that adults understand the IELS support the continuum of child development from birth through the end of the fifth year of a child’s life. The Iowa Early Learning Standards 3rd Edition and the Iowa CORE Alignment Overview explains the alignment between the IELS and the Iowa CORE Standards. The alignments connect the age-appropriate expectation for infants, toddlers, and preschool children to the knowledge children should master by the end of kindergarten. Alignments to the Iowa CORE include Social Studies, English Language Arts, Mathematics, and Science, as well as alignment to the Iowa Fine Arts Standards. The Standards for Mathematical Practices are also included in this section.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The alignments do not show a one-to-one match of standards between the IELS 3rd edition and the Iowa CORE for kindergarten. Instead, the accumulating effect of what an infant/toddler learns creates the foundation, and then the preschooler’s learning builds upon that foundation. Ultimately, what a child discovers from birth to five years directly supports learning during the kindergarten year. Click to access the Iowa CORE and the Fine Arts Standards.

Section 4:

The References section contains full citations to access the research, other publications, and identified best practice used to support development of the standards and benchmarks. The citations are presented for each Area and each age level standard, and the Essential Considerations.

Standards by Section:

Iowa Early Learning Standards 3rd edition - cover

Iowa Early Learning Standards 3rd edition - section 1 (table of contents through introduction)

Iowa Early Learning Standards 3rd edition - section 2 (standards, benchmarks, examples, and adult supports)

Iowa Early Learning Standards 3rd edition - section 3 (Iowa CORE alignment)

Iowa Early Learning Standards 3rd edition - section 4 (references)


IELS Planning Process Document

Infant and Toddler 11x17 poster

Preschool 11X17 poster

Iowa Core Knowledge of Child Development

Online Iowa Early Learning Standards 3rd edition Orientation

Support each child in Iowa to reach his or her potential.

  • Free, online, self-paced course from ISU Extension and Outreach
  • Participate online at any time, 24/7
  • Complete all 4 the modules within the class to receive training credit
  • Receive a professional development certificate of completion

Follow these steps to enroll:

  • Register on i-PoWeR
  • Search Trainings: Title: Iowa Early Learning Standards (leave all other fields blank)
  • Select Enroll: Iowa Early Learning Standards (IELS)-3rd edition Orientation ONLINE (class) (leave city, date and time blank)
  • Once registration is approved, a confirmation will be sent to with the link to the online class and directions on how to access the training

Need help?

  • I-Learn ECE Help Desk: (515) 294-8754 (Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 3 p.m.) or email
  • Technical (Moodle™ and computer) questions: (515) 294-1725, (Monday - Friday, 8 a.m. - 5 p.m.)