About SECD

The Science of Early Child Development (SECD) is a knowledge translation and mobilization initiative with a global perspective that introduces and synthesizes transdisciplinary research underscoring the importance of the early years.

Colleges and universities use SECD in pre-entry, diploma, undergraduate and graduate programs as content for online and offline courses. Government, professional groups, community organizations, and individuals use SECD materials for parent education workshops, staff training and professional development.

SECD initiatives include both online and offline resources.


Regularly updated, SECD online resources bring research and concepts to life with hundreds of readings, videos, links, reflect questions and interactive activities. SECD's four online living textbooks include

  • SECD - North American Edition
  • SECD - Introductory Edition (abridged version)
  • SECD - International Edition (contextualized for the majority world)
  • SECD - International Introductory Edition (abridged and contextualized)

SECD online living textbooks consist of five modules that provide an overview, examples of research and links to practice:

Brain Development

Compelling research about early brain development has reshaped the way we think about early child development. During the prenatal period and the first few years of life, the brain is exquisitely sensitive to external influence. The Brain Development module provides basic understanding of the interplay of genes and early environments which shape children’s development and influences them throughout life.

Coping and Competence

This module is about how children develop from complete dependency to being able to cope with the world around them, relate to others, manage life’s challenges and regulate their behaviour. The importance of social interactions with adults and children around them, as well as internal forces, are themes throughout.

Communicating and Learning 

Learning doesn’t start when children begin school. From birth, and even pre-birth, babies are learning constantly about the world around them and also becoming ready for communication. This module explores exciting research into memory, early language development and the important role of play in learning. It also focuses on ways to capitalize on everyday learning opportunities with young children.

The Ecology of Childhood

Children do not exist in isolation. From conception on, a child’s world is shaped by other individuals, community organizations, available resources, opportunities, and cultural patterns. This module focuses on the interplay of the many contexts that influence child development. 

Developmental Health

This module is about the ‘big picture’. Early childhood is a period of astonishing cognitive, social, emotional and physical growth that launches developmental trajectories into the years ahead. Gain insight into why early years have such a long-term impact on both individuals and societies; learn how to use this information to advocate for children and families.


Single modules available alone or as an add-on to an SECD living textbook:

The Child Development Primer and Introduction au développement de l'enfant (French version of Primer) provide an overview of basic child development including a review of child development theories, an overview of ages and stages, the importance of play and other key concepts.

The Prenatal Development Module includes an overview, research and links to practice focusing on the complex process of prenatal development and factors influencing fetal development and life-long health. 


SECD offline resources are flexible, interactive multimedia learning packages developed for different audiences: 

The SECD Seminar Series was designed for professionals and policy-makers. It includes multi-media summary slide presentations of the five modules from SECD International Edition, a facilitator guide and support materials for participants.  The seminars are designed to be highly interactive and can be delivered individually as full-day sessions or together as a week-long training. The Seminar Series is being translated into Arabic, French, Kiswahili, Mandarin, Portuguese, Bangla, Russian, Tajik and other languages.

The SECD Resource Kit  was designed to support workshops or training for parents/caregivers, front-line ECD staff and anyone directly engaged with young children and families. The Resource Kit is a flexible resource that enables facilitators to either develop workshops or use the ready-made workshops with facilitator support materials that are included. Topics in the Kit are: Early Brain Development; Nurturing Care; Positive Guidance; Play; and Language & Literacy with a focus on 0 – 6.

"The SECD living textbook is an exceptional resource that has been helpful throughout my studies. The living textbook includes videos from experts in the field, interactive activities, informative articles, links to relevant websites, and engaging videos of concepts in practice. I would highly recommend this resource to others and will be continuing to use it throughout my graduate studies and beyond."

– Ellen Kraszewski, EdD Student in Child Study and Education, OISE/UT

"I learned about SECD during my Early Childhood Education undergraduate program at George Brown College and was very excited when it was introduced again as a living textbook during my master's at OISE-University of Toronto. I am very much engaged with the SECD now than at any other time in my studies. The short research videos viewing experts, real-life experience and stories, and encyclopedia readings and connection to further readings and sites make my workload more manageable, enjoyable and meaningful. Thank you to all the experts who have put together such outstanding resources for students' use.”

- Tola Adegbolu, M.Ed, Developmental Psychology and Education, OISE/UT.


“The SECD resource has been a fantastic learning tool - having the opportunity to view the experts speak allowed me to gain a much deeper understanding of the material. Not to mention, very engaging!”

- Sarah Dorman, M.Ed, Developmental Psychology and Education, OISE/UT

Red River College University of Toronto AKDN - Aga Khan Development Network