About SECD

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

The period from conception through the first 3 years of life is a time of very rapid development for the brain and other biological systems. Evidence shows that a child’s earliest experiences, in the womb and in the first years of life, affect how genes are expressed and how brain connections are built. The quality of a child’s environment, the nurturing, and the responsiveness of adults is vitally important for shaping brain architecture.

From the latest research into brain development and the social determinants of health to topics such as child rights, literacy and the importance of play, SECD shows how nature and nurture interact from conception on to construct a foundation for development.


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, Kiswahili, 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.

"One of the advantages SECD has over textbooks that come with interactive webpages, is that the video clips, games and readings are  embedded in the body of the assigned readings. With SECD, the students don't have to log onto a different site.  In my experience, some of my students have been tempted to skip textbook web elements or they meant to log on to the website...... but never got around to doing it. In SECD, the embedded links are placed directly in their learning path, which enhances their understanding."

Linda Hill, Professor, Early Childhood Education, St. Clair College, Windsor, Ontario

"At Sault College, we use particular components of the Science of ECD modules in various courses...This resource contains materials that are interactive and engaging, with the use of video and audio clips, up-to-date articles, reflective questions and games to solidify students’ learning. It lends itself to the variety of learning styles we encounter in the college classroom. Students appreciate purchasing one resource that is used in more than one course and is easily accessible in their preparation for assignments or to research a particular topic of interest.”.

- Andrea Welz, Early Childhood Education Program, Sault College


“SECD is an excellent online resource. It provides the perfect balance of theory and linkages to practice, which is useful for professionals working in the field of early childhood development. The course delivery, through videos and interactive games, makes it interesting as well.”

Meenal Sarda, Programme Officer - Education, Aga Khan Foundation, India

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