Child Development Courses You Can Take Online

Christina M. Ward — July 2, 2020 in Child Development category on

Child development courses you can take online

For parents or professionals, there are a lot of resources at your fingertips

There are many child development courses available to you online that you can take advantage of to brush up on your skills or learn something new. If you have never thought about learning about child development, consider it “the more you know” camp. You never know when you might learn something invaluable. I wish I’d had more information at my fingertips when my boys were little, for sure! Let’s take a look at some of these courses and how they might be helpful to you.

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In the writing community, we talk of “pantsers” and “plotters.” These are writing folk who either write without a plan letting curiosity and creativity light their way (pantsers–flying by the seat of their pants) vs the plotters who plan their writing, plot it out, before they begin. Some do a little of both.

This applies equally to parenting, don’t you think?

There are those of us who get up each day, tackle it with whatever the day brings along, taking each moment as it comes. We fly by the seat of our pants, drive kids to school in our pajamas, and give ice cream at 10 pm just to quiet the whining–we just sail through parenting like an adventure of “who knows what is coming next?”

And there are those who like to study up, make a list, make a plan, and carry it out like a mission. We have potty charts and chore charts and we have a well-planned reward system. We schedule it all and plan out our grocery lists to a “t” because we are planners.

And then, there’s those of us who do a little of both. Because plan all you want and things come up. We try to think ahead as much as we can but we’ve learned that staying flexible is key.

This article is for all of you, even if you are “flying by the seat of your pants” with parenthood. Because no matter how much we just hang on for the ride, we all know that parenting is also a skill set.  You try one thing for a while and it works, then suddenly you are right back to square one and your kid outsmarts you, yet again. (How do they do that?)  Sometimes it helps to learn about what is going on in their little minds, a little bit about what stages of growth they are in and how to address it, or how to encourage healthy development. After all, it is very hard to be completely objective when it is your own child. Reading about stages of growth and learning about different methods could be the very things that make all the pieces come into place.

This article will highlight a few child development courses that you can take online, whether you are a parent looking to increase your own knowledge, a parent looking for answers, or a child care worker looking to brush up on your training.

Online child development courses–Here’s what you need to know:

What kinds of child development courses can you take online?

There are lots of different kinds of child development courses you can take online and some of them are even free. Some are designed for parents, some for pursuing a career in child development, or a degree. We’ll focus more on the ones designed for parenting but we’ll also touch on getting started with child development education as well.

The purpose of parenting classes is to help parents feel more connected, involved and focused on their child. Parenting classes provide advice, strategies, and tools on how to raise children and provide an opportunity for parents to share ideas and concerns with parents going through similar issues.— Very Well Mind

For parents, you may want to pursue learning more about general parenting, or find courses and materials on a host of topics. These are some of the child development categories (list from Child Encyclopedia):

Here is another list in alphabetical order from City College of San Francisco.

You can find online courses and materials available in whatever topic, however specialized for your personal needs, or simply to support your current parenting efforts. Perhaps your child has been recently diagnosed with autism or ADHD and you want to learn more about the condition, how it works, and what developmental stages your child will go through given their diagnosis; an online class can empower you and give you a better understanding of the condition.

How do I find the right resource for me?

To find the right resource or course for you, you need to first define your goals. In the example above, you’d know what you are looking for, but generally speaking, it may be a little more difficult to define. Begin with a general parenting class and that can lead to other interests or needs that you then may be able to define more clearly.

Some of the things to consider when choosing an online course:

  • Define your goals
  • Define your interests
  • Your child’s age
  • Your child’s needs
  • Parenting issues you may be having
  • Medical issues that are affecting your child’s parenting needs
  • The price of the course vs. your family budget
  • The time you have to invest in a course
  • How long it takes to complete the course load

What should I look for in a well-developed course?

Richard Miranda, Head of Growth at, gives some excellent advice on what to look for in an online course on his LinkedIn profile; Five things to look for when choosing an online course. Although the article is career-focused, it offers some great tips on what to consider when choosing a course. Some of the actionable tips for parents seeking to engage with learning material and sharpen their parenting skill set are:

  • Courses that have a “learn by doing” strategy
  • Courses that act more like tutorials than lectures
  • Courses that use peer-to-peer learning
  • Courses that teach you how to learn

This advice is practical for parents because most parents are very busy. They have careers, homes to look after, kids being kids, and they are freaking tired. Just finding the time is difficult enough and throw a monotone lecture or endless textbook-like reading on top of all that and you have yourself a snoozefest.

Courses that involve a social structure and well-developed, interactive information is a better way for you to keep your interest and complete the coursework. Make sure that you check to see if the course is catered to parents or if it is professional coursework for completing a certificate or degree. It is possible to rack up some credits toward a certification but it may also be coursework that builds on previous courses. Make sure it is a stand alone class or that you are prepared for the level of learning involved.

If you are interested in pursuing a career in child development, here is some great information to get you started: About The Child Development Associate (CDA). A second resource: 35 Best Online Child Development Degrees.

What are some of the most recommended online child development courses?

Here is a list of a few great online courses for parents, a little about them, and the links for the resource.

1. Positive Behavior Support for Young Children by the University of Washington via edX

Offers Free Online Course: Positive Behavior Support for Young Children from edX. This is a non-certificate course which is based on research on “the developmental trajectory of children with early-onset aggressive behaviors; positive behavior support program models; and intervention efforts that promote positive early childhood mental health.” Although there is some classroom strategy stuff as well, the course boasts a community of learning from others, reflective of one of the earlier points about finding a course that is both interactive and community oriented. The course has 5 star reviews.

EdX actually has quite a lot to offer. Check out some of what they have to offer here: Learn Child Development with Online Child Development Courses.

2. Free Online Course: Child Nutrition and Cooking from Coursera by Stanford University via Coursera which offers all kinds of free classes. A portion of the syllabus is available online. Here are the main focuses of this course:

Why Home Cooking Matters

  • What Constitutes a Balanced Meal?
  • From Supermarket to Dinner Table to School
  • Sustainable Eating
  • Labels, Allergies and Taste

3. Canvas Network provides a course entitled Free Online Course: Growth Mindset: How to Help Your Child Learn, Grow, Thrive (K-12) from Canvas Network, which is a self-paced course for parents. You can commit one hour a week for 7 weeks to complete the course. The course promises “you’ll learn the psychology and science of how mindset works to shape your child’s future, and the life-altering power that a growth mindset offers.”

Course objectives involve:

  • Identify the characteristics of fixed and growth mindsets.
  • Recognize how mindsets shape your child’s growth and development.
  • Use specific words, phrases, and actions that promote a love of learning in your child.
  • Support your child through experience challenges and failure so they can recover quickly and come away feeling hopeful and excited about the next time.
  • Reward hard work, perseverance, and grit.
  • Use powerful strategies to help your child cultivate a growth mindset so they grow and thrive.

4. Free Online Course: Stanford’s Short Course on Breastfeeding from Coursera is a course designed for new mothers who are breastfeeding but also for the members of their support system, patterns, fathers, family and friends. It truly takes a community of support sometimes for breastfeeding. Ask any breastfeeding mother how many times she has had to advocate for herself and her baby’s rights to eat without harassment from the community.

A little from the course creators:

We created the course because we recognize that there is a very small window in which successful, exclusive breastfeeding can be established, and that many new mothers are mastering this skill during a busy and sometimes stressful time. Brought to life by beautiful illustrations and interviews with international mothers, we hope to reach the broadest spectrum of mothers, helping them understand the current recommendations, challenges, benefits and practical considerations around breastfeeding – while simultaneously inspiring them to consider breastfeeding as the first choice for feeding their babies. 

5. Free Online Course: Teaching Phonics in Early Childhood from FutureLearn helps parents learn “evidence-based skills” to begin teaching phonics methods to their kids at home. Give your child the jump on their early childhood education and have them primed and ready for a lifetime of eager, fun learning, beginning with the building block of reading. By setting the stage for school you give your child confidence and essential foundational learning.

This course is based in Australia.

6. Autism Spectrum Disorder by the University of California, Davis via Coursera is a great course for parents of autistic children.

The online syllabus gives these categories for the course:

  • Course Information & Overview of ASD
  • Developmental Differences in Autism Across the Lifespan
  • Patterns of Strengths and Weaknesses
  • Understanding Sensory Regulation Differences
  • Using Evidence-based Practices

Understanding the characteristics of autism spectrum disorder (ASD) and their implications for behavior, learning and the ability to process information is critical for anyone working or interacting with those on the spectrum — educators, clinicians, counselors, therapists, medical staff, family and employers. This course will give you a fundamental understanding of what ASD is, how it is diagnosed, the primary areas of impairment, and why prevalence is increasing. —Autism Spectrum Disorder

7. Parent Education Programs – Child Welfare Information Gateway – Child Welfare Information Gateway

The Child Welfare Information Gateway offers a list of parenting education courses. Here are the links of what is available to you:

8. There are several courses available for special needs children. Here’s a few that may be of interest for parents. Some of these are more educator-based, but you may want to glean what you can from the information.

ADHD: Everyday Strategies for Elementary Students

Physical and mental health courses are also available:

Young People and Their Mental Health
Injury Prevention for Children & Teens
Human Growth and Development
Understanding child development: from synapse to society

9. Active Parenting publishers is also a great resource for parenting information, quizzes, resources, and courses. The courses are created by “acclaimed parenting expert Dr. Michael H. Popkin” and uses “sound psychological principles that have been research-tested and proven effective in all of the programs, with an emphasis on mutual respect, cognitive-behavioral approaches to change, personal choice, and responsibility.”

According to their website, the courses do have a cost: “You will receive excellent advice and parenting techniques from a highly qualified leader, access to online resources and videos, and the ability to discuss parenting with other adults around the country—all in one parenting class at the low cost of $79.95. It’s a small price to pay for a priceless learning experience.”

Whatever you seek as a parent, there are courses and mini-classes available to help you sharpen your parenting skills, learn about new techniques or methods that may work for your particular situation, and learn about various mental, learning, and physical challenges as well. If you are here, searching, staying hungry for information or support–then you are already trying and working at it. Hopefully you can find an educational course to give you the fundamental building blocks you need.

For more reading:

This article is brought to you by the blogging contributors at Babienet Parenting Community, a community of caring parents just like you! We welcome you to share your journey with us.

Christina M. Ward,
Babienet blog contributor
Mother and grandmother

Child Development Courses You Can Take Online discusses what to look for in online child development courses for parents and how to choose one that is right for you.

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