Family

Fifteen FREE Online Courses for Baby, Infant & Child Development

I am a pretty keen home-student. I enjoy studying and learning, but prefer to do it at my own pace. For the last two years, including through maternity leave, I studied a work qualification that I’d been putting off for ages and ages. Finally I’ve completed it (got a distinction too!) and now I’m finding those few hours of “study” that I set aside each week are empty. Rather than commit to something for work, I wanted to work on personal development a little. This led me to doing a vast amount of research about child development courses and I didn’t want to spend much (or any!) money.

I love learning about the way children’s minds work, and how to help my son learn and grow. These five interesting and educational courses I’ve collated were completely FREE, yet still from recognized and reputable sources – giving you accurate information and a qualification or experience that will be genuinely useful.

These free online courses for parents and people interested in pursuing a career with children were updated May 2022 when I added 5 more courses bring it up from 10 free online courses to 15 free online courses!

These free child development courses that focus on young children, babies and infants will be useful to

  • People with any interest in baby, infant and child development
  • People with an interest in developmental psychology
  • Parents, Grandparents or Relatives trying to understand the young children in their life better
  • Expectant mums & dads wanting to prepare for the future
  • People looking to work with children in the future
  • People looking to get into social work or family care
  • People looking to foster or adopt
  • People looking to prepare for schooling and what support children might need in early education

Most of these are with the Open University, but I have researched and included a few from other accredited Universities that offer online / distance learning and free courses. These are all available to those in the UK and globally.

Babies & Preschooler Courses

1. Introduction to Child Psychology with The Open University

“Childhood is a time of rapid growth and development, and studying these changes is endlessly stimulating. In this free course, Introduction to child psychology, you will be introduced to the discipline of child psychology and some of the key questions that guide the understanding of childhood. These questions include ‘What influences children’s development?’ and ‘How do psychologists study the physical and cognitive changes that occur during childhood?’ As you work through this material, you will also gain a deeper understanding concerning how psychologists work with young children across a range of applied settings through activities and audio-visual materials.”

Price: FREE (including free Statement of Participation Certificate and Digital Badge)
Level: Beginner
Study Time: 8 hours

2. Attachment in the Early Years with The Open University

“This free course, Attachment in the early years, covers theory and research in the area of attachment in early childhood. In the 1950s, John Bowlby was the first person to develop a theory about the significance of early attachments between caregivers and very young children. His work has stimulated a massive and very productive field of research with important implications for childcare. This OpenLearn course describes Bowlby’s theory and the work that has built on it, illustrated with video recordings of the assessment of attachment in a laboratory setting and a talk by an eminent attachment researcher.”

Price: FREE (including free Statement of Participation Certificate and Digital Badge)
Level: Intermediate
Study Time: 6 hours

3. Children’s Perspectives on Play with The Open University

“In this free course, Children’s perspectives on play, you are asked to put yourself in the place of young children and to think about their view of play and their reasons for playing. When children have personal freedom to choose and make decisions about what and who they want to play with, as well as where they want to play, they are highly self-motivated and active in their engagements with everything around them. In this course you will think about how you listen to children’s perspectives, why it is important and also consider the choices children make about where they play and why.”

Price: FREE (including free Statement of Participation Certificate and Digital Badge)
Level: Beginner
Study Time: 5 hours

4. Introduction to Development Psychology with The University of Queensland

“This psychology course will examine how babies and young children develop the ability to function in our world, including their attachment to their caregivers, and their ability to communicate and think about the world. We will also cover specific changes during adolescence and later life. You should take this course if you are curious to understand what we know about infants’ abilities, how we know it, and about the important milestones that we all pass through as we develop.”

Price: FREE ($99 for verified certificate)
Level: Beginner
Study Time: 1-2 hours per week for 8 weeks (8 – 16 hours total)

5. Play, Learning and the Brain with The Open University

“This free course, Play, learning and the brain, examines the area of brain-based learning, with a particular focus on the development of the young child’s brain, and is of particular relevance to those who work with young children. We begin by looking at the structure and functions of the brain, and the impact that sensory deprivation can have on these. We consider the implications of current understandings of brain development for teaching and learning, particularly in an early years setting, and finish by exploring the value of play (particularly outdoor play) in children’s learning and the development of their brains.”

Price: FREE (including free Statement of Participation Certificate and Digital Badge)
Level: Intermediate
Study Time: 15 hours

6. The Family at the Centre of Early Learning with The Open University

“This free course, The family at the centre of early learning, focuses on the positive learning relationships that can exist in any family and how ordinary, everyday domestic activities can sustain learning. You will consider how the traditions and cultural practices of the community to which the family belongs filters through to the child’s experiences. In doing so you will think about why such influences may not have a uniform impact from family to family. You will also explore how learning is a two way experience for both children and their parents or carers, in situations both within and beyond the home.”

Price: FREE (including free Statement of Participation Certificate and Digital Badge)
Level: Introductory
Study Time: 9 hours

7. The Science of Parenting with University College San Diego

“This psychology course will examine how babies and young children develop the ability to function in our world, including their attachment to their caregivers, and their ability to communicate and think about the world. We will also cover specific changes during adolescence and later life. You should take this course if you are curious to understand what we know about infants’ abilities, how we know it, and about the important milestones that we all pass through as we develop.”

Price: FREE ($49 for verified certificate)
Level: Beginner
Study Time: 3-5 hours per week for 5 weeks (15 – 20 hours total)

8. The Best Start in Life: Early Childhood Development for Sustainable Development with SDG Academy

“What does a successful early childhood care program look like? How has a child’s brain developed at the age of 3? How does nutrition impact the future well-being of a child into adulthood? Learn the answers to these questions and more in “The Best Start in Life: Early Childhood Development for Sustainable Development”. With leading experts in the field – hailing from Harvard University, New York University and UNICEF, among other institutions – we’ll explore how neuroscience, sociology, anthropology and other studies have influenced our understanding of early childhood development.”

Price: FREE ($49 for verified certificate)
Level: Intermediate
Study Time: 2-4 hours per week for 8 weeks (16 – 32 hours total)

9. Childhood in the Digital Age with The Open University

“The amount of technology available to children today is greater than in any previous generation, and it is more specifically designed to capture their imaginations. There is heated debate as to how the digital influx is shaping children’s development and experience. Are social media changing the way that children form relationships? How is technology changing the way that children think, and how will it shape the classroom of the future? This exciting new free course pulls together the latest evidence from experts in the field to explore these and other questions.”

Price: FREE (including free Statement of Participation Certificate and Digital Badge)
Level: Beginner
Study Time: 12 hours

10. Children’s Experiences in the Digital Age with The Open University

“This free course, Children’s experiences with digital technologies, is an introduction to how children use digital technologies, such as mobile applications, digital games and computers, and what they learn from these experiences. The course draws on debates about screen time to critically examine and present evidence about the effects of digital technologies on children’s learning and development. It concludes with a set of evidence-based recommendations about how adults (such as parents and teachers) should engage with and manage children’s interactions with technology.”

Price: FREE (including free Statement of Participation Certificate and Digital Badge)
Level: Intermediate
Study Time: 8 hours

11. Supporting Children’s Mental Health and Well Being with The Open University

“There are many factors that influence children’s enjoyment of their lives. Some are within each child, such as their personality and their level of resilience. Other factors that influence children’s mental health include where they live, who they live with and the relationships they have with others. In addition, there are global influences, such as the geographical location and political situation of a country, as well as health-related global events such as a pandemic. While the context of children’s lives undoubtedly contributes to their sense of wellbeing, this course highlights that there is much that can be done within society to improve children’s sense of wellbeing and prevent poor mental health.” Aimed at children between 0 – 8 years old.

Price: FREE (including free Statement of Participation Certificate and Digital Badge)
Level: Intermediate
Study Time: 8 hours

Primary School Age Courses (5+)

12. The World of Primary School with The Open University

“Primary education is a dynamic and exciting area to study and become involved in. This free course, The world of the primary school, introduces the various members of a primary school community, and considers the nature of their involvement and how this has evolved in the UK over recent years. It explores ideas about the primary school curriculum and the role of teachers and support staff in supporting children’s learning.”

Price: FREE (including free Statement of Participation Certificate)
Level: Introductory
Study Time: 8 hours

13. Supporting Children’s Development with The Open University

“Supporting children’s development is an introductory course for anyone who is interested in children’s development, especially support staff in schools, such as teaching assistants. It builds on your knowledge and skills to develop a deeper understanding of children from the early years to school leavers. You will be introduced to some core ideas surrounding development and learning, behaviour, special needs and disabilities.”

Price: FREE (including free Statement of Participation Certificate)
Level: Introductory
Study Time: 15 hours

14. Primary Science: Supporting Children’s Learning with The Open University

“Science is a key subject area in primary education curriculum frameworks. This free course, Primary science: supporting children’s learning, provides an opportunity to consider your own experiences, perceptions and attitudes to science. You will explore and develop some of your scientific knowledge and understanding while considering how you can support primary-aged children’s science learning.”

Price: FREE (including free Statement of Participation Certificate)
Level: Intermediate
Study Time: 8 hours

15. Primary Education: Listening and Observing with The Open University

“Would you like to volunteer or find work in your local primary school? Are you thinking about becoming a teaching assistant, or becoming a teacher in the future? In this free course, Primary education: listening and observing, you will have the chance to look inside primary schools, and watch and listen to children and teaching staff. You’ll also find out what head teachers look for in people who want to work or volunteer in a primary school.”

Price: FREE (including free Statement of Participation Certificate)
Level: Introductory
Study Time: 24 hours


10 completely free child development courses you can complete online - work on your education, earn qualifications, learn about babies, infants, education and child development.

I’ve signed up to the first two with the Open University right now and I’ll be reviewing those as I complete them and letting you know what I think, before moving on to the Parents and Toddlers: Teaching and Learning at Home course. As that one is advanced and 20 hours of study, I’ve decided to do a few introductory courses first, having never studied childcare at home before. Have you completed any free courses online that you would recommend to others? Do you think that it’s good to get extra qualifications in your spare time? Do you think you’d benefit from learning more about child development? Let me know your thoughts in the comments!

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8 Comments

  • Reply Miranda November 13, 2018 at 1:35 am

    These seem really useful. I will try the first one. If they are free there is nothing to lose so why not.

    • Reply Christy - WelshMum November 17, 2018 at 12:12 pm

      Exactly Miranda – even if you decide not to complete the course you should still find whatever you do a little bit interesting and different. There’s absolutely no pressure or obligation if you haven’t put money into it.

  • Reply Barb November 15, 2018 at 1:37 am

    I also did a work course on my maternity leave and thought it was a good use of time. A little bit too much work with twins though!! These courses look great, I will bookmark this for when they go to nursery.

  • Reply Mary Machado January 24, 2019 at 12:07 am

    Thanks, bookmarked for maternity leave – might as well give something a go.

  • Reply Sandie/Nana July 1, 2020 at 1:54 am

    I watch my two grand daughters full time while mom & dad work. This usually consists of 50 hours a week. The 1st one is 3 & 9 mo old the second is 6 mo old. I am excited about taking these courses to expand my knowledge in childhood development. Things have changed since I raised my 36 year old daughter and 39 year old son! You can never learn enough about raising healthy well adjusted children.

  • Reply Shelika baptiste October 7, 2021 at 3:35 am

    I just would love to have more knowledge about child development !..

  • Reply Echezona Mbachu January 17, 2022 at 5:16 pm

    I’m interested in the free courses… Please how do I get to start

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