ABSTRACT Objective: to appreciate the strategies promoted by nurses in the context of child health surveillance relevant to early childhood development. Method: this is a qualitative study with an inductive thematic analysis of the data, based on the conceptual principles of child health surveillance, and developed through semi-structured interviews with Brazilian nurses working with families in primary health care. Results: the nurses’ strategies in favor of child health surveillance focus on actions that anticipate harm with continuous follow-up and monitoring of health indicators. The process of child growth and development is the basis for responses and benefits to health, connection with the daily lives of families, active search, articulations between professionals and services, access to comprehensive care, and intrinsic actions between promotion, prevention and health follow-up. Conclusion: child health surveillance actions developed by nurses with families involve knowledge sharing, favor the resolution of problems, increase child health indicators, and strengthen the relationship between health and children’s rights, which support the promotion of development in early childhood.