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Exploration and Discovery: Do

Practices

Try the following practices with infants and toddlers. Find out how home visitors can put these practices to work with families.

Infants and Toddlers

  • Provide open-ended materials that can be used in a variety of ways, such as blocks, empty containers and boxes, and nesting cups.
  • Provide toys and materials that support children’s exploration with cause and effect (e.g., musical instruments; windsocks and chimes; toys with elements that produce results, such as knobs that twist to make a sound, levers that slide to open and close, and latches that open or close a door or lid).1
  • Promote infants’ exploration using their senses—hearing, touching and feeling different textures, seeing, smelling, and tasting.2
  • Show children different and new ways of moving and playing with objects and toys by describing what to try, using gestures, and modeling different strategies. Let children explore the new and different ways on their own.
    • For infants, support exploration using strategies like putting your hands over the child’s hands or arm to help her move the object or toy. You can also attach objects to a young infant’s arm or leg or put an object or toy within his reach so he will knock it when he moves and make something happen (cause and effect).3
  • Help children (even infants too young to answer) make sense of their experiences by describing what they see and do. Talk about cause and effect relationships that exist in their daily activities and play (e.g., “You drank the whole bottle. Now the bottle is empty!” and “When you rolled the ball and it bumped into the block tower, the block tower fell down.”). Ask open-ended questions such as, “I wonder why …?” “What do you think will happen if …?” “What else can you try?”4 Wait and watch for cues (e.g., body movements, gestures, facial expressions, using sign language, words, phrases) before responding.
  • Call children’s attention to attributes and properties of objects and toys they explore (e.g., function, texture, color, shape, sound, size, letters, and numbers). Use spatial and concept words such as up/down, top/bottom, on/off, and in/out. Model actions physically; for example, saying, “You put the red block on top of the blue block,” while pointing to or tapping the top of the block structure.5

Home Visitors

Home visitors can support parents in identifying, adapting, and trying the practices listed above during home visits and group socializations. Here are more ideas:

  • Talk with parents about creating an environment of “yes.” An environment of yes ensures that there are many opportunities for parents to say yes to safe exploration by young children and few (if any) places in the home where a child would be told, “No, that’s not safe for you.” Work with them to figure out ways to make the environment safe for their child’s play and exploration.6
  • Work with parents to identify everyday opportunities and materials in their home and community that could help their child learn about how people and objects work.

1California Department of Education, California Infant/Toddler Curriculum Framework (Sacramento, CA: California Department of Education, 2012), 109, Cognitive Development, http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework.pdf.

2Allyson Dean, Sarah, LeMoine, and Maria Mayoral, ZERO TO THREE Critical Competencies for Infant-Toddler Educators (Washington, DC: ZERO TO THREE, 2016), 43, C-1.

3Sally Atkins-Burnett, et.al., Measuring the Quality of Caregiver-Child Interactions with Infants and Toddlers: The Q-CCIIT Observer Certification Training User’s Guide (Washington, DC: Mathematica Policy Research, 2016), 26–27, B.1.

4Early Head Start National Resource Center (EHS NRC), News You Can Use: Early Science Learning for Infants and Toddlers (Washington, DC: HHS, ACF, OHS, 2014), https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/school-readiness/article/news-you-can-use-early-science-learning-infants-toddlers.

5Allyson Dean, Sarah, LeMoine, and Maria Mayoral, ZERO TO THREE Critical Competencies for Infant-Toddler Educators (Washington, DC: ZERO TO THREE, 2016), 43, C-1.

6Early Head Start National Resource Center (EHS NRC), News You Can Use: Environment as Curriculum for Infants and Toddlers (Washington, DC: HHS, ACF, OHS, 2010), https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/learning-environments/article/news-you-can-use-environment-curriculum-infants-toddlers.

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: June 5, 2018