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Exploration and Discovery: Improve

Infants and Toddlers

Reflecting on and improving your skills and knowledge to support children’s explorations and discoveries is important work. Here are some ideas you can try with your coach or supervisor to build your teaching practices in this area:

Planning Goals and Action Steps

  • Work with your coach or supervisor to identify the teaching practices you want to build and strengthen. Here are some practices that support infants’ and toddlers’ ability to explore people and objects. Through exploration, children gain a better understanding of self, others, and objects and cause and effect.1,2
    • Position infants and toddlers in ways that allow them to explore objects.
    • Extend children’s play with objects (provides challenges).
      • For example, demonstrate other ways to use or move objects, and gradually combine objects. Call children’s attention to attributes and properties (e.g., texture, rolls/doesn’t roll, size, what fits together or in something else) and function of objects (e.g., what objects do and what they are used for).
    • Provide varied toys to allow children to explore (e.g., toys that go in and out, busy boxes, blocks, nesting cups). Scaffold children’s explorations through positioning, modeling, or verbal support.
    • Use a variety of strategies to arouse children’s curiosity and interest in exploring objects and toys, and help children maintain interest these explorations. When choosing strategies to use, consider children’s temperament (e.g., some children are hesitant about new experiences) and cultural background (e.g., in some cultures, watching first to learn and then trying to do something is the accepted way to learn).
    • Make sure that available objects and toys are safe for children to explore. Monitor the environment to ensure the environment is safe for exploration.
  • In home-based programs, effective practices may also include broader relationship-building practices such as those described in Building Partnerships: Guide to Developing Relationships with Families.
  • Create an action plan with timelines to help you use the practices consistently and effectively.

Focused Observation

  • Revisit the teaching practice that you outlined in your planning goals and action steps with your coach/supervisor. Together, plan for and schedule an observation where they can focus on how you implement the practices you’ve identified.
    • For example, if you chose to focus on the practice, Extend children’s play with objects, you might invite your coach/supervisor to observe you during a playtime session on the floor. Ask them to watch how you encourage and extend babies’ exploration of objects by using verbal encouragement or modeling different ways to use a toy as you play with the same toy next to the baby.
  • In home-based programs, observations may focus on how the home visitor engages with parents to identify, adapt, and use the identified teaching and relationship-building practices. They may also focus on how you model the practices.

Reflection and Feedback

  • What went well? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? How did their reaction support the relationship with their child? Their child’s ability to explore people and objects to understand self, others, objects, and cause and effect relationships?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • What seemed challenging? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? Their child?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • Did your coach/supervisor offer feedback from the observation that was surprising? What supports do you need from her to refine and strengthen the practice? What else would help you strengthen the practice?
  • What would you do differently if you were to use this practice again?
  • What do you hope the child/children/parents will gain by using this practice? How will you know?

1Sally 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), 28, B.2.

2Sally 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.

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: June 5, 2018