Effective Practice Guides

Exploration and Discovery: Know

Goals for Infants and Toddlers

  • IT-C 1. Child actively explores people and objects to understand self, others, and objects.
  • IT-C 2. Child uses understanding of causal relationships to act on social and physical environments.

Teaching Practices


Promote infants’ explorations of their world using their senses.
Baby Noah, who is 10-months-old and has a visual impairment, starts laughing as soon as Ms. Chomsky starts singing, “These are Noah’s fingers.” He holds out his hand and lets her touch each one. She continues, “These are Noah’s toes,” and he squeals with delight. By the time she reaches the end, “This is Noah’s belly button,” he helps her touch it and then makes the sign for “more.”

Describe children’s actions and the effects of their actions on objects and people (cause and effect).
Paolo, 22 months, plays “dump and fill” using clothespins and a plastic basket. His home visitor, Ms. French, and his mother, Ms. Chavez, take turns commenting on what Paolo is doing and the sound the clothespins make (“Click!”) when he drops the clothespins in the basket. After a few rounds of dumping and filling, Ms. French asks Ms. Chavez, “Do you think this would be a good time to give him the metal bowl to put the clothespins in?” Ms. Chavez smiles and hands Paolo a metal bowl, saying, “Paolo, a metal bowl for your clothespins! Will the clothespins make a sound when you drop them in?” Paolo answers, “Big click?” Ms. Chavez laughs and says, “I don’t know. Drop one in and listen!”


Display and store toys and play materials on low, open shelves so children can make choices about what to explore and return items when done. 
“I think most of the toddlers have outgrown these four-piece puzzles since the last time they were enrolled in our Migrant and Seasonal Head Start program,” says Ms. Rivera to her colleague, Mr. Nuñez. “I agree,” he responds. “Let’s leave two on the shelf and add some new ones with more pieces that will be a little more challenging.” “Good idea,” says Ms. Rivera. “That way the children can choose which ones they want to tackle.”

Offer a wide variety and range of toys and materials that are safe, culturally appropriate, and open-ended.
Ms. Long, mother of 9-month-old Rita, hands a bag to Ms. Emerson saying, “I made these squares with leftover fabrics from my sewing projects. I think they are perfect for Rita and the other babies. There are lots of different colors and textures to explore. I washed them so they are ready for the babies.” “Thank you,” says Ms. Emerson. “I’ll put them in a basket on the rug where they like to crawl. This afternoon, I’ll let you know what they did with them.” the babies find the fabric squares. They scrunch the squares in their hands, put squares in their mouths, sniff squares, and throw squares in the air and laugh when they fall to the ground. Ms. Emerson will have a lot to report to Ms. Long!


Promote children’s independent exploration of toys, materials, and the people in the setting.
Twenty-month-old Charles, who needs head and trunk support to sit, is in his corner sitter looking at the colorful balls on the carpet. Ms. Wallis picks up a red ball and a yellow ball and offers them to Charles, saying, “I see you looking at the balls. Here’s a yellow one and a red one. Which ball would you like to play with?” Charles reaches for the yellow one, and Ms. Wallis hands it to him. He puts in on his tray and rolls it using his right hand. Then he throws it to Ms. Wallis. Ms. Wallis comments, “Balls are for rolling, throwing, and catching. I wonder what else you can do with the ball while you sit?”

Observe and step in to offer verbal and non-verbal information and guidance to support concept development.
After a rainy night, the toddlers put on their boots before going outside to discover changes in their playground. The cover to the sand box is filled with water that made a pond in the middle. Jax, 30 months, says, “How can we play in the sand? There’s water on the top.” “Ms. Gerard says, “That is a lot of water. What might have happened to the sand if we hadn’t covered the sand box? Where would all this water have gone?” The toddlers share many ideas before Jax asks, “How can we make the water go away?”

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: December 3, 2019