Effective Practice Guides

Initiative and Curiosity: Know

Goals for Infants and Toddlers

  • IT-ATL 6. Child demonstrates emerging initiative in interactions, experiences, and explorations.
  • IT-ATL 7. Child shows interest in and curiosity about objects, materials, or events.

Teaching Practices


Involve children as partners in carrying out routines and jobs.
Ms. Leone arrives for a home visit with Ms. White and her daughter Kirsten, 24 months. According to the plan they made during their last visit, they are going to focus on body parts. As agreed, Ms. White got the book Whose Toes Are Those? from the local public library—and it's now in the special book bag Ms. White keeps for her daughter. Ms. Leone asks Kirsten to get the book from the bag and give it to her mother.

Narrate descriptions of what they are doing and what the children are doing.
"Do you want to paint, Kaz?," asks Mr. Peters. "I will help you put a smock on. First, put one arm out and then the other. Now I am buttoning it up so your clothes stay clean. I’m rolling up the sleeves so they don't get in the paint. We can wheel your chair up to the table. Now you are ready to choose a color. I see you are dipping a finger in the red paint. Now you are spreading it across the tray."


Offer age-appropriate, open-ended toys and materials that children can use in their own ways. Make sure toys and materials are placed where children can reach them.
Ms. Dean hangs a large piece of black paper at children's height on a wall in her family child care home. A bin of large, colorful chalk is nearby. "Children," she says. "You can draw on the paper using this chalk. We'll keep it up until you have filled the paper." The two toddlers eagerly reach for chalk while the two infants watch intently. When the infants are older, Ms. Dean will help them learn how to make their marks.

Introduce new materials and let children explore them on their own.
Ms. Whitney places a tub of laminated photos near Ava, 22 months. She lays a few photos on the floor saying, "Ava, these are photos from our walk to the pet store. Can you find the parakeet?" She stays with Ava for a while, then spots Zion holding a large magnifying glass. She asks for a turn, then models how to hold the glass to see the details in the leaves they gathered on the walk. "Wow, Zion. Can you see all the cracks in these leaves?"


Follow individual children's leads in activities and conversations.
Iris, 8 months, enjoys her new gross motor skill—crawling. Today, she crawls up the ramp while her teacher, Mr. Amos, stands nearby and waits to see what she will do. She reaches the top, looks at Mr. Amos, then crawls back down the ramp. Mr. Amos writes a note about her crawling in his observation journal. He also jots down some ideas for how he might change the physical environment to support Iris's interest in finding new surfaces to crawl on.

Ask open-ended questions and keep the rich conversations going.
Home visitor, Ms. Nuñez, asks Mr. Ortiz, father of 2-and-a-half-year-old Derek, "Can you and Derek tell me about something you did since our last visit?" Mr. Ortiz turns to Derek and asks, "What fun things did you do this week?" Derek answers, "I don't know." Ms. Nuñez says, "I wonder if there's another way you can ask him. He may need your help to remember what he did." Mr. Ortiz tries again, "What did you do with your cousins?" "Trucks," says Derek, "Trucks. Outside with trucks." Mr. Ortiz continues, "You had fun. Tell me about your trucks."

Goals for Preschoolers

  • P-ATL 10. Child demonstrates initiative and independence.
  • P-ATL 11. Child shows interest in and curiosity about the world around them.

Teaching Practices


Observe and wait before offering assistance so children can solve their own problems and decide for themselves whether to ask for help.
Miranda collected some dried weeds on the morning walk. They have long stems and fuzzy tips. She is trying to weave them into the project underway on the class loom. Her first strategy doesn't work, as the fuzzy tips break off. The next tactic isn't successful, either. Mr. Leone watches Miranda try one more idea. This time she wraps them with yarn and then adds them to the weaving. "Wow, Miranda. Wrapping yarn was a good idea. Now the tips don't break off."

Have teachers share what they are curious about and how they seek answers to their questions.
At Monday's morning meeting, Ms. Amos shows the children a gadget. She says, "I can't figure out what it is or what it's for. It's wood, with a handle, and a rolling piece at the end that looks like a sunflower. What can it be?" The next day Ms. Amos says, "Remember my wooden gadget? I found a photo on the Internet. It's called a crimper and it's used to make pretty edges on pies. I'll put it with the playdough tools and you can try it out later."


Provide a safe environment so children can take safe risks and learn from them.
Last night's snowfall left a fresh coat on the sledding hill. Ms. Amari knows the children will want to go sledding but she wants to be sure the hill has no rocks. She asks the building manager to take a test run on a sled. He laughs and says, "Sure." After a successful run, he comes back to say he found one rock and removed it. "It's safe now."

Provide interesting objects to explore and tools for children to use in their explorations.
Mr. Dean has an old mini-vacuum (min-vac) that doesn't work very well any more. He tells the children, "It's got no suction." They hold a short discussion about what suction means. In the process, the children learn a new vocabulary word. Having removed the batteries and cord, he places the mini-vac in the discovery center along with some screwdrivers with short handles. Mr. Dean quietly supervises as the children take apart the mini-vac and examine the insides.


Ask open-ended questions that invite children to explain, elaborate, and share their thought process.
Federico has made a long pattern using small, colored blocks. It stretches from one end of the table to the other and then continues in a second row. After encouraging Federico to describe how he made the pattern, Ms. Haley asks, "What could you do if you wanted to make a third row?" Federico thinks for a minute or two, then says, "I guess I would make these two rows closer together. Entonces habría espacio para la fila 3."

Acknowledge, learn about, and build on a child's interests.
During last week's home visit, Ms. Shaw sees a new photo on the refrigerator—Jerry and his dad flying a kite. Jerry's mom says, "He loves kites. Jerry held on to the kite string all afternoon." At today's group socialization session, one of the activities is kite-making. Ms. Shaw has gathered the materials and printed some photos of kites in the U.S. and in other countries. When Jerry and his parents see the activity, they each grin from ear to ear.

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: June 5, 2018