Observation Guidelines: Assessing Cognitive Advancements in Infants and Toddlers
Repetition of Gratifying Actions
- Repetition of actions involving the child’s own body
- Repetition of actions on other objects
- Evidence that the child repeats an action because he or she notices and enjoys it
Myra waves her arms, stops, and waves her arms again. She makes a sound and repeats it, as if she enjoys listening to her own voice.
Provide a variety of visual, auditory, and tactile stimuli; for instance, play “This little piggy” with an infant’s toes, hang a mobile safely over the crib, and provide age-appropriate objects (e.g., rattles, plastic cups). Be patient and responsive when infants repeat seemingly “pointless” actions (e.g., dropping favorite objects).
Exploration of Objects
- Apparent curiosity about the effects that different behaviors have on objects
- Use of multiple behaviors (feeling, poking, dropping, shaking, etc.) to explore an object’s properties
- Use of several sensory modalities (e.g., seeing, listening, feeling, tasting)
Paco reaches for his caregiver’s large, shiny earring. The caregiver quickly removes the earring from her ear and holds its sharp end between her fingers while Paco manipulates the silver loop and multicolored glass beads that hang from it.
Provide objects that infants can explore using multiple senses, making sure the objects are free of dirt and toxic substances and are large enough to prevent swallowing.
- Creativity and flexibility in the behaviors the child uses to discover how things work
- Specific problems that the child tackles and the approaches he or she uses to solve them
Jillian drags a stepstool to her dresser so that she can reach the toys on top of it. One by one, she drops the toys, watching how each one lands and listening to the sound it makes on impact.
Childproof the environment so that experiments and problem solving are safe. Provide objects that require a sequence of actions (e.g., stacking cups, building blocks, pull toys). Closely supervise toddlers’ activities.
Imitation and Pretending
- Imitation of actions modeled by another person
- Imitation of actions when the model is no longer present
- Using one object to stand for another
Darius holds a doll and sings to it the way his mother sings to him. He combs the doll’s hair with a spoon and uses an empty plastic vitamin bottle to feed the doll.
Engage children in reciprocal, imitative games (e.g., peekaboo, hide-and-seek). Provide props that encourage pretend play (miniature shopping carts, plastic carpentry tools, dolls, etc.).
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