Posted: September 19th, 2022

Bev Bos Interview

Stop, think and respond: Each Module will contain a “Reflection” assignment that is relative to the subject matter in the module.  Each Reflection will consist of 1-3 questions designed to elicit your own personal thoughts and/or experiences in your life, reiterate concepts from the text and prompt concepts from the module’s lecture. Aim for three to five or more sentences per paragraph. Make sure your paragraphs contain a theorist in child development, a personal anecdote that is relevant, and something from the lecture and/or text that further supports your responses.

The assignment is worth 12 points in total. Based on the criteria in the rubric, points will be deducted for any element that is considered below “Exemplary”, with explanations provided  when applicable. “Unsatisfactory” work will receive “0” points. Feedback will be provided in the Comments of the assignment upon grading. See the rubric for further details. Late submissions will not be accepted. 

When you are ready to submit this assignment, type your responses in the “Text Entry” box provided below and  click “Submit Assignment” when you are finished. Alternatively you can upload a PDF ( ) or Microsoft Word document ( or x) with your work. FYI, the “Text Entry” box utilizes the Canvas Rich Content Editor, which will allow for comprehensive formatting as well as the inclusion of multi-media (i.e. images) when submitting your work.  If necessary, please use the help resources for instructions on utilizing the RCE features.

QUESTIONS: REFLECTION 2 – BEV BOS INTERVIEW

* Please copy/paste each question before your answer below.

After viewing both the Bev Bos Interview and Lecture 1, and reading Chapter 1 of the textbook, describe 6 key concepts:

Two concepts from the interview with Bev Bos.

2. Two concepts from Lecture 1.

3. Two concepts from the textbook.

REMEMBER TO WRITE OUT EACH QUESTION FIRST AND ANSWER IT.

https://elcamino.hosted.panopto.com/Panopto/Pages/Embed.aspx?id=99888568-9f90-4901-8ca2-ac2900004d02&autoplay=False&interactivity=all&start=0&showtitle=True&offerviewer=True&showbrand=False&ltiCourseID=ECCCanvas%5c28735&isLTIEmbed=true&access_token=eyJ0eXAiOiJKV1QiLCJhbGciOiJSUzI1NiIsIng1dCI6InhYTGt6ejUybGNhWGhZWjR2QVl1bXRYNmQxdyIsImtpZCI6InhYTGt6ejUybGNhWGhZWjR2QVl1bXRYNmQxdyJ9.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.WAEs1rzvML2f0HDm2e-ZIQs-BQ8XzLZA_JQ2pfFAYgFc4XPmPNrERwocCIlGXAtMssi5dMMEejS06wJhKPivdao_x1EmWwMwxnZpFxWXFOxyv8p77SwXt8BVixRhb7Om8Kp128YxSj7IiIl-Hhw10Pix9SZs2nKSVzrmrpWSbrT8H5dnkRXD2THWw8js7qoel3w0BHWjofR0qCYiYdkFXR3uObOMoSO9M7UnOlDW1rAYYOWBptTShXWxMQz6W63jbF9H8RCEpGTuxulg0DUf-PJOrbdKbrEeuXBrlswYSJQEGvfwDnOl6UUtq5lEqur_xeYndXvxrNlYG5fdxg_uzQ#access_token=eyJ0eXAiOiJKV1QiLCJhbGciOiJSUzI1NiIsIng1dCI6InhYTGt6ejUybGNhWGhZWjR2QVl1bXRYNmQxdyIsImtpZCI6InhYTGt6ejUybGNhWGhZWjR2QVl1bXRYNmQxdyJ9.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.fSBobL1Gk3YPpGt8A14OhDoNV0yxisj_RlSG7VgLnAlCgkGZBHC3XW1THBfq5k5kVc3670MprYUq42Z35FSYGYzUqFtIU9HTgq24WWLg2YM0IkXz-PU4rY636fi1ALS13Jp1Lw7I_yIwFzyyBqPuvWWd7gwz5ra50ozvT1oS_qNKkFKWWgiBPutcfuafjEFpZZ97Q5nwzmr408YFY1qTFw8nTLsuuaVbY4294MKQs9tyMTE2GoVXTDtZ7tTu4PzMSYMAHlLT2TrUklsDCpVcXhs7lPXgv18IYXN48OcS7VhIXcXXedzrBkliFSQN9JW5PnoSF2SBD4WtYDhp_LS1Vw

child development

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El Camino College
Childhood Education Department

CDEV 115 Introduction to Curriculum

Introduction to Curriculum
for

Early Childhood Educators

An Open Educational Resources Publication by College of the Canyons

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Introduction to Curriculum for Early Childhood
Education

An Open Educational Resources Publication by College of the
Canyons

Created by Jennifer Paris, Kristin Beeve, and Clint Springer

Editor: Alexa Johnson
Cover: Ian Joslin

Version 1.1

2019

https://koolkoalaj.com/

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Acknowledgements

College of the Canyons would like to extend appreciation to the following
people and organizations for allowing this textbook to be created:

California Community Colleges Chancellor’s Office
Chancellor Dianne G. Van Hook

Santa Clarita Community College District
College of the Canyons Distance Learning Office

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Jennifer.Paris@canyons.edu.

Looking for resources? See what has been compiled in the Google Group.

© 2018, California Community Colleges, Chancellor’s Office.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Further Acknowledgements

I would like to thank:

My department including my full-time faculty colleagues, Cindy Stephens and Wendy Ruiz, who
supported me pursuing the grant that funded this book and believe in the purpose of our OER
work.

James Glapa-Grossklag for taking a chance on working with me for this grant before he really
knew me and for all the opportunities I have been afforded since then.

Brian Weston for his leadership, guidance, and just being there to help facilitate the amazing
project that this book is part of.

Alexa Johnson for her painstaking work on the book and taking words and images on pages and
turning them into this beautiful book.

Chloe McGinley, Joy Shoemate, Trudi Radtke, Ian Joslin, and any other OER and Online
Education staff that helped me maintain my sanity in this project.

My co-author, Kristin Beeve, for her tireless efforts and collaboration.

The peer reviewer, Clint Springer, for bringing a fresh set of eyes to the book and his work to
make the book better.

My family, especially my children Ashlynn and Aidan, for being understanding of the time and
energy commitments that this book, the larger project it is part of, and my advocacy for OER
have taken.

The California Department of Education for giving us permission to use the amazing resources
currently available that support Early Childhood Education that were foundational for this book.

Amanda Taintor, for being such a great collaborator and ally in developing and promoting OER
in Early Childhood Education.

The larger OER community that keeps me thinking and pushing my understanding of what open
is, what it should be, and what role I can play in that.

Jennifer Paris

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Further Acknowledgements

I would like to thank:

The Early Childhood Education Faculty at College of the Canyons for continuously inspiring me
and assisting in my professional growth through amazing collaborations. I feel truly blessed to
be a part of a department so passionate in supporting faculty and students in Early Childhood
Education.

Jennifer Paris for her unending leadership, patience, and support throughout this entire project.

The OER staff who have assisted us with graphics, obtaining permissions and attributions, and
especially with formatting this incredible book.

My husband, Greg, and children Emily and Matthew, for their on-going support of my
professional goals and by being patient and understanding of my passion for teaching and
helping me to balance life and work.

My parents for allowing me the opportunity to discover my path in ECE, whom also supported
me tirelessly throughout my career.

The teachers, administrators, parents and children that provided me “on-the-job” training that
has assisted my ability to ascend to my current role as a professor.

Kristin Beeve

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Table of Contents

Section I: Understanding How Children Learn 8

Preface 9

Chapter 1: Foundations in Early Childhood Curriculum: Connecting Theory &
Practice 10

Chapter 2: The Importance of Play and Intentional Teaching 35

Section II: Developing Curriculum to Support Children’s Learning 49

Chapter 3: The Cycle of Curriculum Planning 50

Chapter 4: Developing Curriculum for a Play Centered Approach 63

Section III: Setting the Stage for Children’s Learning 85

Chapter 5: Setting the Stage for Play: Environments 86

Chapter 6: Guiding Behavior and Managing the Classroom 113

Section IV: Planning for Children’s Learning 136

Introduction to Planning for Preschoolers 137

Chapter 7: Social and Emotional Development 148

Chapter 8: Language and Literacy 161

Chapter 9: Mathematics 185

Chapter 10: Science 205

Chapter 11: Creative Arts 236

Chapter 12: History & Social Science 271

Chapter 13: Physical Development 300

Chapter 14: Health and Safety 330

Introduction to Planning for Other Ages 353

Chapter 15: What Curriculum Looks Like for Infants and Toddlers 355

Chapter 16: What Curriculum Looks Like for School-Age Children 401

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Section V: Making Children’s Learning Visible 437

Chapter 17: Documentation and Assessment 438

Appendices 462

Appendix A – Blank Planning Form 463

Appendix B – Sample Classrooms 465

Appendix C – Developmental Milestones 474

Appendix D – Developmental Sequences of Fundamental Movement Skills 489

Appendix E – Inventory of Practice for Promoting Children’s Social-Emotional
Competence 497

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Section I:
Understanding How

Children Learn

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Preface
Introduction to this Textbook
Welcome to learning about how to effectively plan curriculum for young children. This textbook
will address:

• Developing curriculum through the planning cycle

• Theories that inform what we know about how children learn and the best ways for
teachers to support learning

• The three components of developmentally appropriate practice

• Importance and value of play and intentional teaching

• Different models of curriculum

• Process of lesson planning (documenting planned experiences for children)

• Physical, temporal, and social environments that set the stage for children’s learning

• Appropriate guidance techniques to support children’s behaviors as the self-regulation
abilities mature.

• Planning for preschool-aged children in specific domains including
o Physical development
o Language and literacy
o Math
o Science
o Creative (the visual and performing arts)
o Diversity (social science and history)
o Health and safety

• How curriculum planning for infants and toddlers is different from planning for older
children

• Supporting school-aged children’s learning and development in out-of-school time
through curriculum planning

• Making children’s learning visible through documentation and assessment

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Chapter 1: Foundations in Early
Childhood Curriculum: Connecting

Theory & Practice

Figure 1.1: Children learn by playing.1

Chapter Objectives
Students will

• Explore How Children Learn

• Identify Theories in Early Childhood Programs

• Connect the Theories to Practice through Interaction & Intentionality

• Explore Use of 21st Century Technology in ECE

Early Childhood Educational Programming is fundamentally grounded in developmentally
appropriate practices and is supported through theoretical foundations woven throughout a
curriculum. Various types of programs may emphasize one theory over another or take on
more of an array of theories by combining approaches to achieve program goals.

How Young Children Learn: What Science Reveals
Children play in order to figure things out, much like scientists who experiment and investigate
in order to figure things out. Scientists who study how infants and young children think and feel
describe them as small scientists (Gopnik, Meltzoff, and Kuhl 2000) who spend their days
actively gathering and organizing information about what objects and people are like. As they
play, children investigate how one object relates to another or how people relate to each other.

1 Image by Skitterphoto on pixabay

https://pixabay.com/photos/girl-playing-leaves-autumn-happy-3740723/

https://pixabay.com/users/Skitterphoto-324082/

https://pixabay.com/

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According to Gopnik, Meltzoff, and Kuhl (2000), children actively build knowledge as they
interact with the world around them.

In the early twentieth century, scientists and theorists—such as Jean Piaget and Lev Vygotsky—
developed widely studied theories to explain how young children acquire knowledge. Scientists
have continued to study children’s ways of knowing by care- fully observing and listening as
children pursue new skills, explore materials, solve problems, work together with others, and
encounter experiences that prompt them to think and reason (Shonkoff and Phillips 2000.)
Young children’s actions and their explanations provide clues about how they develop ideas,
master skills, and build knowledge. This research illuminates a key finding—infants and young
children actively construct concepts and build skills by interacting with objects and with people,
much of it occurring in the context of play. By nature, children are active participants in making
meaning and constructing knowledge.

The body of research on the developing mind of the young child also adds to our understanding
of what it means to teach and to plan curriculum for infants and young children. The long-
standing image from K–12 education of an active, talking teacher who imparts information to
passive, quiet children does not fit with what is known from the science of early learning and
development. Young children seated at desks and quietly listening, not interjecting their ideas,
represent an image that diverges from the image generated by developmental science: that of
young children who seek to participate actively in an experience to build concepts, ideas, and
skills. Studies show that infants and young children are highly motivated to explore new
materials and to take on new challenges (Bowman, Donovan, and Burns 2000.)

Robust scientific evidence provides a starting point for guidance on planning and implementing
early childhood curriculum. Reviews of research point clearly to three principles with respect to
how young children learn (Bowman, Donovan, and Burns 2000; Hirsh-Pasek et al. 2009;
Schonkoff and Phillips 2000):

• Children actively construct concepts like numbers, spatial relations, causality, and story.

• Children actively build skills like drawing, moving with ease, negotiating conflicts, and
confidently and respectfully communicating ideas and feelings.

• Children actively develop dispositions such as thoughtfulness, empathy, and
responsibility.

These principles guide the approach to early childhood curriculum described in this chapter.
Children’s thinking, their feelings, and their dispositions are the center of the curriculum and
inform the planning and implementation of educational experiences. This approach contrasts
with a subject-matter approach to curriculum, commonly used with older children and adults,
in which the subject of study (such as science, literature, or mathematics) is placed at the
center of the curriculum and used to organize the daily schedule of learning experiences and
the learning environment. When the curriculum is organized around children’s thinking, their
feelings, and their dispositions to learn and to relate with others, the focus is on providing
contexts in which children have rich opportunities to build concepts and skills through
meaningful exploration and active experimentation.

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For example, for a group of three- and four-year-olds fascinated by the heavy equipment
vehicles passing outside the yard, a teacher might use a construction site next to the school as
the context for study or focus of the curriculum. The children’s excitement about the ongoing
construction inspires an investigation with the children of the events underway in this
neighboring lot. In considering the study of the construction site, teachers can envision ample
opportunity for children to build concepts related to science, mathematics, literature, the arts,
and social studies. The teachers create learning contexts that engage children in finding out
more about the events underway in the neighboring construction project. Such an investigation
offers many possibilities for the children to explore concepts from various domains or subject
areas addressed in the three volumes of the preschool learning foundations such as size,
number, spatial relations, causality, story, song, drama, visual representation, and much more.
With the preschool learning foundations and curriculum framework as guides, teachers can
within this study tap multiple domains—social science, natural science, physical science,
language arts, visual arts, physical development, and mathematics.2

Figure 1.2: Construction vehicles in the sandbox could be one opportunity teachers could provide.3

Theoretical Foundations
Early Childhood Educators rely on theories to provide evidentiary support to their program
goals, philosophies and methods felt throughout their programs. While there are numerous
theories, a few are highlighted in this chapter in how they relate to creating programs for
learning for young children.

Cognitive Theory
Jean Piaget explained learning as proceeded by the interplay of assimilation (adjusting new
experiences to fit prior concepts) and accommodation (adjusting concepts to fit new
experiences). The to-and-fro of these two processes leads not only to short-term learning, as
pointed out in, but also to long-term developmental change. The long-term developments are
really the main focus of Piaget’s cognitive theory. After observing children
closely, Piaget proposed that cognition developed through distinct stages from birth through

2 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission (pg. 4-7)
3 Image is licensed under CC0

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://pxhere.com/en/photo/600224

https://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/

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the end of adolescence. By stages he meant a sequence of thinking patterns with four key
features:

1. The stages always happen in the same order.
2. No stage is ever skipped.
3. Each stage is a significant transformation of the stage before it.
4. Each later stage incorporated the earlier stages into itself. Basically this is the

“staircase” model of development mentioned at the beginning of this chapter.

Piaget proposed four major stages of cognitive development, and called them (1) sensorimotor
intelligence, (2) preoperational thinking, (3) concrete operational thinking, and (4) formal
operational thinking. Each stage is correlated with an age period of childhood, but only
approximately. In Early Childhood Education, we primarily consider the first two stages as they
are most common for children ages 0-8 years.

The Sensorimotor Stage: Birth to Age 2
In Piaget’s theory, the sensorimotor stage is first, and is defined as the period when infants
“think” by means of their senses and motor actions. As every new parent will attest, infants
continually touch, manipulate, look, listen to, and even bite and chew objects. According
to Piaget, these actions allow them to learn about the world and are crucial to their early
cognitive development.

Figure 2.3: Sensorimotor learning in action.4

The infant’s actions allow the child to represent (or construct simple concepts of) objects and
events. A toy animal may be just a confusing array of sensations at first, but by looking, feeling,
and manipulating it repeatedly, the child gradually organizes her sensations and actions into a
stable concept, toy animal. The representation acquires a permanence lacking in the individual
experiences of the object, which are constantly changing. Because the representation is stable,
the child “knows”, or at least believes, that toy animal exists even if the actual toy animal is
temporarily out of sight. Piaget called this sense of stability object permanence, a belief that
objects exist whether or not they are actually present. It is a major achievement of

4 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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sensorimotor development, and marks a qualitative transformation in how older infants (24
months) think about experience compared to younger infants (6 months).

During much of infancy, a child can only barely talk, so sensorimotor development initially
happens without the support of language. It might therefore seem hard to know what infants
are thinking, but Piaget devised several simple, but clever experiments to get around their lack
of language. Piaget’s findings suggest that infants do indeed represent objects even without
being able to talk (Piaget, 1952). In one, for example, he simply hid an object (such as a toy
animal) under a blanket. He found that doing so consistently prompts older infants (18-24
months) to search for the object, but fails to prompt younger infants (less than six months) to
do so. (You can try this experiment yourself if you happen to have access to a young infant.)
“Something” motivates the search by the older infant even without the benefit of much
language, and the “something” is presumed to be a permanent concept or representation of
the object.

The Preoperational Stage: Age 2 to 7
In the preoperational stage, children use their new ability to represent objects in a wide variety
of activities, but they do not yet do it in ways that are organized or fully logical. One of the most
obvious examples of this kind of cognition is dramatic play, the improvised make-believe of
preschool children. If you have ever had responsibility for children of this age, you have likely
witnessed such play. Ashley holds a plastic banana to her ear and says: “Hello, Mom? Can you
be sure to bring me my baby doll? OK!” Then she hangs up the banana and pours tea for Jeremy
into an invisible cup. Jeremy giggles at the sight of all of this and exclaims: “Rinnng! Oh Ashley,
the phone is ringing again! You better answer it.” And on it goes.

Children immersed in make-believe may seem to have an inaccurate understanding of the
world, in that they do not think realistically. But at some level, Ashley and Jeremy always know
that the banana is still a banana and not really a telephone; they are merely representing it as a
telephone. They are thinking on two levels at once—one imaginative and the other realistic.
This dual processing of experience makes dramatic play an early example of metacognition, or
reflecting on and monitoring of thinking itself. As we explained previously, metacognition is a
highly desirable skill for success in school, one that teachers often encourage (Bredekamp &
Copple, 1997; Paley, 2005). Partly for this reason, teachers of young children (preschool,
kindergarten, and even first or second grade) often make time and space in their classrooms for
dramatic play, and sometimes even participate in it themselves to help develop
the play further.5

5 Educational Psychology by Kelvin Seifert (OpenStax) is licensed under CC BY-3.0

https://cnx.org/contents/zmxetoTT@2.1:9u2dcFad@2/Cognitive-development-the-theory-of-Jean-Piaget

https://cnx.org/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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Figure 1.4: Children engaged in make-believe play.6

Pause to Reflect
As a lab school, students often visit children’s classrooms to observe the
environments and interactions to connect theory with practice. One day, I
decided to take a small group of students to observe the environment in one
of our preschool classrooms. As we opened the door, I heard a young child
(age 3 years) say to her caregiver, “Why are all the mommies here?” The
caregiver acknowledged the child’s observation, but explained that the visitors
were there to learn about the classroom. The child continued to watch us as
we walked through the classroom. 7

How does this example provide evidence of Piaget’s Cognitive Theory?

Children grow and develop through stages, and so does their play. Children’s earliest play
experiences are highly sensory driven and simple exchanges with caregivers and materials
within their environment. Many of the early play experiences promote a sense of discovery and
lead to positive interactions among children and adult caregivers. As the child develops more
complex play develops too. Infants observe and interact with materials through the use of the
five senses. As the infant develops, he or she continues to observe, explore and experiment
with materials within the environment, thus obtaining knowledge.

Sociocultural Theory
Lev Vygotsky (1978), whose writing focused on how a child’s or novice’s thinking is influenced
by relationships with others who are more capable, knowledgeable, or expert than the learner.

6 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission
7 Content by Kristin Beeve is licensed under CC BY 4.0

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Vygotsky made the reasonable proposal that when a child (or novice) is learning a new skill or
solving a new problem, he or she can perform better if accompanied and helped by an expert
than if performing alone—though still not as well as the expert. Someone who has played very
little chess, for example, will probably compete against an opponent better if helped by an
expert chess player than if competing against the opponent alone. Vygotsky called the
difference between solo performance and assisted performance the zone of proximal
development (or ZPD for short)—meaning, figuratively speaking, the place or area of immediate
change. From this social constructivist perspective, learning is like assisted performance (Tharp
& Gallimore, 1991).

During learning, knowledge or skill is found initially “in” the expert helper. If the expert is skilled
and motivated to help, then the expert arranges experiences that let the novice practice crucial
skills or construct new knowledge. In this regard, the expert is a bit like the coach of an
athlete—offering help and suggesting ways of practicing, but never doing the actual athletic
work himself or herself. Gradually, by providing continued experiences matched to the novice
learner’s emerging competencies, the expert-coach makes it possible for the novice or
apprentice to appropriate (or make his or her own) the skills or knowledge that originally
resided only with the expert.8

Psychosocial Theory
Erik Erikson suggested that our relationships and society’s expectations motivate much of our
behavior. Humans are motivated, for instance, by the need to feel that the world is a
trustworthy place, that we are capable individuals, that we can make a contribution to society,
and that we have lived a meaningful life. Erikson divided the lifespan into eight stages. In each
stage, we have a major psychosocial task to accomplish or crisis to overcome. Erikson believed
that our personality continues to take shape throughout our lifespan as we face these
challenges in living.9

In planning a developmentally appropriate curriculum, Erikson’s stages can be used as
inspiration for interactions between children, children and adults (teachers/families) and for
emphasizing quality environments, which promote trust, autonomy, initiative and industrious
interactions.10

Table 1.1 – Erik Erikson’s Psychosocial Theory

Name of Stage Description of Stage

Trust vs. mistrust (0-1)
The infant must have basic needs met in a consistent way in
order to feel that the world is a trustworthy place.

8 Educational Psychology by Lumen Learning references Educational Psychology by Kelvin Seifert and Rosemary
Sutton, which is licensed under CC BY
9 Psychosocial Theory by Lumen Learning is licensed under CC BY 4.0
10 Content by Kristin Beeve is licensed under CC BY 4.0

https://courses.lumenlearning.com/educationalpsychology/chapter/major-theories-and-models-of-learning/

https://open.umn.edu/opentextbooks/BookDetail.aspx?bookId=153

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https://courses.lumenlearning.com/lifespandevelopment2/chapter/erikson-and-psychosocial-theory/

Lumen Learning: Online Learning Materials & Resources for Higher Ed

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Name of Stage Description of Stage

Autonomy vs. shame and
doubt (1-2)

Mobile toddlers have newfound freedom they like to exercise
and by being allowed to do so, they learn some basic
independence.

Initiative vs. Guilt (3-5)
Preschoolers like to initiate activities and emphasize doing
things “all by myself.”

Industry vs. inferiority (6-
11)

School aged children focus on accomplishments and begin
making comparisons between themselves and their classmates

Identity vs. role confusion
(adolescence)

Teenagers are trying to gain a sense of identity as they
experiment with various roles, beliefs, and ideas.

Intimacy vs. Isolation
(young adulthood)

In our 20s and 30s we are making some of our first long-term
commitments in intimate relationships.

Generativity vs. stagnation
(middle adulthood)

The 40s through the early 60s we focus on being productive at
work and home and are motivated by wanting to feel that
we’ve made a contribution to society.

Integrity vs. Despair (late
adulthood)

We look back on our lives and hope to like what we see-that
we have lived well and have a sense of integrity because we
lived according to our beliefs.

Behavioral Theory
In classrooms, behaviorism is most useful for identifying relationships between specific actions
by a student and the immediate precursors and consequences of the actions. It is less useful for
understanding changes in students’ thinking; for this purpose we need theories that are
more cognitive (or thinking-oriented) or social, like the ones described later in this chapter. This
fact is not a criticism of behaviorism as a perspective, but just a clarification of its particular
strength or usefulness, which is to highlight observable relationships among actions, precursors
and consequences. Behaviorists use particular terms (or “lingo,” some might say) for these
relationships. One variety of Behaviorism that has proved especially useful to educators is
operant conditioning.

Operant conditioning: New Behaviors Because of New Consequences
Operant conditioning focuses on how the consequences of a behavior affect the behavior over
time. It begins with the idea that certain consequences tend to make certain behaviors happen
more frequently. If I compliment a student for a good comment made during discussion, there
is more of a chance that I will hear further comments from the student in the future (and

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hopefully they too will be good ones!). If a student tells a joke to classmates and they laugh at
it, then the student is likely to tell more jokes in the future and so on.

The original research about this model of learning was not done with people, but with animals.
One of the pioneers in the field was a Harvard professor named B. F. Skinner, who published
numerous books and articles about the details of the process and who pointed out many
parallels between operant conditioning in animals and operant conditioning in humans (1938,
1948, 1988). Skinner observed the behavior of rather tame laboratory rats (not the unpleasant
kind that sometimes live in garbage dumps). He or his assistants would put them in a cage that
contained little except a lever and a small tray just big enough to hold a small amount of food.
At first the rat would sniff and “putter around” the cage at random, but sooner or later it would
happen upon the lever and eventually happen to press it. Presto! The lever released a small
pellet of food, which the rat would promptly eat. Gradually the rat would spend more time near
the lever and press the lever more frequently, getting food more frequently. Eventually it would
spend most of its time at the lever and eating its fill of food. The rat had “discovered” that the
consequence of pressing the level was to receive food. Skinner called the changes in the rat’s
behavior an example of operant conditioning, and gave special names to the different parts of
the process. He called the food pellets the reinforcement and the lever-pressing the operant
(because it “operated” on the rat’s environment).

Operant Conditioning and Students’ Learning
Since the original research about operant conditioning used animals, it is important to ask
whether operant conditioning also describes learning in human beings, and especially in
students in classrooms. On this point the answer seems to be clearly “yes.” There are countless
classroom examples of consequences affecting students’ behavior in ways that resemble
operant conditioning, although the process certainly does not account for all forms of student
learning (Alberto & Troutman, 2005). Consider the following examples. In most of them the
operant behavior tends to become more frequent on repeated occasions:

• A kindergarten child raises her hand in response to the teacher’s question about a story
(the operant). The teacher calls on her and she makes her comment (the
reinforcement).

• Another kindergarten child blurts out her comment without being called on (the
operant). The teacher frowns, ignores this behavior, but before the teacher calls on a
different student, classmates are listening attentively (the reinforcement) to the student
even though he did not raise his hand as he should have.

• A child who is usually very restless sits for five minutes during a group time (the
operant). The teacher compliments him for working hard (the reinforcement).11

11 Educational Psychology by Lumen Learning references Educational Psychology by Kelvin Seifert and Rosemary
Sutton, which is licensed under CC BY

https://courses.lumenlearning.com/educationalpsychology/chapter/major-theories-and-models-of-learning/

https://open.umn.edu/opentextbooks/BookDetail.aspx?bookId=153

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Figure 1.5: Operant conditioning is often used during large group times.12

The Behavioral Theory is most visible in an ECE classroom through modeling of expected
behavior, reinforcing pro-social behavior expected and through the daily routines and
schedules. (See Environments, Chapter 5 for further review of routines).13

Multiple Intelligence Theory
Howard Gardner, a researcher, has studied the mind and created a theory called, The Multiple
Intelligence Theory. The theory represents the idea that children are individuals with a variety
of strength in different intelligences and states that one’s intelligence is not better than another
persons’. Teachers can use this theory to create a curriculum to respect the individual way in
which children process information and provide experiences that allow children to engage in all
the intelligences.

The intelligences include:

• Verbal-Linguistic – ability to use language well

• Logical-Mathematic – ability to reason

• Musical-Rhythmic – ability to create and understand music

• Visual-Spatial – ability to image and manipulate the arrangement of objects in the
environment

• Bodily-Kinesthetic – sense of balance and coordination in use of one’s body

• Interpersonal – ability to discern others thoughts and feelings and understand and
interact effectively with others

• Intrapersonal – sensitivity to one’s own thoughts and feelings

• Naturalist – sensitivity to subtle differences and patterns in the natural environment

• Existential (still under study) – sensitivity and capacity to tackle deep questions about
human existence14

12 Image by Dave Parker is licensed under CC BY 2.0
13 Content by Kristin Beeve is licensed under CC BY 4.0
14 Content by Kristin Beeve and Jennifer Paris is licensed under CC BY 4.0;

Story Time

Nap time!

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Figure 1.6: Multiple Intelligences. 15

Additional Considerations: Learning Styles
Children are unique and learn at their own pace in their own way. One-size does not fit all and
learning styles and preference vary. In a group of children, a teacher can encounter children
who learn best through visual, auditory, or hands-on interactions. And sometimes a child may
learn best in a particular domain or area with one style, and with a different style in another
domain or area.

Educational Psychology by Lumen Learning references Educational Psychology by Kelvin Seifert and Rosemary
Sutton, which is licensed under CC BY;
Howard Gardner Multiple Intelligences by OneCommunity is licensed under CC BY 3.0
15 Multiple intelligence by Sajaganesandip is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Multiple intelligences

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Howard Gardner Multiple Intelligences

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Table 1.2: Learning Styles

Learning Styles Learning Preferences

Visual
Pictures, real life objects to visually examine, seeing someone model a
skill

Auditory Listening, songs, rhymes, stories, chants

Tactile/kinesthetic Gestures, body movements, hands-on manipulation, active exploration

Implications for teachers include identifying the child’s style of learning and creating a program
for learning that reflects the variety of learning styles present in a classroom. It’s important to
offer learning experiences in all styles, which is referred to as multimodal.16

Interaction and Conversation as Curriculum
Interactions and conversations throughout the day model for young children the expected ways
of communicating with and being with members of the group or community. Through the ways
in which they interact and talk with young children and guide children’s behavior, teachers
support children in learning the code of behavior and the language of the education and care
community. Children rely on family members and teachers to provide the experience of
expected patterns of behavior, interactions, and language. At home, children experience
interactions and language that are grounded in their family’s culture. In the early care and
education setting, they encounter what might be a different expected pattern of behavior,
interaction, and language from what they experience at home.

The following vignette offers an opportunity to observe and listen to learning from the
children’s point of view and to see what the teacher intentionally does to guide the children’s
thinking.

16 Content by Kristin Beeve is licensed under CC BY 4.0;
College Success by Lumen Learning references Learning Styles by Wikipedia, licensed under CC BY-SA

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https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Learning_styles

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Vignette

Mr. Ravi and his group of preschool children enter the play yard on Monday
morning. As several children run to the sandbox, Vicente shouts with
dismay, “Oh, look! Somebody ruined our fort and messed up all the hiding
places we dug for our food! That was mean!” Mr. Ravi comes over quickly
to join them. He surveys the logs and boulders strewn around in the sand
and notes the children’s distress and sense of outrage.

Mr. Ravi responds sympathetically, “You all spent so much time working
together to build this last Friday. It does seem unfair that it has been
destroyed. Do you have ideas about what to do?”

Vicente suggests, “I know! We can make it over again and then you can
write a sign that says, ‘Keep Out. This is OUR fort.’” The other children
agree.

Mr. Ravi says, “It sounds like you have a plan to rebuild and protect your
project. I know that Marcos can write words and likes to make signs. Why
don’t you ask him if he would be willing to make the sign you need?” The
children agree with this idea, and Mr. Ravi accompanies them to talk to
Marcos, who sits alone on the stairs. “This is going to take a lot of
teamwork,” comments Mr. Ravi.

“Yeah, but we’re getting really good at teamwork,” responds Vicente
confidently.17

This experience illustrates what is referred to in the California Preschool Curriculum Framework
as a teachable moment. It was not planned, and the teacher had no way of knowing that it was
going to occur. It was a spontaneous encounter, but when planning at an earlier time, the
teacher had wondered whether one like it would occur and had considered how he would
respond in such a moment. Having in mind how to respond to various situations, especially
moments of conflict or misunderstanding, emerges from the reflective curriculum planning that
early childhood teachers do. It also allows the teacher to think about how to include a child
who was not participating with other children and may not have had the social skills to join the
group on his own. Knowledge of group dynamics helped the teacher be aware of opportunities
to connect Marcos with his peers.

Here is another example of how a teacher is supporting learning. In this classroom, the children
speak four different languages.

17 California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Vignette
All the children are playing outdoors, and the teachers have set up a board
with openings in different shapes (e.g., circle, square, triangle, rectangle).
Jasmine, a child who speaks Farsi, is looking toward the board and appears
interested. Mr. Li gestures to Jasmine to come closer and picks up a
beanbag. He models for Jasmine how to throw the beanbag toward the
board at the different openings. While he throws the beanbag with an
underhand motion, he simultaneously says, “Look, Jasmine, I swing my arm
and throw the beanbag.” Mr. Li repeats the physical action several times
while simultaneously describing his actions. He then encourages Jasmine to
try it. When Jasmine picks up the beanbag, Mr. Li smiles and repeats,
“Swing your arm and throw. That’s the way to do it, Jasmine!”18

This type of reflective curriculum planning may not show up in daily or weekly posted written
plans. Through planning, teachers are able to anticipate interactions and conversations in which
they may help children think about how to solve a problem or resolve a dispute, or support
children in learning a new language. Early childhood curriculum includes principles and
approaches for how teachers can support young children in learning English, when their home
language is not English (CDE 2010a, 177–223.)

Early childhood curriculum also includes principles and approaches for intervening when
conflicts between children arise (CDE 2010a, 67–68.) Some of what teachers do to plan such
curriculum is written into the daily or weekly plans, but much of it occurs during teachable
moments, in which teachers already have in mind a clear plan for what to do, how to do it,
and when to do it. Even so, the moments that teachers apply their plans are not known to
them in advance. The principles and approaches addressed in the frameworks necessarily go
beyond a series of planned activities.

For Example:

A teacher watches an infant who is on the verge of being able to crawl. The child
focuses her gaze on a desired yet distant object and attempts to move toward it.
In spite of her effort, she barely budges. The teacher watches the infant’s
expression of delight change to a frown and tears welling up in the baby’s eyes.
The teacher knows to move closer to the child and offer words of
encouragement. The teacher’s attentive presence, calm voice, and look of
encouragement reassure the child, help her focus her attention, and prompt her
to sustain her efforts. Feeling connected with the teacher and emotionally secure,
the child is ready to try again, moves forward on all fours, and looks at the
teacher with an expression of glee and surprise.19

18 California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission
19 California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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These examples illustrate how teachers support children in negotiating projects, in building
language skills, or in trying a challenging physical movement. Such examples are integral to
daily life in an early childhood education and care setting. Teachers keep in mind concepts and
skills described in the foundations and apply strategies and approaches presented in the
frameworks, as they engage in interactions and conversations that occur within unplanned yet
curriculum-rich teachable moments. In the two preceding examples the teachers supported
children’s learning in an intentional way, yet their responses and strategies were not spelled
out ahead of time in their written plans. Nevertheless, the teachers know that such interactions
and conversations are important components of the curriculum in early childhood settings.20

Incorporating 21st Century Technology in the Early
Childhood Education
The rapid development of technological devices such as computers, smart- phones, tablets, and
gaming systems has dramatically changed people’s daily lives at home and at work. New
technologies and electronic media provide tools for communication and social-networking, for
searching and documenting information, and for learning and entertainment. Young children
are growing up surrounded by technology and electronic media. At least two-thirds of homes
with children (birth to age six) have computers and Internet access (Gutnick et al. 2010; Roberts
and Foehr 2008). Moreover, according to a national survey by Common Sense Media in 2011,
52 percent of young children (birth to age eight) have access to smartphones or tablets
(Rideout 2011). Young children are active media users (Roberts and Foehr 2008). They
acclimate with ease to digital devices and show confidence in using software (Clements and
Sarama 2008). With the prevalence of technology and electronic media in their environment,
young children are spending an increasing number of hours in front of screen technologies,
particularly television, but also computers and other devices, with an average of 2.2 hours per
day of screen time for children between the ages of two and five (Roberts and Foehr 2008).

Children from low-income families, families with less education, and black, Hispanic, and rural
families are less likely to have access to the newest technologies and to broadband connections
to the Internet (U.S. Department of Commerce 2011). Inequality in access to technology has
narrowed over the years, but the “digital divide” still exists (Roberts and Foehr 2008).

The pervasiveness of electronic media in the lives of many young children makes educators,
parents, and advocates question the value of technology in children’s development. Some
electronic media such as certain television programs, videos, and DVDs are non-interactive and
involve passive viewing. Other forms of electronic media such as software programs, appli-
cations, the Internet, e-books, and certain television programs facilitate active and creative use
by young children. These latter forms are referred to as interactive media (NAEYC and FRC
2012). There is limited research on the impact of newer technology, such as computer

20 California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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software, handheld devices, interactive applications for mobile devices, and wireless technolo-
gy, on children’s development. Most of the research on the impact of media on young children
has focused on television and video. Studies of infants and toddlers suggest that videos have no
language benefits for infant and toddlers.

Young children learn much better from real-life experiences than from watching videos.
Moreover, excessive exposure to electronic media may have a negative effect on attention
development, particularly for children younger than two (Kirkorian, Wartella, and Anderson
2008). Research indicates that the impact of electronic media on older children depends on the
age of children, the context in which they use media, the content of the media, and the amount
of time they spend with screens (Kirkorian, Wartella, and Anderson 2008; Campaign for
Commercial-Free Childhood, Alliance for Childhood, and Teachers Resisting Unhealthy
Children’s Entertainment 2012).

By age three, children can benefit from well-designed, age-appropriate electronic media,
especially when a caring adult views the program with the child and is actively involved in the
child’s experience Research emphasizes the importance of developmentally appropriate
content being offered to children, whether on television or other interactive media software.
Educational television programs that were designed around a curriculum with a specific goal to
communicate academic or social skills were linked to various cognitive and academic
enhancements, with potentially long-lasting effects (Fisch 2004). For example, research
demonstrates a positive association between early exposure to Sesame Street television
episodes and school readiness (Zill 2001). However, television and videos with entertainment
content, particularly violent content, were associated with poor cognitive development and
lower academic achievement (Kirkorian, Wartella, and Anderson 2008).

Studies of preschool children’s computer play demonstrated that young children can use
computers and software to support their learning. Children can understand, think about, and
learn from their computer activity (Clements and Sarama 2008). Research has shown that in
children’s computer play with interactive media software there is a period of discovery, which is
then followed by involvement, self-confidence, and creativity (Bergen 2008). Computer-play
software can offer children various possibilities, including practice (self-directed repetition to
achieve mastery), pretense (symbolic play in a “pretend to be” world), and games (challenge
and competition, either with a peer, with oneself, or with an imaginary opponent) (Kafai 2006).

There is limited research on how educational computer software may enhance preschool
children’s academic-readiness skills. Some research suggests that software with an educational
curriculum may have a positive influence on learning (Din and Calao 2001). Overall, studies
indicate that, when used appropriately, technology and media can enhance children’s cognitive
and social abilities (Kirkorian, Wartella, and Anderson 2008). Even so, additional research is
needed to confirm the positive outcome of technology on children’s language and vocabulary,

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understanding of math concepts, self- regulation, and social-skills development (NAEYC and FRC
2012).21

Technology and Interactive Media in the Preschool Environment
Technology has many uses in early childhood settings. On any given day, teachers may use
technology to support children’s learning, to record and document children’s development, to
expand their own knowledge in different areas, to maintain ongoing communication with
families, and to link homes with school. The focus in this chapter is on the use of technology
and interactive media in pre school settings for the purpose of supporting and enhancing
children’s learning.

A growing number of early childhood educators use technology and interactive media in their
programs as tools to support children’s learning and development (Wartella et al. 2010). In a
recent survey by the Fred Rogers Center (Wartella et al. 2010) about technology in the lives of
teachers and classrooms, nearly 60 percent of early childhood teachers reported having a
computer, and 45 percent have computers with Internet access in their classrooms. More than
half of the early childhood teachers indicated that children should be introduced to technology
in the classroom between ages three and four, and about one-third of the teachers reported
using computers with children on a daily basis (Wartella et al. 2010). With the increasing
interest and use of technology in preschool settings, early childhood educators need guidance
on how to use technology and interactive media wisely and effectively. Several important ques-
tions come to mind:

• Which technology and media tools are effective tools for learning?

• In which domains of development can the use of technology be most effective?

• How do early childhood educators appropriately integrate technology and media into
preschool settings?

• How can technology be used to support children’s learning?

Figure 1.7: How programs will include technology in their curriculum is something that should be thoughtfully

considered.22

21 California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission
22 Image by Airman 1st Class Christina Bennett is in the public domain

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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A joint position statement issued in 2012 by the National Association for Education of Young
Children (NAEYC) and the Fred Rogers Center (FRC) offers guidance. Based on research, the
statement addresses both the opportunities and the challenges related to using technology and
interactive media in early childhood programs. The following section presents key messages
from the NAEYC/FRC position statement on technology. A set of strategies consistent with the
approach articulated in the position statement is provided to guide administrators and teachers
in integrating technology and interactive media into preschool programs.23

The Benefits and the Challenges of Using Technology and Interactive
Media
Technology and interactive media have the potential to make many contributions to early
childhood education. Technology can provide children with additional ways to explore, create,
communicate, problem-solve, investigate, and learn. Computer technology, for example, offers
young children a range of learning opportunities—from solving math problems to listening to
interactive stories, taking a photo, recording a story, creating a digital book, making music, and
engaging in other age-appropriate learning activities (Blagojevic et al. 2010). Many educational
applications for young children are designed to help children develop skills and knowledge in
specific domains, particularly in areas such as language, literacy, and mathematics (Buckleitner
2011). Such programs can provide individualized learning opportunities for children. In
mathematics, computer programs present children with tasks, give feedback, and help young
children develop concepts and skills in areas such as counting, number relationships and
operations, sorting and patterning, measurement, and geometry (Clements and Sarama 2008;
McCarthy, Li, and Tiu 2012). In language and literacy, computer software can enhance
vocabulary learning (Segers and Vermeer 2008) and support learning of listening, speaking,
writing, and reading skills (Guernsey et al. 2012). Dual language learners can also use
computers to enhance their home language and acquire English (Blagojevic et al. 2010; Nemeth
2009).

The use of technology can also enrich the science curriculum. Cameras and recording devices
provide valuable educational experiences by allowing children to take photos and videos to
document objects and events and track changes in objects and materials. Digital microscopes
allow children to save images of objects they explore and to share and discuss such images with
their peers. Robotics with manipulative motors and gears engage young children in designing
their own robotic creations, providing them with opportunities both to be creative engineers
and to explore abstract mathematical and science concepts in concrete ways (Bers 2008).

The use of technology in preschool settings also creates opportunities for equitable access to
technology tools and interactive media experiences for children from different economic
backgrounds, including children in families with few resources and little or no access to the
latest technologies (NAEYC and FRC 2012). Furthermore, technology has many potential

23 California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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benefits in supporting inclusive practices for children with disabilities or other special needs
(Mulligan 2003).

A variety of assistive and adaptive technologies (e.g., electronic communication boards, switch-
activated toys, recordable devices) enhance children’s participation and learning with peers.
For example, a child who enjoys playing with bubbles can operate an electronic bubble-blower
for other children to chase (Mistrett 2004). Another child can let a peer know which game she
wants to play by indicating it on the electronic tablet that has photos taken by her teacher. By
using assistive technology, early childhood educators can help children with disabilities or other
special needs become more independent. Children with special needs can use technologies to
support their ability to communicate and interact with others, move throughout the
environment, manipulate objects, and participate in daily routines and educational activities.

Figure 1.8: Technology can help children with disabilities participate in the environment and communicate.24

Overall, effective uses of technology and interactive media can enhance and augment children’s
learning in different domains, extending children’s access to new content. However, technology
is effective only when used appropriately. Although the use of technology and interactive me-
dia provides programs with opportunities to enhance quality and optimize young children’s
development, early childhood educators should understand the limits of technology and be
aware of the challenges of using technology and interactive media in the preschool
environment. As stated in the NAEYC/FRC position statement, “Technology and interactive
media are tools that can promote effective learning and development when they are used in-
tentionally by early childhood educators, within the framework of developmentally appropriate
practice, to support learning goals established for individual children” (NAEYC and FRC 2012, 5).

Technology and interactive media should only supplement, not replace, existing play-based
materials and active play, engagement with other children, and face-to-face interactions with
adults. Several professional and public health organizations have raised concerns about
whether young children should have access to technology and screen media in early childhood
programs (e.g., Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Alliance for Childhood, and
Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment 2012). The American Academy of

24 Image from Treatment for Thomas by Eddy Jackson is licensed under CC BY 3.0

https://vimeo.com/eddyjackson

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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Pediatrics recommends avoiding any media other than video-chatting until 18 months, limiting
2 to 5-year-olds to one hour per day of high quality programming, and for ages 6 and older,
placing consistent limits on time and types of media. These recommendations are focused on
preventing media use from displacing physical activity, hands on exploration, and face-to-face
social interaction in the real world, which are critical to learning.

This chapter follows the recommendations of the NAEYC and the Fred Rogers Center (2012) and
is aligned with the public health community in discouraging the use of screen media for
children under the age of 24 months in early childhood programs. Such guidance for educators
working with infants and toddlers may change in the future as more research on very young
children’s active use of interactive media and its effect on children’s learning and development
continues to emerge (e.g., Zack et al. 2013).

Monitoring the content of interactive media is as important as setting limits on the time young
children spend with technology. Although there are valuable software, websites, and other
forms of interactive media for young children, some have limited educational value or may
include content that is not safe or appropriate for children. The challenge for early childhood
educators is “to make informed choices that maximize learning opportunities for children while
managing screen time and mediating the potential for misuse and overuse of screen media”
(NAEYC and FRC 2012, 3). Educators should have the knowledge, skills, and experience nec-
essary to select and use technology tools and interactive media that suit the age and
developmental level of children and can be integrated effectively in the environment (NAEYC
and FRC 2012).

The following guidelines identify key considerations for programs and teachers selecting,
evaluating, integrating, and using technology in preschool programs.25

Selecting Technology and Interactive Media to Enhance Children’s
Learning
The rapid development of technology platforms, including computers, laptops, multitouch
tablets, and other handheld devices, and the growing selection of available educational
applications, Web sites, and software present educators with many choices for integrating
technology into the preschool environment. However, technology and media-based products
may vary widely in quality. Intentionality is important. Thoughtful, advance planning is essential
for a responsible investment in technology in early childhood settings. Early childhood
educators should apply their expertise and knowledge of child development in selecting
appropriate technology and media for the classroom in the same way that they select any other
instructional materials (NAEYC and FRC 2012). Educators should take the time to evaluate and
select technology, to observe children’s use of the materials, and to make appropriate

25 California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission;
American Academy of Pediatrics. (n.d.) Media and Children Communication Toolkit. Retrieved from
https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/Media-and-Children.aspx

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.aap.org/en-us/advocacy-and-policy/aap-health-initiatives/Pages/Media-and-Children.aspx

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adoptions based on their observations. The Fred Rogers Center (2012) proposed a framework
for quality in digital media (FRC 2012), recommending that educators take into account the
child, the content, and the context in the selection of digital media for young children.

• Consider children’s developmental level, interests, abilities, and cultural and linguistic
backgrounds. Teachers must be intentional in selecting the technology and interactive
media they offer children in their classroom. In selecting appropriate technology and
interactive media, educators make decisions that are informed by developmentally
appropriate teaching practices, which means that early childhood educators consider
the age, developmental level, needs, interests, linguistic backgrounds, and abilities of
individual children in the group (NAEYC and FRC 2012).

• Ensure equitable access to technology and interactive media experiences. In selecting
technology and interactive media, educators provide opportunities for all children to
participate and have access to these learning tools. Educators should consider the
cultural and linguistic backgrounds of the children in their classrooms. Technology
resources can provide access to children’s home language and culture, especially when
there are no other ways to obtain such information (NAEYC and FRC 2012). For example,
children can listen to electronic books in their home language, record songs and stories,
and create digital stories in their home language and English (Blagojevic et al. 2010).
Educators can collaborate with family members and colleagues who speak children’s
home language to gain access to appropriate interactive media in children’s home
language.

Materials and equipment selected for children with disabilities or other special needs should be
evaluated. Adaptive and assistive technologies are available to support individual children in
their classrooms. Programs should consider the level of technology necessary and the child’s
individual needs to ensure that the technology is best suited to the child’s unique disabilities
and to the demands of the environment (Mulligan 2003). Not all assistive devices are
necessarily “high tech” or custom designed for a particular child. In fact, the Individuals with
Disabilities Education Act defines an assistive technology device as any item, piece of
equipment, or product system, whether acquired commercially off the shelf, modified, or
customized, that is used to increase, maintain, or improve functional capabilities of a child with
a disability (Mistrett 2004).

• Identify the underlying objectives of the technology. Most electronic media targeted at
preschoolers are intended to entertain rather than to teach. Technology in the
preschool environment should be used only for educational activities. In evaluating any
software programs, applications, or other forms of interactive media, educators should
be able to identify the overall goals or purpose of the product: Is it to educate or to
entertain? Is it interactive? Is it to develop particular skills, to introduce children to new
information, or maybe a combination of these (FRC 2012; Campaign for Commercial-
Free Childhood, Alliance for Childhood, and Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s
Entertainment 2012)? Understanding the intent of a digital program and the learning
goals for different children in the program should guide educators’ intentional decisions
in selecting materials of interactive media (FRC 2012).

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• Evaluate the quality of the content. First and foremost, educators should evaluate the
quality of the content to ensure that the use of such materials would not harm young
children’s overall development or well-being in any way (NAEYC and FRC 2012; FRC
2012). Interactive media products can be used as tools to fulfill the needs of individual
children and to expand children’s access to new content in areas of interest to them. In
the selection process, program administrators and teachers should have information
and resources regarding the nature of these tools and the implications for use with
children. Program administrators and teachers should also have hands-on opportunities
to explore and directly experience the technology that is being considered for use with
children. Educators can apply their expertise and knowledge of child development to
ensure that digital materials are developmentally and culturally appropriate for the
children in the group. They should examine the educational content, format, and
features and carefully consider any implicit messages communicated during the use of
the software/application. Some undesirable messages (e.g., stereotypes, negative
images or actions) may be biased and fail to promote social and emotional under-
standing in the early years (Tsantis, Bewick, and Thouvenelle 2003).

• Select technology and interactive media that support children’s creativity, exploration,
and problem solving. In selecting activities with technology and interactive media, early
educators should ask themselves: Does it encourage children to explore, to think, to
experiment and predict, to be creative, and to problem solve? Does it offer a range of
experiences and a high level of interactivity? Is it open-ended or focused on skills?
Experiences with technology and other media that engage children in redundant
practice and rote learning or involve passive use by children are not desirable. Effective
technology and media empower children by giving them control, offering challenges
through “leveled” experiences, and providing them with feedback and adaptive
scaffolds (Clements and Sarama 2008).

• Use the best available evidence in the selection process. More research is needed to
understand what young children are able to do with different digital devices and to
assess the short- and long-term effects of new technologies on children’s learning.
Educators are encouraged to make their decisions about the quality of interactive media
products based on the best available evidence for any given product (FRC 2012).26

Integrating and Using Technology in the Preschool Environment
Once the desired software or appropriate technology devices for the program are selected,
educators should apply their expertise and knowledge of child development to make thoughtful
decisions on how to introduce and integrate the selected forms of technology into the learning
environment. The teacher’s role is critical in ensuring that technology is implemented in ways
that serve the teaching goals and support children’s learning appropriately and effectively.

• Technology and interactive media are used within the framework of developmentally
appropriate practice. Developmentally appropriate practice encourages hands-on
exploration; empowers children to reflect, question, and create; and honors the value of

26 California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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relationships between children and the adults in their lives (NAEYC 2009). Professional
knowledge of developmentally appropriate practice informs and guides decision making
about how to introduce and integrate any form of technology and interactive media into
early childhood programs. Technology and media should not replace preschool activities
such as real-life exploration, physical activity, social interactions, outdoor and indoor
play, and arts. Instead, they should be used as additional tools to encourage children’s
problem solving, exploration, and creativity. They can also support children’s rela-
tionships with both adults and their peers and foster children’s autonomy (NAEYC and
FRC 2012; Donohue and Schomburg 2012; Nemeth and Simon 2012), particularly for
some children with disabilities (Mistrett 2004).

• Technology and interactive media are integrated into the environment, curriculum,
and daily routines (NAEYC and FRC 2012). True integration of technology and media
into the preschool environment involves the use of different technology resources
throughout the classroom. No period is set aside in the daily schedule for “computer
time,” when technology and media are used as isolated activities. Technology and
interactive media are woven into the fabric of the day and are used as tools for learning,
rather than as the focus or the goal of a learning activity. Technology is one of many
ways to support curriculum goals and needs, and the program offers a balance of
activities to support children’s development in all domains of learning. In using a
particular application or software, teachers should consider how it supports objectives
for individual children in the group, how it fits into the classroom’s current curriculum
project or theme of study, and how it extends other activities in ways not possible
otherwise (Nemeth and Simon 2012).

• Time spent with technology and media is limited. Setting limits on the time young
children spend with technology and interactive media is important. As previously
indicated, the public health community discourages the use of passive screen media for
children under two years of age and recommends limited screen time daily for children
older than two (American Academy of Pediatrics 2011). Some of the public health
concern is that the overuse of media takes time away from other activities that involve
physical exercise. Sedentary activities are potentially a risk factor for childhood obesity
(Wartella and Heintz 2007). The position statement by the NAEYC/FRC points to the
following recommendation in the Early Childhood Obesity Prevention Policies: “child
care [and preschool] settings limit screen time to fewer than 30 minutes per day for
children in half day programs or less than one hour per day for those in full day
programs (Birch, Parker, and Burns 2011).” Teachers play a critical role in establishing
clear boundaries on the use of technology and screen time in the preschool setting.
They are also encouraged to share information with families on how to promote
children’s healthy use of technology at home (Campaign for a Commercial-Free
Childhood, Alliance for Childhood, and Teachers Resisting Unhealthy Children’s
Entertainment 2012).

• The use of technology and interactive media facilitates social interactions and
relationship building. Effective use of technology and interactive media in the
classroom environment allows joint engagement, specifically viewing and participation
by both children and adults and children and their peers (NAEYC and FRC 2012). Studies

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on the social dimension of preschool children’s computer play found that preschoolers
observe each other while playing, comment on others’ actions, share and help with
software-related problems, and have conflicts over turn-taking (Heft and Swaminathan
2002). The computer and other digital devices should be located in spaces that allow for
joint engagement of a group of children. Some children may select technology such as
the computer because it is familiar or even as a way of avoiding interaction. Careful
observation is needed to monitor the use of technology and determine individual appro-
priate use. Effective use of technology and interactive media can promote
communication and collaboration among children (Wright 1994). It often provides the
context for information sharing, language development, and collaborative decision
making (Tsantis, Bewick, and Thouvenelle 2003). Tech-savvy children may also become
computer mentors for their peers (Blagojevic et al. 2010).

Figure 1.9: This teacher is monitoring children using the computer together.27

• Teachers provide support while children use technology and interactive media. As

with any learning activities, teachers play an important role in facilitating children’s
involvement with technology and media. The teachers introduce children to the
computer or another device (e.g., digital camera, printer, touch-screen), and explain
how it works. They observe what individual children do and learn about children’s ability
to use technology. Children vary in the ability to use technology and interactive media.
Teachers also give children time to freely explore new technology tools, model
appropriate use of technology, and help children become familiar with any new
software activity. They establish rules and routines with children to guide appropriate
handling and use of computer and other technological devices (Blagojevic et al. 2010;
Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, Alliance for Childhood, and Teachers
Resisting Unhealthy Children’s Entertainment 2012). During technology-related
activities, teachers carefully observe and document what children do and assess
children’s learning. Teachers identify problems or opportunities for teachable moments,
extending the media experience to other learning opportunities, and facilitating the
experience through language-rich interactions. In addition, teachers determine when

27 Image by Staff Sgt. Jeff Nevison is in the public domain

https://www.incirlik.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/302410/cdc-sees-results-with-interactive-learning-program/

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the child is ready to progress to the next level of knowledge or skill development (FRC
2012). They consider children’s varying abilities to control and operate technology and
media and support children’s “technology-handling” skills, as needed. Teachers make
appropriate adaptations, based on their observations, to promote positive outcomes for
individual children.28

28 California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission (pg.
93-100)

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Chapter 2: The Importance of Play and
Intentional Teaching

Chapter Objectives
After reading this chapter, students will be able to

• Define Play

• Identify stages of Play

• Review Types of Play

• Discuss the importance of play in learning

• Understand the role of the teacher

• Identify ways teachers can foster play

Children are born observers and are active participants in their own learning and understanding
of the world around them from the very beginning of their existence. Today’s children are
active participants in their own learning, not just recipients of a teacher’s knowledge.
Developmentally Appropriate Practice (DAP), as outlined by NAEYC (National Association for
the Education of Young Children), challenges early childhood professionals to be intentional in
their interactions and environments to create optimal experiences to maximize children’s
growth and development. Under this umbrella of DAP, knowledge is based upon discovery and
discovery occurs through active learning and abundant opportunities for exploration! Through
a “hands-on” approach and using play as a vehicle, children will develop skills in domains
necessary for positive growth and development.

Figure 2.1: Play is active learning.1

1 Image by HaiRobe on pixabay

https://pixabay.com/photos/people-children-child-happy-1560569/

https://pixabay.com/users/HaiRobe-3003429/

https://pixabay.com/

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Why Play?
Play:

• Inspires imagination

• Facilitates creativity

• Fosters problem solving

• Promotes development of new skills

• Builds confidence and higher levels of self-esteem

• Allows free exploration of the environment

• Fosters learning through hands-on and sensory exploration

It is now understood that moments often discounted as “just play” or as “fiddling around” are
actually moments in which children are actively learning (Hirsh-Pasek et al. 2009; Jones and
Reynolds 2011; Zigler, Singer, and Bishop-Josef 2004; Elkind 2007.) While engaged in play,
children explore the physical properties of materials and the possibilities for action,
transformation, or representation. Children try out a variety of ways to act on objects and
materials and, in so doing, experiment with and build concepts and ideas. This active
engagement with the world of people and objects starts from the moment of birth.

This description of the young child as an active participant in learning informs the role of the
teacher who works with young children birth to five. Early childhood teaching and learning
begins with teachers watching and listening to discover how infants and young children actively
engage in making sense of their everyday encounters with people and objects. When teachers
observe and listen with care, infants and young children reveal clues about their thinking, their
feelings, or their intentions. Children’s actions, gestures, and words illuminate what they are
trying to figure out or how they attempt to make sense of the attributes, actions, and responses
of people and objects. Effective early childhood teaching requires teachers to recognize how
infants and young children actively search for meaning, making sense of ideas and feelings.

Figure 2.2: This teacher has an opportunity to discover how this child is understanding her experience.2

2 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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When teaching is viewed in this light, children become active participants alongside teachers in
negotiating the course of the curriculum. Families who entrust their children to the care and
guidance of early childhood teachers also become active participants in this process. Shared
participation by everyone in the work of creating lively encounters with learning allows a
dynamic exchange of information and ideas—from child to adult, from adult to child, from adult
to adult, and from child to child. The perspective of each (child, family, teacher) informs the
other, and each learns from the other. Each relationship (child with family, child with teacher,
child with child, and family with teacher) is reciprocal, with each participant giving and receiving
from the other, and each adding to the other’s learning and understanding.3

Figure 2.3: Each perspective informs the other.4

The Educators’ Guide to the Framework For School Age Care In Australia discusses the benefits
of play:

Play is a valued process, not only for enjoyment and leisure, but also for learning.
Through play, children develop a sense of identity and an understanding of their social

3 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission (pg. 5);
Content by Clint Springer is licensed under CC BY 4.0
4 Image by Ian Joslin is licensed under CC BY 4.0

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://koolkoalaj.com/

https://koolkoalaj.com/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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and cultural worlds. Children use play to explore and understand cultures, communities
and friendships. We gain a lot through playing, not just as children, but also as adults.

Recent brain research has heralded the benefits of a stimulating play-based
environment in encouraging the brain to grow and develop (Diamond 1988). Low stress
levels and high engagement combine to nourish neural development. Research by
Vandell and others (2005) demonstrates how school-aged care environments achieve
this through the combination of high intrinsic motivation and challenge, effort and
enjoyment. Lester and Russell (2009) identified the flexibility and plasticity of the brain,
which develops through play and increases potential for learning later in life.

The intellectual and cognitive benefits of playing have been well documented. Children
who engage in quality play experiences are more likely to:

• Have well developed memory skills and language development,
• Have the ability to regulate their behavior, leading to enhanced adjustment to

school and academic learning.

Play also provides children with an opportunity to just ‘be’.5

Pause to Reflect
What does it mean to just be? Consider a time either as a child or an adult,
where you had an opportunity to just be. What facilitated the opportunity?
What feelings did you experience? What might this mean for young children?

Educators observe stages of play experiences children navigate in their programs. Educators
use these observations of children to plan for environments, set individual objectives and
create appropriate curricular experiences.

Table 2.1: Piaget’s Stages of Play6

Stage Description

Functional Play Exploring, inspecting, and learning through repetitive physical activity.7

5 Australian Government Department of Education (n.d.) Educator My Time, Our Place. Retrieved from
http://files.acecqa.gov.au/files/National-Quality-Framework-Resources-Kit/educators_my_time_our_place
6 Cognitive and Social Types of Play (n.d.). Retrieved from https://groundsforplay.com/cognitive-and-social-forms-
play
7 Cognitive and Social Types of Play (n.d.). Retrieved from https://groundsforplay.com/cognitive-and-social-forms-
play

http://files.acecqa.gov.au/files/National-Quality-Framework-Resources-Kit/educators_my_time_our_place

https://groundsforplay.com/cognitive-and-social-forms-play

https://groundsforplay.com/cognitive-and-social-forms-play

https://groundsforplay.com/cognitive-and-social-forms-play

https://groundsforplay.com/cognitive-and-social-forms-play

39 | I n t r o d u c t i o n t o C u r r i c u l u m f o r E a r l y C h i l d h o o d E d u c a t i o n

Stage Description

Symbolic Play
The ability to use objects, actions, or ideas to represent other objects,

actions, or ideas and may include taking on roles.8

Constructive

Play

Involves experimenting with objects to build things; learning things that

were previously unknown with hands on manipulations of materials.9

Games with

Rules

Imposes rules that must be followed by everyone that is playing; the logic

and order involved forms that the foundations for developing game playing

strategy.10

In addition to the stages of play described by Piaget, there are also a variety of types of play
children use when interacting within our ECE Programs.

Types of Play
Mildred Parten (1932) observed two to five year-old children and noted six types of play. Three
types she labeled as non-social (unoccupied, solitary, and onlooker) and three types were
categorized as social play (parallel, associative, and cooperative). The table below describes
each type of play. Younger children engage in non-social play more than those older; by age five
associative and cooperative play are the most common forms of play (Dyer & Moneta, 2006). 11

Table 2.2: Parten’s Classification of Types of Play12

Category Description

Unoccupied Play Children’s behavior seems more random and without a specific goal. This
is the least common form of play.

Solitary Play Children play by themselves, do not interact with others, nor are they
engaging in similar activities as the children around them.

8 Play and Playground Encyclopedia (n.d.) Symbolic Play. Retrieved from https://www.pgpedia.com/s/symbolic-
play
9 Play and Playground Encyclopedia (n.d.) Constructive Play. Retrieved from
https://www.pgpedia.com/c/constructive-play
10 Play and Playground Encyclopedia (n.d.) Games with Rules. Retrieved from https://www.pgpedia.com/g/games-
rules
11 Lifespan Development – Module 5: Early Childhood by Lumen Learning references Psyc 200 Lifespan Psychology
by Laura Overstreet, licensed under CC BY 4.0
12 Lifespan Development – Module 5: Early Childhood by Lumen Learning references Psyc 200 Lifespan Psychology
by Laura Overstreet, licensed under CC BY 4.0

https://www.pgpedia.com/s/symbolic-play

https://www.pgpedia.com/s/symbolic-play

https://www.pgpedia.com/c/constructive-play

https://www.pgpedia.com/g/games-rules

https://www.pgpedia.com/g/games-rules

https://courses.lumenlearning.com/lifespandevelopment2/chapter/module/

https://courses.lumenlearning.com/

Psyc 200 Lifespan Psychology

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://courses.lumenlearning.com/lifespandevelopment2/chapter/module/

https://courses.lumenlearning.com/

Psyc 200 Lifespan Psychology

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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Category Description

Onlooker Play Children are observing other children playing. They may comment on the
activities and even make suggestions, but will not directly join the play.

Parallel Play Children play alongside each other, using similar toys, but do not directly
interact with each other.

Associative Play Children will interact with each other and share toys, but are not working
toward a common goal.

Cooperative
Play

Children are interacting to achieve a common goal. Children may take on
different tasks to reach that goal.

The Role of Play in Children’s Learning and Development
Consider the learning under way in the following excerpt volume 2 of the California Preschool
Curriculum Frame- work (CDE 2011b, 15).

Imagine four young children—eager and engaged in play amidst an assortment of wooden
blocks. They may appear to be “just playing”; however, upon closer inspection, this moment of
play reveals a web of ideas, theories, and hypotheses under construction, as well as an
energetic debate. We may observe that the children are negotiating how to connect the blocks
to make roads that will surround their carefully balanced block structure. The structure has
walls of equal height, which support a flat roof, from which rise 10 towers, built using
cardboard tubes. Resting on each tube is a shiny, recycled jar lid, each one a different color.
Two children are figuring out between themselves when to add or take away blocks in order to
make a row of towers that increases in height. As we listen and watch, we witness the children
building a foundation for addition and subtraction. To make each wall just high enough to
support a flat roof, they count aloud the number of blocks they are using to make each wall,
showing an emerging understanding of the math concept of cardinal numbers. When they hear
the signal that lunch is about to be served, one child finds a clipboard with pen and paper
attached, draws a rudimentary outline of the block structure on the paper, and then asks the
teacher to write, “Do not mess up. We are still working on our towers.”

In this example, children show evidence of emerging concepts of social studies through their
construction of a small community from blocks; of physical science and mathematics as they
experiment with how to make objects balance; and of reading, writing, and drawing as they
request the teacher’s help with making a sign to protect their work. They work together to
create their play and cooperate in carrying out agreed upon plans. Each is fully engaged and
manages his behavior to cooperate in a complex social situation. The concepts under
construction in the minds of these children and the skills they are learning and practicing closely

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match several desired learning outcomes for children at this age. Anticipating the variety of
concepts and skills that would emerge during the play, the teachers stocked the
blocks/construction area with collections of blocks, props, and writing materials to support a
full range of possibilities.

Young children’s ways of learning require an approach to curriculum that allows them to build
concepts and skills in integrated learning contexts. Such an approach supports children with
analyzing a problem to discover a possible solution, experimenting with and testing ideas,
exchanging ideas with others, thinking creatively and cooperating with others to reach a goal,
and focusing their attention and organizing their behavior as they play with others. These skills
and dispositions work together to give children a foundation that enhances development and
learning in all the domains.13

Preschool programs use numerous strategies to support children’s play, such as planning the
learning environment, providing engaging and appropriately challenging materials, and being
responsive to children’s interest in engaging in play.

Through observations of children’s play, teachers can deepen their appreciation of the value of
play in early learning. For example, imaginary play is an important means of exploring ideas and
social behavior and roles among preschool-age children. While older infants and toddlers
engage in solitary imaginary play, such as feeding a stuffed animal or making a roaring sound
while pushing a toy truck across the carpet, preschoolers engage with one or more peers in the
more complex and elaborate form of imaginary play called “sociodramatic” play. In this type of
play, children cooperate with one another to create a story and “script,” assume various roles,
figure out appropriate “costumes” and “props,” and negotiate new ideas for play, such as, “I
want to be a wolf, not a dog!”

Because imaginary play holds such rich potential for promoting children’s cognitive, linguistic,
social, and physical development, high-quality preschool programs recognize play as a key
element of the curriculum. Children’s spontaneous play is a window into their ideas and feel-
ings about the world. As such, it is a rich source of ideas for curriculum planning (Lockett 2004).
For example, if a teacher observes a group of children repeatedly engaging in imaginary play
about illness or hospitalization, she or he might decide to convert the playhouse area into a
veterinary clinic for a week or two. The teacher might also read children stories involving
doctors, hospitals, getting sick, and getting well. The teacher’s observations of children’s
resulting conversations and activities would suggest ways to deepen or extend the curriculum
further. In thinking of ways to extend the curriculum, it will be important that teachers ensure
that the materials used and themes built upon are culturally familiar to the children and value
children’s cultural heritage.

While involved in play, children are challenged to meet the language, problem- solving, and
social competencies of their peers. When play is interesting and important to children, they are

13 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission (pg. 15-16)

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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eager to learn the new vocabulary, new physical skills, and new social behaviors that will allow
them to stay engaged in play (Jones and Reynolds 2011). Many three-year-olds, for example,
have not yet mastered socially appropriate ways to enter other children’s play. Coaching by a
sensitive, observant teacher on appropriate language for asking to join play can help a child
overcome this hurdle, thereby opening a new area for learning.

When teachers regularly observe and document brief, subtle moments of children’s learning
through play, those records can help parents and others understand how useful and important
play is in helping children to learn and grow. For example, a teacher might report a child’s
language and social development to the parent of a three-year-old: “I watched Sarah standing
outside the playhouse area today. Instead of just watching the other children or wandering
through their play without getting involved as she often does, she brought the children a book
to read to the ‘baby’ in the family. They asked her if she wanted to be the big sister, and she
said yes and joined right in. I have been thinking about ways to help her learn how to use her
language to get involved in play with other children, but she figured out her own, creative way
to join them.”

During the preschool years, children grow markedly in their knowledge and skills in all areas of
development. The dramatic increase in their emotional, social, cognitive, and language knowl-
edge and skills occurs hand in hand with development of key areas of the brain, particularly the
prefrontal cortex and its connections with the limbic system. Preschool-age children are
naturally curious and driven to learn about the way the world works and often develop and test
hypotheses through observation and experimentation. Children’s learning and development in
all domains progresses well when they are provided with appropriately challenging
opportunities for play and exploration, with the support of skilled teachers who scaffold
learning experiences.14

Role of the Teacher: Being Intentional with Children
Teachers play a pivotal role in children’s active construction of knowledge. They intentionally
provide the environments and experiences that support children in actively building concepts
and skills. The role of the teacher who works with young children birth to age five is to support
children’s active construction of knowledge. In a sense, early childhood teachers serve as
research supports as the children sense, discover, and construct meaning about the world
around them. Young children’s natural impulse to learn by investigating (1) what things are like
and what they can make them do, and (2) how people create and share meaning shapes the
role of the early childhood teacher. The early childhood teacher is responsible for: offering
children well-stocked play spaces where they can construct concepts and ideas, preferably in
the company of friendly peers; designing daily routines that invite children to be active
participants and to use emerging skills and concepts; supporting children’s learning through

14 California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission (pg.
32-33)

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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interactions and conversations that prompt using language and ideas in new ways and that
promote sharing meaning with others.

In carrying out those responsibilities, teachers create contexts in which young children can:

• Wonder about what things are like and what they do

• Investigate a variety of ways of relating one thing to another

• Invent problems and solutions with others; construct, transform, and represent with the
materials at hand

• Create and share meaning, and collaborate in learning

• Try new challenges and practice emerging skills

• Express their emotions, feel secure to explore, and regulate their emotions and behavior

• Manage conflicts in ways that support the development of social skills
o Advocating for one’s own needs, safety, and feelings
o Learning how to connect with their peers in mutually beneficial ways
o Learning how to walk away or disengage from their peers when they feel the

need to
o Learning how to cope with feelings of rejection or exclusion. And in turn,

learning how to seek out positive relationships, rather than dwelling on
unsatisfying ones.

Early childhood teachers see and support children as scientists and thus design the play
environment to serve the children’s inquisitive minds. Teachers also provide the materials
children need to construct concepts and ideas and master skills in the natural context of play.
Children learn from opportunities to discover materials that they may be seeing for the first
time and need time to explore and get to know the properties of these materials. It means
offering children materials that they can organize into relationships of size, shape, number, or
function and time. Children can investigate what happens when they put these materials
together or arrange them in new ways, experiencing the delight of discovering possibilities for
building with them, transforming them, or using them to represent an experience.

Early childhood teachers also design the daily routines as rich opportunities for children to
participate actively and to use their emerging skills and ideas in meaningful situations. Equally
important are the ways in which teachers use interactions and conversations with children to
support learning. Many interactions occur spontaneously, with the teacher being responsive to
an interest or need that a child expresses. Many other interactions focus on co-creating or co-
constructing meaning as the teacher and a child or small group of children focus on a specific
topic or activity.

Some interactions may include providing guidance to help children learn to regulate their
emotions and behavior or may involve an intervention in which the teacher helps children
explore how to negotiate a solution to a conflict.

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Other interactions and conversations teachers have with children are more predictable.
Teachers anticipate and organize some interactions and conversations as group discussions, in
order to prompt children’s thinking and understanding. Sometimes these groups are small, and
sometimes, at preschool age, they are somewhat larger. Teachers also guide some activities in a
context that allows children to encounter new information and build skills. All interactions are
embedded in contexts in which the children are actively engaged in exploring their own
developing skills, learning from each other, and acquiring knowledge.15
While play occurs naturally, teachers must consider the following responsibilities when
facilitating appropriate and purposeful play:

Spaces (See further detail in Chapter 5)

• are safe places to explore

• reflect the mission and core values of the program

• include culturally sensitive materials to explore

• include open-ended materials for multi-use

Routines

• Are consistent and predictable

• Provide ample time for unstructured play to occur (recommendation is 45 minutes
minimum) If children aren’t provided enough time to become immersed in play, they
will be less likely to engage enough to receive the benefit of the activity.

Interactions

• Stimulate creativity by asking open-ended questions or reflective observations

• Respect individual differences in play and interactions

• Encourage Cooperation

The Educators’ Guide to the Framework For School Age Care In Australia elaborates on
intentionality:

To be ‘intentional’ is to act purposefully, with a goal in mind and a plan for
accomplishing it. Intentional acts arise from careful thought and in consideration of the
potential effects. For example, when offering dress-ups, educators provide a wide
selection. This is intentional in the following ways:

• Not having enough may be challenging to children who find sharing and waiting
difficult and could lead to unnecessary conflict over the limited resources.

• If only one or two children could dress up, it would limit opportunities to
stimulate rich group play.

• If the dress-ups were all the same, respect for diversity and choice are not
promoted.

15 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission (pg. 19-21);
Content by Clint Springer is licensed under CC BY 4.0

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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• Providing variety allows children to mix and match and experiment through
varied role play.

• Providing variety encourages children to share, collaborate and negotiate.

• Providing educators who are able to interact with the children fosters skill
development in this area (through scaffolding).

Intentionality is about educators being able to explain what they are doing and why they
are doing it. . . Educators purposefully (and perhaps in collaboration with children)
establish routines, set up the environment, select resources, and appoint educators to
work with the children. This approach reflects the educator’s understanding of the
context, individual personalities and group dynamics.

Educators who are deliberate and purposeful in what they do:

• Promote children’s learning through worthwhile and challenging experiences
and interactions which foster high-level thinking

• Seize opportunities during experiences and conversations to extend children’s
thinking and learning

• Model and demonstrate active listening skills

• Utilize varied communication strategies, such as open questions, explanations,
speculation and problem-solving

• Move flexibly in and out of various roles and draw on different strategies as the
context changes

• Draw on contemporary theories and research for their knowledge and practices

• Monitor children’s wellbeing, life skills and citizenship, and use the information
to guide program planning

• Monitor children’s needs and interests and incorporate them into program
planning

• Identify ‘teachable moments’ as they arise and use them to scaffold children’s
learning and development.

As educators it is always good to reflect on your own childhood:

• What were your favorite play spaces as a child?

• What did you enjoy doing?

• How might you incorporate some of your childhood play ideas into your setting?

• What role did the adults play when you were a child?

• What are your beliefs about play?

• How do you think play might have changed over the past forty years?

• What impact do you think this might have on children and the adults of the
future?16

16 Australian Government Department of Education (n.d.) Educator My Time, Our Place. Retrieved from
http://files.acecqa.gov.au/files/National-Quality-Framework-Resources-Kit/educators_my_time_our_place (pg
40-42)

http://files.acecqa.gov.au/files/National-Quality-Framework-Resources-Kit/educators_my_time_our_place

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Pause to Reflect
“First Day!”

Shortly after completing my ECE degree, I had been hired as Preschool Teacher
for a New Corporate Sponsored Early Childhood Education Program. With
three weeks to prepare the environment and complete my training, before the
children were to start. I spent hours organizing (and reorganizing multiple
times) the materials, learning areas and extensively planning for our first day!

The Friday prior to the opening of the program was pretty standard, all of the
children’s files were up to date, tours had occurred, environment was set and
the lesson plans were carefully examined and neatly posted. Everything was in
place-Perfection!

With joyful excitement and a little anxiety we welcomed 8 new children to our
program Monday morning. As the children trickled in, one by one, their eyes
focused on the newness of the environment. My preconceived ideas and
expectations were shattered as I stood and observed the children moving
quickly from one area to the next and touching everything in sight. I had
erroneously thought they would sit and play with puzzles, paint at the easel
that was so aesthetically set up or build with the blocks that were strategically
placed on the carpet.

Instead, the children avoided those areas and aimlessly walked around the
classroom, looked through the cubbies, examined each shelf loaded with
learning materials. One item captured their attention more than any other- a
water dispenser with little Dixie cups, placed at their level. Each child was
fascinated by the ability to press the button and see water come out.

Much of the day was spent tirelessly cleaning up the water and trying to
redirect the children to play with the toys that were out rather than the water
dispenser. At the end of the day, when the children left, the teachers sat and
reflected on what worked and what didn’t work during the day. In unison, we
all said the water was an issue and we should remove it.

Then from across the room, our wise director intervened. He challenged us. It
appeared to him that we should focus on the children’s interest in the
dispenser. It provided children a new sense of independence (they could
access their own water when they were thirsty), and they were practicing
important problem solving skills and the concept of cause and effect while at
the same time mastering the fine motor skills of pushing the button. The
children were learning and mastering their new environment through active
exploration and using play as a technique to acquire new knowledge about the

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water dispenser. The children were most excited to come back the next day
and show their parents the water dispenser and how to operate it.

We changed our curriculum to additional activities to enhance this interest
such as using measuring cups to fill and dump water using our small water
table. After a week, their excitement for the dispenser dwindled and it became
routine and the children discovered the easel, the blocks and other materials
in their environment. I stop sometimes to recall this day and know that it
wasn’t what I taught the children, but rather what the children taught me
about how they want to learn.

Reflect
Consider an experience when you witnessed a child exploring a toy, learning
material, or a play space. Was there anything about the observation that
surprised you? In which ways, could you consider intentionality in relationship
to the observation. What types of play or stage did you witness during the
observation?

Developmentally Appropriate Practice
According to the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s Position Statement,
“The core of developmentally appropriate practice lies in…intentionality, in the knowledge that
practitioners consider when they are making decisions, and in their always aiming for goals that
are both challenging and achievable for children.” In order to do this they must use
developmentally appropriate practice (DAP). DAP includes three areas of knowledge:

1. Age-appropriateness – using what is known about child development and learning in
general

2. Individual-appropriateness – using what is known about each child as an individual to be
responsive to each child

3. Social- and cultural-appropriateness – using what is known about the social and cultural
context in which children live17

Head Start has guiding principles that reflect developmentally appropriate practice by an
intentional teacher.

• Each child is unique and can succeed

• Learning occurs with the contexts of relationships.

• Families are children’s first and most important caregivers, teachers, and advocates.

• Children learn best when they are emotionally and physically safe and secure.

17 National Association for the Education of Young Children. (2009) Developmentally Appropriate Practice in Early
Childhood Programs Serving Children from Birth through Age 8. Retrieved from
https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/resources/position-
statements/PSDAP

https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/resources/position-statements/PSDAP

https://www.naeyc.org/sites/default/files/globally-shared/downloads/PDFs/resources/position-statements/PSDAP

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• Areas of development are integrated, and children learn many concepts and skills at the
same time.

• Teaching must be intentional and focus on how children learn and grow.

• Every child has diverse strengths rooted in their family’s culture, background, language,
and beliefs.18

18 Head Start Early Learning Outcomes Framework by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is in the
public domain

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/elof-ohs-framework

https://www.hhs.gov/

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Section II: Developing
Curriculum to Support

Children’s Learning

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Chapter 3: The Cycle of Curriculum
Planning

Chapter Objectives
By the end of the chapter, you should be able to

• Explain how observation is the basis for curriculum planning

• Describe how to effectively document observations

• Connecting reflection to planning curriculum

• Discuss how the cycle of planning begins again as curriculum is implemented

• Summarize how curriculum planning occurs in a cycle

• Relate the importance of partnering with families

Planning Happens in a Cycle
To begin to understand how to plan effective, developmentally appropriate curriculum for
children, we must look at the context in which that planning should happen. Planning
everything, from the flow of the day, to how teachers design and stock the classroom
environment, to the way the spontaneous (unplanned) experiences of children are recognized
and valued, to the experiences teachers thoughtfully plan and intentionally implement,
happens in a continuous cycle. As we will discuss in this chapter that cycle begins with
observing and continues through documenting what was observed, reflecting on what it means
and how to plan to best support children, and then implementing those plans, before returning
back to observing.1

Planning curriculum for young children begins with teachers discovering, through careful
listening and observation, each child’s development. Observation is an essential skill for a
teacher. When teachers mindfully observe, they discover how individual children make
meaning in everyday moments of play and interactions and how to deepen their relationships
with children. Observing for the purpose of assessing individual children’s learning means
carefully watching and listening, with thought and reflection. In doing so, teachers find the
knowledge, awareness, and strategies that individual children have formed during their
experiences. It may be evidence that pertains to individual children’s emotional, social,
cognitive, or physical development. If the evidence is clear and significant, teachers can
preserve it through, for example, a note, a photo, or a sample of a child’s work.

Consider this example in which teachers found various ways in which the children’s
engagement in learning about snails related to the developmental profiles of different children:

1 Content by Jennifer Paris is licensed under CC BY 4.0

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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As the children’s interest in the snails continued, the teachers looked for ways to expand
learning opportunities and integrate them into the multifaceted experience. The
teachers also reviewed individual children’s developmental profiles to be mindful of
children’s developmental progress in different areas. In addition to the many counting
opportunities in the environment, the teachers decided to integrate counting into the
children’s exploration of snails. Younger children who were making progress with
learning to count objects between five and ten were invited to set up a specific number
(less than ten) of trays and snails.

Before the children started, the teachers reminded them of an earlier conversation about
how to care for snails. In response, one of the children asked to show the others how to
handle the snails gently. (Learning about counting was happening at the same time as
learning about controlling the impulse to handle other creatures roughly instead of being
gentle with them.) Teachers suggested to other children who were continuing to make
progress with counting to count out a quantity of sticks, bark, or leaves greater than ten.
Other children were asked to divide the snails evenly between the trays. The children
kept saying to themselves, “Be gentle,” and handled the snails with great care.

Figure 3.1: Handling the snail carefully.2

As teachers observed each group, they helped children develop mathematical thinking
by prompting them and asking questions. For example, at one table, a teacher noticed
that children were counting some sticks twice. She said, “I wonder what would happen if
we put each stick on the other side of the tray after counting it.” The children tried out
this idea. Teachers noted children’s efforts and placed the notes, with the date recorded,
into the children’s individual portfolios to be used as evidence for later reference when
considering developmental progress relating to number sense and impulse control.

As teachers observe children’s play and interactions, they discover ways to support children’s
learning. Ideas for the next steps in curriculum planning emerge as teachers reflect on how they

2 Image by Noj Han is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

Snail in the hand

IMG_3925-1

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

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might extend or expand children’s thinking, language, and interactions. Observation, reflection,
and documentation in the moment simultaneously launch an ongoing assessment of each
child’s progress in learning as well as the curriculum planning cycle.3

Here is a visual representation of the Curriculum Planning Cycle

Figure 3.2: The Curriculum Planning Cycle.4

Let’s explore each part of the cycle.

Observe
Observation means being present with children and attentive as they play and interact with
others and the environment. This mindful kind of presence is different from participating in
children’s play or directing their play. Whether for one minute or five, an attentive, mindful
presence means waiting to see what unfolds in order to gain a complete picture of children’s
play. A teacher who observes children as a first step in supporting learning discovers small
scientists at work—experimenting, comparing, making assumptions, evaluating assumptions

3 California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission (pg. 19-20)
4 Image by Ian Joslin references image by the California Department of Education

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://koolkoalaj.com/

https://koolkoalaj.com/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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through their actions. Over time, children build mastery of a wide range of concepts and skills.
The vignette about the snail exploration illustrates the role of the teacher as observer:

During small-group time with the snails, the teacher noticed a child who had been
reluctant to hold a snail. This child had a visual impairment. As the teacher gently placed
a snail on this child’s hand, two children watched and listened as the teacher
commented, “He’s sticking his head out now, and he’s turned toward your fingers. Can
you feel him crawling toward your fingers?” The other children who had been watching
intently began to repeat the teacher’s encouraging words, saying, “He’s sticking his head
out. He’s going toward your fingers!”

The teacher wrote down her observations and added an interpretive note that the
children’s behavior may be a growing sign of empathy as measured by the DRDP, and
the other child’s willingness to hold the snail, a growing sign of curiosity and initiative,
also a DRDP measure.5

Observation Happens Through Lenses
It takes practice to become a good observer. An important aspect of being a good observer
involves becoming aware of what is noticed and how observations are interpreted. Children
may be influenced by many things. Culture, temperament, personal experiences, professional
knowledge, and even community values and messages in the media affect how teachers see
and experience children. These “lenses” through which teachers observe and interpret are at
work even though they may not always be conscious of them.6

The Importance of Accuracy
Observations about children should be factual and objective to be useful and meaningful.
Teachers should document only what they see and hear (the facts) and avoid using words that
communicate judgment about a child’s feelings, intentions, and motivations; are ambiguous
and open to interpretation; or describe an opinion. One way teachers may think about their
own objectivity is to ask themselves: Am I describing this child’s behaviors and interactions in
the same or a similar way that someone else observing this child would describe them?
Interpreting the meaning of children’s behaviors and interactions is important, and impressions,
feelings, and insights about children are extremely valuable to the individualizing process.
However, teachers first need accurate, factual information in order to draw conclusions later on
about children’s skills, behavior, interests, and needs.7

5 California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
6 Observation: The Heart of Individualizing Responsive Care by the Office of Head Start is in the public domain
7 Observation: The Heart of Individualizing Responsive Care by the Office of Head Start is in the public domain (pg.
9)

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/ehs-ta-paper-15-observation

https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ohs

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/ehs-ta-paper-15-observation

https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ohs

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Pause to Reflect
Think about yourself as an observer. What do you think will come most easily
to you? What do you think will be more challenging?

Document
Documenting means gathering and holding evidence of children’s play and interests for future
use. A common form of documentation in early childhood settings is a written note, often
referred to as an observation anecdote. Anecdotal notes, along with other forms of
documentation, in particular photos, video recordings, and work samples, serve a dual purpose.
First, they preserve a teacher’s observations of children’s expressions of feelings, their thinking,
and their learning. These documentations are guides to the next steps in day-to-day curriculum
planning. And second, anecdotal notes and other evidence can be used to support a teacher’s
periodic assessment of a child’s progress. An episode during the snail exploration highlights the
dual purpose of documentation:

Figure 3.3: Holding a snail.8

During their initial encounters with the snails, the children asked questions and made
comments about the snail shells, the way the snails moved across the tray, and what the
snails ate. Although several children were reluctant to pick up the snails, others were
challenged by having to wait. The teachers recorded children’s distinct responses, writing
down significant elements of what children said or did. For example, for a child with
identified special needs related to self-regulation, a teacher noted: “Jasmine pushed
aside Yuri in order to pick up the snail crawling off the tray. Yuri stumbled, fell, and
began to cry. Jasmine continued to focus on the snail, saying nothing to Yuri.” For the

8 Image by mintchipdesigns on Pixabay

https://pixabay.com/photos/snail-girl-hand-child-little-500854/

https://pixabay.com/users/mintchipdesigns-522107/

https://pixabay.com/

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teacher, Jasmine’s behavior was significant. This anecdotal note provided some evidence
of Jasmine’s struggles with impulse control. It added to the growing evidence that
Jasmine was still developing impulse control and empathy. Later, as the teacher shared
her observation with her co-teacher and with Jasmine’s father in a conference, they
discussed how the small group work around keeping the snails safe might support
Jasmine as well as other children in reading cues of others and in thinking before acting
in order to keep people safe.9

Documenting What is Observed
Teachers must be intentional about capturing and recording what children do and say by
setting up a system for carrying out observations. There is no one right way to do this. Systems
will look different from program to program, and even classroom to classroom. Additionally,
observation systems are not static; they should be revisited as teachers become more
proficient in observing children and as children grow and develop. However, there are some
general strategies that should be considered when developing a system.

• Plan times to observe each child regularly and over time. This should include observing
children

o Across settings (e.g., indoor and outdoor) and times of the day (morning,
afternoon)

o During routines (e.g., mealtimes, naptime, arrival/departure, transitions)
o As they engage in spontaneous play experiences and planned activities and

experiences
o As they interact with other children and adults.

Figure 3.4: If this teacher has materials nearby, she can capture details on a great conversation the children are

having.10

9 California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission (pg. 21)
10 Image by Airman 1st Class Kathryn R.C. Reaves is in the public domain

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.shaw.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1439867/cdc-supporting-air-force-families/

56 | I n t r o d u c t i o n t o C u r r i c u l u m f o r E a r l y C h i l d h o o d E d u c a t i o n

• Plan for spontaneous observation opportunities, too.

• Have materials at hand to capture unexpected, but valuable observations of children.

• Decide how to organize and store observations with the system that works best for the
individual teacher or teaching team. For example:

o A file folder for each child kept in hanging files in file cabinet, large box, or crate
o Index cards in file box with a section for each child
o A 3-ring binder notebook for each child
o An accordion folder for each child
o Hanging shoe bag, with pockets labeled for each child

• Decide how often to review observations. A system for using the valuable date from
observations is an important part of the curriculum cycle. Some curriculum planning
may be easy to implement based on just casual observation. But deeper analysis of
observation of individual and groups of children will likely lend valuable insight in what
teachers can plan to support optimal development.

• Include families in this process. Invite them to share what they observe about their
children verbally, through pictures and photographs, or in writing.11

Portfolios

One way to document children’s development and learning are portfolios.
Portfolios are collections of children’s work, notes and photographs from
families, checklists and other print recording tools, and other items that
document what children know and can do. Written observation notes,
photos, and audio and video files may be included as part of the portfolio.
Portfolios may be physical, virtual (some online assessment tools allow
users to input observation notes and upload photos, video, and audio files
for each child), or a combination of both.

To be useful, portfolio items should:

• Be dated and filed in order

• Represent various parts of the program (e.g., routines, play
experiences, transitions)

• Present a balanced view of the child’s growth in all developmental
domains.

Over time, the portfolio collection serves as a concrete record of the child’s
progress toward individual goals as well as the program’s school readiness
goals, so it should be reviewed regularly with families. Teachers should
explain what they include in the portfolio and why they include it. They
should also actively encourage families to contribute information and items
to their child’s portfolio.12

11 Observation: The Heart of Individualizing Responsive Care by the Office of Head Start is in the public domain
12 Observation: The Heart of Individualizing Responsive Care by the Office of Head Start is in the public domain

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/ehs-ta-paper-15-observation

https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ohs

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/ehs-ta-paper-15-observation

https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ohs

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Pause to Reflect
As you think about how to document children’s learning, what systems do you
find most appealing? Which do you think would be most effective? Which are
least appealing or do you think would be least effective?

Reflect & Plan
As teachers reflect on children’s play, they discover possibilities for designing curriculum to
sustain, extend, and help children’s play to be more complex and, consequently, support the
children’s continuing learning.13

Teachers ask themselves questions about what the information they have documented in
observations of children says about the children’s development, interests, and needs. The
answers to these questions lead to individualizing care and learning. There are many questions
that teachers may ask themselves. For example:

• What developmental skill or activity does the child appear to be working on?

• What strategies does the child use to play with different toys?

• Does the child engage with objects or people differently than a month ago? What has
changed? What has not changed?

• Do my actions/the actions of other adults who interact with the child affect the
outcomes of the child’s experience? How so?

• How does the information relate to goals for the child? The family’s goals? The
program’s school readiness goals?

• What other information do I need?

• What questions do I have for the child’s family?

It is during the reflective process that interpreting the meaning of children’s behaviors and
interactions becomes important. These interpretations and insights give rise to each child’s
story. Each child’s story informs responsive practice.
Teachers use what they know about each child to

• Adapt the environment

• Modify the daily schedule and/or routines

• Make decisions about how to guide the children’s learning based on what the child
knows and can do as well as what the child is ready to try.14

That process of reflections then informs possible next steps in the curriculum. Possible steps
might include adding materials to interest areas, books to read with large or small groups,
activities to do in small groups, or a topic to investigate over time with the children. With clear

13 California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
14 Observation: The Heart of Individualizing Responsive Care by the Office of Head Start is in the public domain

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/ehs-ta-paper-15-observation

https://www.acf.hhs.gov/ohs

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ideas or objectives in mind, teachers plan curriculum that includes strategies to enhance the
learning of all children in a group, as well as strategies to support the learning of individual
children. Here is how reflection, discussion, and planning worked in the snail exploration:

While the children were exploring snails, teachers met each week to reflect and plan for
the next steps in the children’s explorations. They decided to schedule time for small
groups of children to explore the snails in a more focused way, hoping to extend the
children’s learning and add complexity. The teachers planned a series of walks that
would allow all the children to find snails in natural habitats.15

Figure 3.5: Teachers meeting.16

Pause to Reflect
Think back to something in your childhood that you were passionately
interested or engaged in that someone observing you could have documented.
What questions could your teachers have asked themselves about your
experiences? How could they have planned?

(If it’s easier or more relevant, you can think of a child you know and consider
what you can ask yourself and plan around what you know about that child.)

Implement
Once a plan is written, teachers implement it. While implementing a plan, teachers observe,
reflect, and document. The curriculum-planning cycle begins again (or continues) as teachers
watch to discover how children respond to the planned curriculum and how children show
evidence of their development during the planned learning encounters. Teachers often

15 California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
16 Image by Christina Morillo on Pexels

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.pexels.com/photo/three-woman-having-a-meeting-1181626/

https://www.pexels.com/@divinetechygirl

https://www.pexels.com/

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approach this step with a sense of wonder, for they may be surprised and amazed by the
children’s responses.

To hold the responses in memory, teachers may record notes, take a photo, or label, date, and
keep a work sample, all of which they can later review to assess the impact of the curriculum
plans. The evidence collected will help teachers to come up with ideas for supporting and
assessing the children’s learning. Teachers might ponder the following questions:

• Are children responding as predicted, or were there surprises?

• What do the children’s responses tell us? How might we name the children’s interest(s)
or intention(s)? What concepts and ideas are the children forming within their play?

• How might children who are English learners and children who speak English collaborate
in small groups to learn from one another?

• Are children showing evidence of progress on any of the measures of the DRDP?

Here is what happened when the teachers implemented their idea of going on walks with the
children to find snails in natural habitats:

Before going on their snail hunt, a small group of children gathered on a blanket with
the teacher. Each child was provided with a clipboard with paper for taking “notes”
while the teacher explained how the walk would be a way to find snails that lived outside
their classroom. Some children pretended to write while the teacher talked, while others
drew pictures of snails. In this group, teachers included two children who were fluent in
Spanish and learning English. The teachers anticipated much conversation among
children during the search for the snails and wanted to give these children a chance to
converse in their home language as well as to share experiences with peers who spoke
only English.

Figure 3.6: Children watching the teacher write.17

Before heading off on the hunt, the teacher suggested, “Let’s estimate. How many snails
do you think we will find? Each of you can guess.” On a large sheet of paper that the

17 Image by Jackie is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Cool Kid

Charging up for Hallowmas

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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children could easily see, she wrote each child’s name, saying each letter as she did so,
and next to each name, the number guessed by that child.

Armed with magnifying glasses, the children went off to collect snails. There were many
discoveries along the walk, not just snails. As children found snails, they carried them to
a large examination tray set up on a table. Some children took a break from their snail
search to examine, touch, and draw the snails already collected. At the end of the hunt,
the children lined up the snails on a small log and counted them. The teacher suggested
that they compare the number they counted with their estimates.

Before returning to their classroom, the children put the snails back into their natural
habitats. The children were excited about sharing their experiences with other teachers
and peers when they returned.

The teachers examined and reflected on what they saw in the children’s writings and
drawings on the clipboards. They decided that some of the work samples were
significant in showing how individual children were developing an idea, concept, or skill.
They filed those samples in the children’s portfolios as evidence of developmental
progress.18

Pause to Reflect
What happens when implementation goes differently than expected? What
would have happened if the children had discovered and become fascinated
with dandelions on their hunt for snails (and subsequently lost interest in the
snails)? Does curriculum have to go as planned? Why or why not?

Partnering with Families in Curriculum Planning
As the snail-exploration vignette illustrates in several places, teachers also include the
children’s families in supporting children’s learning. Teachers find it particularly helpful to share
documentation of children’s learning with children’s family members. When families and
teachers reflect together on documentation of children’s play and learning, family members
offer insights into the children’s behavior and ideas, as well as share expectations of their
children at home or in the community. Teachers also provide resources to families in order to
bridge children’s experiences in preschool with experiences at home and in the community. For
example, the teachers used the children’s interest in the snails to support family members’
participation in creating learning opportunities in the following way:

During the snail exploration, teachers posted near the entry a note with a photo of
children exploring snails at the science table.

18 California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Figure 3.7: Taking a closer look at the snails.19

They suggested to families to consider doing a snail hunt on the way to school, in a park,
or in a yard. A stack of copies of the snail diagram with the words eyes, tentacles, and
shell written in Spanish, English, and Russian was available for family members to take
with them.20

How It’s All Connected
The snail vignette illustrates how teachers can help children make connections and thereby
make meaning. This exploration allowed children to investigate and learn about creatures from
the outdoor environment in the classroom. In doing so, the children were able to make
meaning about snails’ natural habitats while encountering opportunities to engage in
integrated learning in every domain.

Young children’s experiences at home and in their communities are a powerful source of
connections. Teachers nurture children’s appetites for learning and making meaning by building
upon the knowledge children bring to the preschool setting. For example, children may come to
preschool with knowledge of many family stories. Their teachers may have observed that the
children used the stories in the dramatic play area. However, the children did not seem to be
aware that their stories could be written down and then read by someone else. In such a case,
teachers can partner with families to create a story dictation study. In planning the snail
exploration, the teachers and family members may ask:

• Would the children be interested in seeing their family stories written down, and would
such experiences help them increase their awareness of print in the world around
them?

• What strategies or adaptations might help a child who is nonverbal to become engaged
in family storytelling?

19 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission
20 California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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• Would children in the group who are English learners make the connection to print
more easily if they can dictate their stories in their home language to family members or
community volunteers?

• What topics may be interesting and engaging for children to dictate? What kinds of
questions would help individual children, English learners, or children with diverse
cultural experiences to get started with dictation?

• How might the activity be adapted to accommodate children with disabilities or other
special needs?

• Would asking children about how their family helps them get ready for preschool
encourage them to dictate a meaningful experience?

• Would a child who likes to draw pictures have an easy time dictating a story about a
drawing?

Teachers can explore these questions and see where the exploration leads.21

Conclusion
When teachers embed children’s learning into their lives, into contexts that they have
experienced, teachers make everything more comprehensible for them. Teachers also engage
children’s emotions, making the experience both cognitive and pleasurable. The key is to find
out which connections are meaningful for each individual child. When teachers discover what
may be personally meaningful for a child, there is a good chance of fully engaging that child in
making meaning and learning.22

21 California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission (pg. 23-24)
22 California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission (pg. 24)

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Chapter 4: Developing Curriculum for a
Play Centered Approach

Figure 4.1: There are a variety of ways to organize planning experiences.1

Chapter Objectives
At the end of this chapter, students will be able to:

• Identify curriculum models for developing curriculum

• Connect child development theories to the various models

• Explore samples of a variety of forms for planning (Specific Activity Plan, weekly
environmental plans, project plans, etc…)

• Review vignettes of classroom experiences to inspire development of curriculum

Curriculum Models
Curriculum Models provide a framework to organize planning experiences for children. In
previous chapters, the planning cycle has been introduced and in accordance with best
practices, the models identified in this chapter represent a variety of ways to use the planning
cycle within these models.

Bank Street Model
Lucy Sprague Mitchell founded Bank Street, an Integrated Approach also referred to as the
Developmental-Interactionist Approach.

In this model, the environment is arranged into learning centers and planning is organized by
the use of materials within the learning areas (centers).

• Art

• Science

1 Image by Efraimstochter on pixabay

https://pixabay.com/photos/soap-bubbles-make-soap-bubbles-child-322212/

https://pixabay.com/users/Efraimstochter-12351/

https://pixabay.com/

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• Sensory/Cooking

• Dramatic Play

• Language/Literacy

• Math/Manipulative/Blocks

• Technology

• Outdoors: Water and Sand Play

The Bank Street Model of curriculum represents the ideology of Freud, Erikson, Dewey,
Vygotsky, and Piaget. This model draws upon the relationship between psychology and
education. By understanding developmental domains and creating interest centers with
materials that promote specific areas of development, children’s individual preferences and
paces of learning are the focus.

“A teacher’s knowledge and understanding of child development is crucial to this approach.
Educational goals are set in terms of developmental processes and include the development of
competence, a sense of autonomy and individuality, social relatedness and connectedness,
creativity and integration of different ways of experiencing the world” (Gordon).2

Creative Curriculum Model (Diane Trister Dodge)
In the Creative Curriculum model, the focus is primarily on children’s play and self-selected
activities. The Environment is arranged into learning areas and large blocks of time are given for
self-selected play. This model focuses on project-based investigations as a means for children to
apply skills and addresses four areas of development: social/emotional, physical, cognitive, and
language.

The curriculum is designed to foster development of the whole child through teacher-led, small
and large group activities centered around 11 interest areas:

• blocks

• dramatic play

• toys and games

• art

• library

• discovery

• sand and water

• music and movement

• cooking

• computers

• outdoors.

2 Gordon, A. M. & Browne, K. W. (2001) Beginnings and Beyond, 8th edition. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. (pg.
364)

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The commercial curriculum provides teachers with details on child development, classroom
organization, teaching strategies, and engaging families in the learning process. Child
assessments are an important part of the curriculum, but must be purchased separately. Online
record-keeping tools assist teachers with the maintenance and organization of child portfolios,
individualized planning, and report production.3

High Scope Model (David Weikert)
The High Scope Model focuses on developing learning centers similar to the Bank Street Model
and emphasizes key experiences for tracking development. The key experiences are assessed
using a Child Observation Record for tracking development and include areas of:

• Creative Representation

• Initiative

• Social Relations

• Language and Literacy

• Math (Classification, Seriation, Number, Space, Time)

• Music and Movement

The High Scope Model also includes a “Plan-Do-Review” Sequence in which children begin their
day planning for activities they will participate in, followed by participation in the activities and
engaging in a review session at the end of the day. Teachers can use this sequence format to
help children learn how to organize choices of activities and to reflect upon what they liked or
would do different at the end of the day. The High Scope Model reflects the theories of Piaget,
Vygotsky and Reggio Emilia by way of emphasis on construction of knowledge through hands-
on experiences with reflection techniques.

Montessori Approach (Dr. Maria Montessori)
The Montessori Approach refers to children’s activity as work (not play); children are given long
periods of time to work and a strong emphasis on individual learning and individual pace is
valued. Central to Montessori’s method of education is the dynamic triad of child, teacher and
environment. One of the teacher’s roles is to guide the child through what Montessori termed
the ‘prepared environment, i.e., a classroom and a way of learning that are designed to support
the child’s intellectual, physical, emotional and social development through active exploration,
choice and independent learning.

The educational materials have a self-correcting focus and areas of the curriculum consist of
art, music, movement, practical life (example; pouring, dressing, cleaning). In the Montessori
method, the goal of education is to allow the child’s optimal development (intellectual,
physical, emotional and social) to unfold.

3 The Creative Curriculum for Preschool, Fourth Edition by the U.S. Department of Education is in the public
domain

https://ies.ed.gov/ncee/wwc/Docs/InterventionReports/wwc_creativecurriculum_081109

https://www.ed.gov/

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A typical Montessori program will have mixed-age grouping. Children are given the freedom to
choose what they work on, where they work, with whom they work, and for how long they
work on any particular activity, all within the limits of the class rules. No competition is set up
between children, and there is no system of extrinsic rewards or punishments.4

Waldorf Approach (Rudolf Steiner)
The Waldorf Approach, founded by Rudolf Steiner, features connections to nature, sensory
learning, and imagination. The understanding of the child’s soul, of his or her development and
individual needs, stands at the center of Steiner’s educational world view.

The Waldorf approach is child centered.5 It emerges from a deep understanding of child
development and seeks to support the particular developmental tasks (physical, emotional and
intellectual) children face at any given stage. Children aged 3–5, for example, are developing a
keen interest in the world, supported to a large extent by freedom of movement and must be
supported to follow and deepen their curiosity through the encouragement of their sometimes
endless asking of questions (Van Alphen & Van Alphen 1997). This approach to supporting
children’s naturally blossoming curiosity, rather than answering the teachers’ questions. At this
stage, children’s play becomes increasingly complex, with children spontaneously engaging in
role plays, as they construct and act upon imaginative situations based on their own
experiences and stories they have heard. Thus, in Waldorf schools, ample time is given for free
imaginative play as a cornerstone of children’s early learning.6

The environment should protect children from negative influences and curriculum should
include exploring nature through gardening, but also developing in practical skills, such as
cooking, sewing, cleaning, etc. Relationships are important so groupings last for several years,
by way of looping.

Reggio Emilia Approach (Loris Malaguzzi)
The Reggio Emilia approach to early childhood education is based on over forty years of
experience in the Reggio Emilia Municipal Infant/toddler and Preschool Centers in Italy. Central
to this approach is the view that children are competent and capable.

It places emphasis on children’s symbolic languages in the context of a project-oriented
curriculum. Learning is viewed as a journey and education as building relationships with people
(both children and adults) and creating connections between ideas and the environment.
Through this approach, adults help children understand the meaning of their experience more
completely through documentation of children’s work, observations, and continuous teacher-
child dialogue. The Reggio approach guides children’s ideas with provocations—not

4 Montessori education: a review of the evidence base by Chloë Marshall is licensed under CC BY 4.0
5 On the Unique Place of Art in Waldorf Education by Gilad Goldshmidt is licensed under CC BY 4.0
6 Imagination, Waldorf, and critical literacies: Possibilities for transformative education in mainstream schools by
Monica Shank is licensed under CC BY 2.0

https://rw.org.za/index.php/rw/article/view/99/251#CIT0018_99

https://www.nature.com/articles/s41539-017-0012-7

file:///C:/Users/Alexa/Desktop/Work/ECE%20104/Chloë%20Marshall

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://oapub.org/edu/index.php/ejes/article/view/848/2420

http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://rw.org.za/index.php/rw/article/view/99/251

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predetermined curricula. There is collaboration on many levels: parent participation, teacher
discussions, and community.

Within the Reggio Emilia schools, great attention is given to the look and feel of the classroom.
Environment is considered the “third teacher.” Teachers carefully organize space for small and
large group projects and small intimate spaces for one, two, or three children. Documentation
of children’s work, plants, and collections that children have made from former outings are
displayed both at the children’s and adult’s eye level. Common space available to all children in
the school includes dramatic play areas and worktables.

There is a center for gathering called the atelier (art studio) where children and children from
different classrooms can come together. The intent of the atelier in these schools is to provide
children with the opportunity to explore and connect with a variety of media and materials. The
studios are designed to give children time, information, inspiration, and materials so that they
can effectively express their understanding through the “inborn inheritance of our universal
language, the language that speaks with the sounds of the lips and of the heart, the children’s
learning with their actions, their signs, and their eyes: those “hundred languages” that we know
to be universal. There is an atelierista (artist) to support this process and instruct children in
arts.7

7 Reggio Emilia Theory and Application by One Community is licensed under CC BY 3.0

Reggio Emilia Theory and Application

https://www.onecommunityglobal.org/

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Figure 4.3: Curriculum models.8

8 Image by Ian Joslin is licensed under CC BY 4.0

https://koolkoalaj.com/

https://koolkoalaj.com/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

69 | I n t r o d u c t i o n t o C u r r i c u l u m f o r E a r l y C h i l d h o o d E d u c a t i o n

Figure 4.4: Curriculum models.9

9 Image by Ian Joslin is licensed under CC BY 4.0

https://koolkoalaj.com/

https://koolkoalaj.com/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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Webbing
The Reggio Emilia Approach is an emergent curriculum. One method that many Early Childhood
Educators use when planning emergent curriculum is curriculum webbing based on observed
skills or interests. This method uses brainstorming to create ideas and connections from
children’s interests to enhance developmental skills. Webbing can look like a “Spider’s Web” or
it can be organized in list format.

Example:

Figure 4.2: An example of webbings.10

Webbing can be completed by:

• An individual teacher

• A team of teachers

• Teachers and Children

• Teachers, Children and Families

Webbing provides endless planning opportunities as extensions continue from observing the
activities and following the skills and interests exhibited. As example demonstrates a web can

10 Image by Ian Joslin is licensed under CC BY 4.0

https://koolkoalaj.com/

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begin from a skill to develop, but it can also be used in a Theme/Unit Approach such as
transportation; friendships; animals, nature, etc…

Project Approach
The project approach is an in-depth exploration of a topic that may be child-or teacher-initiated
and involve an individual, a group of children, or the whole class. A project may be short-term
or long-term depending on the level of children’s interests. What differentiates the project
approach from an inquiry one is that within the project approach there is an emphasis on the
creation of a specific outcome that might take the form of a spoken report, a multimedia
presentation, a poster, a demonstration or a display. The project approach provides
opportunities for children to take agency of their own learning and represent this learning
through the construction of personally meaningful artefacts. If utilized effectively, possible
characteristics may include: active, agentic, collaborative, explicit, learner-focused, responsive,
scaffolded, playful, language-rich and dialogic.11

In the project approach, adults and children investigate topics of discovery using six steps:
Observation, Planning, Research, Exploration, Documentation, Evaluation.

1. Observation: A teacher observes children engaging with each other or with materials
and highlights ideas from the observations to further explore.

2. Planning: Teachers talk with children about the observation and brainstorm ideas about
the topic and what to explore

3. Research: Teachers find resources related to the topic
4. Explore: Children engage with experiences set around the topic to create hypotheses

and make predictions and formulate questions
5. Documentation: Teachers write notes, create charts and children draw observations and

fill in charts as they explore topics/questions
6. Evaluate: Teachers and children can reflect on the hypotheses originally developed and

compare their experiences to predictions. Evaluation is key in determining skills
enhanced and what worked or what didn’t work and why.

The benefits of a project approach are that young learners are directly involved in making
decisions about the topic focus and research questions, the processes of investigation and in
the selection of the culminating activities. When young learners take an active role in decision
making, agency and engagement is promoted.

As young learners take ownership of their learning they, ‘feel increasingly competent and sense
their own potential for learning so they develop feelings of confidence and self-esteem’ (Chard,
2001).12

11 Age Appropriate Pedagogies Project by Hanstweb is licensed under CC BY
12 Age Appropriate Pedagogies Project by Hanstweb is licensed under CC BY

https://earlychildhood.qld.gov.au/earlyYears/Documents/age-appropriate-pedagogies-project-approach.DOCX

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Culturally Appropriate Approach
The Cultural Appropriate Approach has evolved over the years and the practice of valuing
children’s culture is imperative for children to feel a sense of belonging in ECE programs.
Sensitivity to the variety of cultures within a community can create a welcoming atmosphere
and teach children about differences and similarities among their peers. Consider meeting with
families prior to starting the program to share about cultural beliefs, languages and or
traditions. Classroom areas can reflect the cultures in many ways:

• Library Area: Select books that represent cultures in the classroom

• Dramatic Area: Ask families to donate empty boxes of foods they commonly use, bring
costumes or clothes representative of culture

• Language: In writing center include a variety of language dictionaries;

• Science: Encourage families to come and share a traditional meal13

Creating Effective Curriculum
Children reveal their thinking through their behavior in play and interactions with others. The
thinking children reveal informs the reflective curriculum planning process. As described in the
introductory chapter of this book, the Curriculum-Planning Process begins with observation and
reflection of children’s play and interactions. Teachers document significant moments they wish
to remember about what they see or hear, in order to share their observations with others.
They discuss and interpret the documentation in order to plan what to do next to support the
children’s thinking and learning. A plan is then put into writing and implemented, and as it is
implemented, teachers continue to observe, reflect, document, and interpret. This ongoing
process generates a cycle of curriculum planning that incorporates the essential components of
observation, documentation, interpretation, planning, and implementation.

Curriculum for young children is most effective when it is dynamic, co-constructed, and
responsive.14

The Dynamic Process
Curriculum planning for young children is a dynamic process that takes into account children’s
ideas and interests. As stated earlier, infant/toddler and preschool curriculum should reflect the
unique context of each group of children, families, and teachers. The curriculum plan that
works well for one group of children may generate little interest in another group of children.15

For Example:

A group of children living near a large urban park may have the opportunity to
experience several trips to check on a nest with eggs laid by one of the ducks

13 Child Growth and Development by Jennifer Paris, Antoinette Ricardo, and Dawn Rymond is licensed under CC BY
4.0
14 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission
15 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission

mailto:https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

mailto:https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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living at the pond nearby. The ducks, their habitat, and the eggs become the
object of study for several weeks, as the children discuss, tell stories, plan ways to
protect the eggs from danger, and count the days of waiting. The teachers did
not anticipate this curriculum prior to the discovery of the duck nest, yet the duck
nest became part of their curriculum plans. Another group of three- and four-
year-olds in a different program in the same city might be developing the same
emerging skills and learning the same concepts yet be focused on their classroom
pet—a tree frog—exploring his food likes and discovering how to maintain his
habitat in a way that keeps him healthy and thriving. Like most journeys, early
childhood curriculum follows a course that is unique for each group of children,
with unpredictable content from group to group and from setting to setting.16

What is constant and predictable in a dynamically generated curriculum is the foundation of
concepts and skills that teachers support as children pursue ideas and topics of interest.
Through professional preparation, teachers who work with young children understand how to
recognize the concepts and skills described in California’s early learning foundations. Teachers
look for opportunities to engage the minds of young children in meaningful play, interaction,
conversation, and investigation—creating curriculum that nurtures the inquisitive minds of the
children and connects with their experiences and developing knowledge and skills. Dynamic
curriculum emerges throughout the year and changes each year as teachers respond to the
unique teaching opportunities that present themselves.17

Co-Constructed Curriculum
Early childhood curriculum is co-constructed with input from family members, teachers, and
the children themselves. Teachers and families observe and reflect together on children’s
experiences and generate many possible ideas for what new experiences or materials might
extend and render more complex and coherent children’s thoughts, feelings, and ideas. In
volume 2 of the California Preschool Curriculum Framework (CDE 2011b), the story of children’s
investigation of fresh food from the garden illustrates the dynamic and co-constructed nature
of early childhood curriculum. In this excerpt from a vignette in volume 2 (CDE 2011b, 17), the
teachers describe how they generate possibilities for exploring this topic with a group of three-
and four-year-olds:18

16 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission
17 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission
18 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Vignettes
In this project, both parents and teachers wanted to find ways to support
children’s health and nutrition, a desire that emerged during a presentation
at a parent meeting on nutrition and obesity prevention in young children.
Many of the parents were surprised to learn that “picky eating” is a stage
that can evolve into long-term resistance to eating fruits and vegetables
and that one way to prevent children from becoming resistant is to
encourage them to try a variety of fresh produce.

An idea that emerged from the discussion was to give children a series of
opportunities to explore and taste fresh fruits, vegetables, and other edible
plants in their natural, preprocessed state. Parents and teachers together
began to think about the varied smells, textures, colors, and tastes of locally
grown fruits, vegetables, and edible plants that young children could
explore.

In this particular vignette, the teachers and families co-construct an idea for
a curriculum project. In other situations, an idea that becomes the topic for
an ongoing investigation might come from a child. When an idea for a
curriculum project is proposed, teachers generate possibilities for how that
idea might be explored, being mindful of how, within the investigation or
project, children might have an opportunity to use emerging foundational
skills and concepts. The teachers invite families to join them in coming up
with ideas for the investigation. In the investigation of fresh foods from the
garden, the following planning question guided discussions among teachers
and families: How might we give children an opportunity to explore and
learn about fresh fruits and vegetables grown in the garden?

Reflecting on different possibilities, the teachers became curious to see
what children would do if given the chance to explore root crops such as
carrots, beets, or onions that still had stems and leaves attached. Teachers
shared this idea with children’s families through a note near the sign-in
sheet. Soon after the note was posted, one of the parents brought in big
bunches of fresh mint that she was ready to remove from an overgrown
section of her yard. Other families responded to the note by offering to
bring in cucumbers, apples, and lemons from local gardens or farmers
markets. Teachers began to anticipate the ways in which children might
build emerging skills, concepts, and ideas in exploring these plants.

In the preceding example, teachers are aware of how this topic holds
possibilities for children’s learning to extend to multiple domains of study.
Children will have opportunity to use foundational concepts in mathematics
and science, story comprehension and language, as well as skills in drawing

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and painting, among others. Teachers will also look forward to sharing and
naming for families their children’s learning, as the investigation directly
connects with key concepts and skills children are acquiring in each of the
domains of learning.19

Responsive Approach
Early childhood curriculum planning is responsive to the interests and opportunities that exist
in a group of children, families, and community. This means that as they plan, teachers observe
and listen to children’s ideas. Curriculum plans that are dynamic, collaboratively constructed
with children, and responsive put children’s thinking at the center of the curriculum planning
process. Teachers should be reflecting on what is meaningful to the children within their
community. Rinaldi (2006a) offers this advice on how to approach curriculum planning that is
responsive to children’s thinking: “What kind of context, what kind of possibility can you offer
to the children for the next step and the next step, not because you know the next step, but
because you want to offer [them] a possibility for going deeper and deeper in their research?”

A written plan that is responsive is seen as holding “possibilities” for children’s inquiry, rather
than delivered as an activity focused solely on a particular skill. A responsive plan may be
proposed as a question—“What might happen if we . . .?” or, “In what ways will the children
explore . . .?” When posed as a question, the plan prompts teachers to observe what ensues
and to record what delights, surprises, amazes, or puzzles the children. Mindfully noting
children’s responses adds to teachers’ understanding of how children are thinking and making
sense of the experience. A responsive plan is more than simply the proposed activity written on
a planning form. It includes observations of what occurs and teachers’ interpretations of what
children appear to be thinking and feeling during the experience. The following table illustrates
how teachers might create a plan that offers possibilities for children to explore, along with
examples of observations and interpretations of how children engage with the materials. The
interpretations will inform what might come next in the curriculum as well as inform the
ongoing assessment of children’s learning.20

19 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission
20 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission; Content
by Clint Springer is licensed under CC BY 4.0

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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Table 4.1: Plan of Possibilities

Plan of Possibilities21

Planning Question: “What will happen when the toddlers encounter squeeze bottles in the play
spaces?”

Observation:
Photos
Taken

Interpretation:

Jerrod wrapped his fingers around the
bottle, but no liquid emerged. Elaine
makes a steady stream of water emerge
from her squeeze bottle. She looks at
Jerod, frowning and whining, and then
reaches over and squeezes Jerrod’s bottle
for him. He smiles, but then pushes her
hand away and tries squeezing the bottle
again.

Alexander and Raj find the squeeze bottles
in the play kitchen and squeeze imaginary
liquid into pots on the stove. Raj directs
Alexander: “Like this! Put some in the
soup.”

X

This was a struggle for J., because he still
grasps and holds things with his full hand.
[DRDP (CDE 2015) Fine Motor]. We may
want to adapt the object using a bottle that
is easier to squeeze (i.e., easier to grasp
and hold), so that he can experience
success.

E. interacts in simple ways with familiar
peers as they play side by side. [DRDP (CDE
2015) Social and Emotional Understanding]
She wants to help J in a simple way.

A. & J. incorporate this simple tool into
their pretend play [DRDP (CDE 2015)
Symbolic Play.] Adding plastic squeeze
bottles that are easier to squeeze will also
offer an element of discovery for the
others, who might begin to experiment
with the pressure they need to exert in
order to make the water flow.

DRDP refers to the Desired Results Developmental Profile (CDE 2015), a periodic assessment of
an infant’s learning. The Plan of Possibilities was adapted and used with permission (Maguire-
Fong 2015).

It is the careful observation and documentation of what children do and say as they play that
generates ideas for the next steps in the investigation. The next step might simply be to change
or add materials, as a way of extending or adding complexity to the play and to offer children
opportunities to build and to use emerging concepts and skills. Teachers look for moments in
which the children are amazed or surprised. Documentation of what children found unexpected
not only provides evidence of their sense of wonder about what people and things are like and
the way things work, but it also guides what to plan next in the curriculum.22

21 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission
22 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Contexts for Written Plans
Early childhood teachers write plans sometimes for an individual child, sometimes for a small
group of children, and sometimes for the entire group of children.23

Individual Plans
One-on-one moments of teaching and learning play a major role in early childhood settings.
Early childhood teaching requires that teachers be present to guide individual children when
needed, adapting their teaching to support each child’s individual learning. For example, some
children may be somewhat cautious in joining others in play, but may become excited about
the possibility if the teacher accompanies them into the area where a group of children are
playing together. An early childhood teacher will note this cautious aspect of a child’s
temperament. The teacher may make a plan to include watching for opportunities to be a
“social bridge” of support for the child who tends to be cautious, helping that child with joining
the other children’s ongoing play. The following vignette taken from volume 1 of the California
Preschool Curriculum Framework (CDE 2010a, 76) illustrates the teacher’s role.

Vignette
Lucas stands close to his caregiver, Ms. Mai, who is sitting in the block area.
Ms. Mai observes Lucas watching his peers at play as they build a large
train. “This train is getting really big,” she comments to Lucas with a soft
smile and a gentle hand on his back. Lucas nods his head slowly. “I wonder
if Martin needs a helper. He said he is the engineer, but an engineer needs
a conductor. Would you like to hand out and collect tickets?” Lucas nods his
head again and reaches for Ms. Mai’s hand as she gets up to move closer to
the train. Ms. Mai provides Lucas her hand and another reassuring smile.
“You could let Martin know you want to help. Tell Martin ‘I can collect the
tickets.’’ Lucas pauses and then mumbles (or signs), “Martin, I can collect
tickets.” “You all look like you are having fun over here. Lucas wants to help
too. Where are the tickets for Lucas to pass out to your riders?” restates
Ms. Mai. “Oh! Over there,” responds Martin, pointing over to the basket of
torn pieces of paper.

“Thanks, Martin, for your help. Lucas, let’s go get the tickets and hand them
to our friends. I think these builders will want to fill the train with
passengers,” observes Ms. Mai excitedly.”

In this vignette, the teacher is aware of Lucas’ caution in entering the play, yet his strong
awareness and most likely his desire to enter the social play become part of his individualized
curriculum plan. Because such individualized curriculum is a component of early childhood
teaching, the teacher–children ratio must be kept sufficiently low to allow the teacher to know

23 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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in depth how each child is developing and learning. In infant/toddler programs, assigning a
primary care teacher who stays with three or four children throughout infancy, makes it
possible for teachers to know each child well and tailor individualized plans to support each
child’s learning and development.

Many programs use a child portfolio system to record ongoing individualized curriculum plans.
A portfolio tells the story of a child’s developmental progress. It may include periodic
psychometric assessments of the child as well as planning notes specific to the child. It may also
include notes of what the child did in response to the plans, photos, or work samples that give
insight into the child’s progress. A child’s portfolio allows a teacher to track a child’s individual
needs, keep a record of what is planned to support those needs, and document progress in
learning. Such individualized planning is not posted, like the plans designed for groups of
children, but the plans in each child’s portfolio are regularly reviewed and shared with families.
Here is an example of an individualized curriculum plan:

Observation Notes
Observation: Lucas is somewhat cautious in joining others in play. He stands to the side
and watches others as they play.

Interpretation and Plan: Lucas appears to want to join the play, but may need just a little
bit of support. I plan to watch for moments when he is on the side- lines of play, find
ways to invite him into the social play, and stay with him to support him in his
encounters with the other children.

In this example, the teacher knows about temperamental differences and knows how to
assume the role of “social bridge” to assist the child to join other children’s ongoing play.
Planning to be a “social bridge” for a child with a cautious temperament is part of a larger
individual plan. Lucas’ teacher recognizes that Lucas will have opportunities to learn various
skills in an integrated way when he joins the social play. The teacher watches for ways in which
this social context prompts the child to express and manage emotions, to understand and use
language, to collaborate with others, and to solve problems. Individualized planning applies to
all areas of learning and tends to highlight those concepts and skills that children would
otherwise miss the opportunity to build if teachers developed plans only for the large group of
children.

Another of the over-arching principles from the California Preschool Curriculum Framework
states that individualization of learning includes all children. Of course, some children have
individual plans developed by specialists to address the children’s developmental needs. For
children under age three, those plans are called Individual Family Service Plans (IFSPs), and for
children over age three they are called Individualized Education Programs (IEPs). For children
who have one of these, it is helpful for the teacher to know how to support the identified goals,
outcomes, or objectives in the early childhood setting. With parental permission, the teacher
can either be a part of the planning process or communicate with the team that developed the

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plan. More information on this process can be found in chapters 1 and 5 of Inclusion Works!
(CDE 2009b).24

Group Plans
Teachers also regularly prepare written plans to organize experiences for the full group of
children in a classroom or program. These plans are posted in a predictable place and
referenced throughout the day or the week by the teachers and the families. These group plans
may be daily or weekly plans. Group plans describe possibilities for experiences that relate to
either a small group or a large group of children. A small group is typically a teacher-guided
experience with four to eight children. The following vignette from volume 1 of the California
Preschool Curriculum Framework (CDE 2010a, 17) illustrates how teachers plan for a small-
group context:

Vignette
During one of their discussions about their observations of the children’s
interest in the snails, the teachers . . . decided to do focused exploration of
snails, with small groups of four to six children. In a small group, children
would have an easier time building relationships with each other and with
the teacher, a learning goal for the whole class. With each small group, the
teacher helped the children create a snail habitat in the science interest
area. The children could return to the interest area throughout the day for
exploration. The teacher and small group worked together over days to
transform a glass terrarium into a habitat for snails, with dirt, plants, and
enough space for other small creatures.

Planning for a Large Group Context:
The /s/ sound in the new and now popular words— snails and slugs—
“slippery snails and slugs slowly slithering make slimy stripes.” She knew
how much the children enjoyed chants, songs, and finger plays. She also
knew the value in helping children to hear and make distinct sounds of oral
language.

In the large group, the teachers pointed out that a new kind of helper had
been added to the helper chart. Now, two of the children would be “snail
helpers.” From then on, each day during large-group time, children checked
to see whose name cards had been placed next to the snail photo on the
helper chart. In the large group, children reported on some of the things
they had been doing in their small-group explorations of snails.

Posting the daily or weekly group plan is important. What teachers record on the posted daily
or weekly curriculum plan organizes the possibilities for that day or that week and makes the

24 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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plan for learning visible to anyone who reads it. The posted plan should serve as an organizing
tool for teachers to know easily what comes next. In an early childhood setting, unless the
program is a small family child care home, there are typically two or more staff members who
care for the children. A written plan posted in a central location serves as a useful reference
throughout the day for all those involved in supporting the children’s learning.

Some parts of the day that support children’s learning remain the same each day. For example,
in preschool washing hands before meals, inviting the children to notice or to count who is
present and who is absent, or setting up the outdoor painting

To build upon the children’s interest in snails, the teachers announced to the children during
large- group circle time that the snail trays would be available for exploration. The teachers also
used the large-group circle to read books and tell stories about snails. One teacher invented a
simple clapping chant to play with easels, which usually occurs each day. These routine
experiences do not need to be written into each daily plan. Rather, a record of these regularly
occurring opportunities for learning can be included in a description of the program schedule,
along with a description of the distinct interest areas set up inside and outside. For example,
the California Preschool Curriculum Framework (CDE 2011b, 16–19) provides a guide for the
design of specific interest areas that support children’s learning as they enjoy self-initiated play.
Written descriptions of how teachers plan for each interest area should be included in the
program handbook and shared with families when they enroll in the program.

Teachers write on the posted daily or weekly plan what they expect to do to supplement the
ongoing learning experiences built into the well-supplied interest areas, the thoughtfully
designed daily routines, and the interactions and conversations that lead to “teachable
moments” that occur spontaneously during the day. The posted curriculum plan for preschool
typically includes the following items:

• Topics to discuss or books to read at group time

• A focus of small-group activities planned for the day

• Materials to add new challenges and experiences to the interest areas both inside and
outside

Similarly, the curriculum plan for infants and toddlers includes the following items:

• Books to look at or read with children
Songs, finger plays, and rhyming games that will occur during the day

• Materials to add new challenges and experiences to the environment both inside and
outside25

25 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Pause to Reflect
“Being in the Moment with Children”

Meaningful experiences are also created spontaneously in the moment with
children. Sometimes teachers must act in the moment, without a preexisting
plan, to foster the ideas of children.

For example, I was observing a child building a structure with blocks. After
observing the child and talking to him about his work, the child said to me “I
need more stuff for my project!” So I simply asked him what he needs and
how I could help. He listed some items (glue, popsicle sticks, pipe cleaners,
tape, cardboard). We went on a ‘mission’ together and gathered all of his
materials, which he went on to build with for quite some time. He was proud
and satisfied with his work, which he took home.

There are countless ways that teachers can be in the moment with children
and foster their ideas without a “plan.” Plans often times don’t go the way we
expect. When we are flexible we can honor the decisions and ideas of the
children.

Reflect
Why is it important to follow the child’s lead in their play? How can teachers
reflect on these spontaneous experiences, and document the learning that
took place for the children involved in these spontaneous experiences?26

Family Focus
Children’s experiences with their families also inform the curriculum. Teachers look for ways to
connect the children’s learning in the early childhood program to their experiences at home.
The following moments in the investigation of fresh foods that come from the garden illustrate
how teachers make connections to the children’s lives at home (CDE 2011b, 33):

26 Clint Springer is licensed under CC BY 4.0

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Vignette
Once the investigation of fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden was
under way, the teachers from the four-year-olds’ room wondered whether
they might tap the life experiences of the families for stories that related to
fresh fruits and vegetables from the garden. The teachers decided to place
a photo documentation of the children’s cucumber-tasting experiences
near the classroom’s entryway. They added a note and a clipboard. The
note was an invitation for families whose home language was other than
English to write down in their home language the name for cucumber (or a
similar vegetable eaten in their culture). Once gathered, the teachers added
these names to the laminated photo cards of cucumbers stored in the food
box in the writing area. If a family had described a vegetable that was
similar but distinct from the cucumber, they were invited to bring a picture
of this vegetable, or even the vegetable itself, for children to compare with
the cucumber.27

From the perspective of developmental scientists who study how the mind of the child
develops, early childhood curriculum is most effective when teachers provide generous
opportunities for children to engage in meaningful play, well supported by materials and
experiences that fascinate them and engage their natural ways of making meaning (Gopnik
2009; Hirsh-Pasek et al. 2009; Rinaldi 2001; Singer, Golinkoff, and Hirsh-Pasek 2006; Zigler,
Singer, and Bishop-Josef 2004). When early childhood teachers are asked or attempt to follow a
prewritten scope and sequence of instructional activities, the essential features of an
integrated curriculum—co-constructed, responsive, and dynamic—are often lost.

However, even when using a prewritten scope and sequence of activities, early childhood
teachers can find ways to modify the planned activities to respond to the unique cultural and
family context of their program and their unique group of children. For example, the
investigation of fresh foods that come from the garden could be implemented within a
curriculum that includes a theme about plants or spring.28

Connecting Families to Curriculum Planning
Documentation is an invitation to families. Family and community partnerships create
meaningful connections. Documentation not only guides curriculum planning and provides
evidence of children’s learning, it also offers an easy and effective way to engage families in
participating in planning for children’s learning. A note, a photo, or a work sample serves as an
invitation to families to participate in interpreting the observed play and exploration made
visible by the documentation. The following example illustrates how teachers use
documentation to invite families to join them in the work:29

27 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission
28 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission (pg. 52-57)
29 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission (pg. 43-50)

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Vignette
During the small-group face-drawing activity, Clayton was picking out
pencils for his skin color when his mother arrived to pick him up. She knelt
near the table as Connie read the name printed on the colored pencil that
Clayton had selected. “This one says, ‘sienna brown.’ What do you think,
Clayton?” Connie asked, as she moved the tip of the pencil near his arm. “Is
that your color?” Clayton smiled at his mother, “I’m sienna brown, mommy.
Which one do you want to be?” A few minutes later, when Clayton was
retrieving his things from his cubby, his mother confided in Connie how
much she had enjoyed picking out her skin color with Clayton. She had
been uncertain about how to talk with Clayton about skin color, because
she was of European–American background and Clayton’s father was
African American, and most of the family members living nearby were
Caucasian. They discussed the possibility of doing an activity at the next
parent meeting in which all the parents could explore the variety of flesh-
toned colored pencils and even to blend different tints of homemade play
dough that they could take home to enjoy with their children.

Learning Experience Implementation Plan Sample

CURRICULUM / ACTIVITY IMPLEMENTATION PLAN
Developed by: (your name)

Title / Description:

Resources (Where did you learn about this activity) (NAEYC Standard 5c):

Reason(s) for Curriculum Plan (justify by considering developmental milestones, learning domains,
observations in your assigned children’s classroom, and your knowledge of child development,
milestones, word picture handout & DAP that guided your decision to implement this particular activity)
(NAEYC Standards 1a,1c,4c,5a, 5b, &5c):

Ages of Children: Number of Children:

Location:

Segment of Daily Routine:

Materials Needed (be specific-quantities, color, book and song titles, etc.) (NAEYC Standard 1c)

Implementation / Directions (List step-by-step as if the implementation could be replicated without you;
include set up and clean up, involving children whenever possible. Step-by-step description of learning

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activities with specific detail.) Describe step-by-step what the children will be doing.

Now describe your role. Your guidance supports a maximum learning environment. Flexibility and
supporting the child’s process is vital (NAEYC Standard 4a). Questions to ask yourself: How will you
introduce the activity? NAEYC Standard 5a) (How will you engage the children? (NAEYC Standard 4a)
What will you be doing/saying? What is your role during the activity? What open-ended questions will
you be using? Please include a minimum of 3 open ended questions for your activity.

Specific ways this activity will facilitate development:(NAEYC Standard 5a)

Physical:
a)
b)
Cognitive:
a)
b)
Language:
a)
b)
Social/Emotional:
a)
b)
Creative:
a)
b)

Behavioral Considerations (Plan ahead…what issues might arise/what strategies might help) (NAEYC
Standards 4b, 4c & 4d):
a)
b)
c)

Documentation How will you collect and display the development listed above? (documentation board,
classroom book, power point, Prezi, creative ideas, etc.) (NAEYC Standard 5b)

Webbing Ideas (List at least 5 activities to extend the learning into other areas; try to include one
appropriate use of technology) (NAEYC Standard 5a)

Modifications to include ALL children (developmental delays, disabilities, cultural and linguistic
diversities, etc.) (NAEYC Standard 4b, 4d & 5c)
a)
b)
c)

Inclusion of Parents/Families (NAEYC Standards 2a, 2b & 2c)

Other Notes / Considerations:

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Section III: Setting the

Stage for Children’s
Learning

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Chapter 5: Setting the Stage for Play:
Environments

Figure 5.1: Environments influence play.1

Chapter Objectives
After reading this chapter, students will be able to:

• Identify the role of the Environment as a “Teacher”

• Connect Early Childhood Theories to the Environment

• Understand Learning Areas and Zones for DAP

• Identify and list appropriate materials for each learning area

• Analyze a variety of floor plans for indoors and outdoors

• Explore Temporal Environment by looking at schedules, routines and rituals, and
transitions

The environment is often labeled as a “teacher” in Early Childhood Education. The meaning
behind this label is that if an environment is intentionally created with developmentally
appropriate practice in mind, it will serve to assist with learning as well as classroom
management. A quality early childhood educational environment, whether it is indoor, outdoor
or temporal, should encourage engagement, stimulate learning and promote growth in all areas
of development.

The effective preschool teacher recognizes, understands, and respects the values of children’s
families and communities and attempts to make the preschool environment as congruent with
those values as possible.2

1 Image by Free-Photos on Pixabay
2 California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://pixabay.com/photos/water-play-kids-youth-children-863053/

https://pixabay.com/users/Free-Photos-242387/

https://pixabay.com/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Creating an Environment for Social and Emotional
Learning
Teachers in a high-quality preschool program ensure that all the children feel safe and
nurtured. They know how to create a classroom climate of cooperation, mutual respect, and
tolerance and support children in developing skills needed to solve problems and resolve
conflicts with peers. Social and emotional learning is central to young children’s development in
the preschool years and works hand in hand with cognitive and academic learning. To learn
well, they need to feel safe, to feel comfortable with their preschool teacher, and to be
supported in their play with other children. All these factors interact with each other and either
promote or detract from children’s learning and well-being. Because preschool children are
naturally curious and learn best in meaningful contexts, teachers responsible for planning the
learning environment and curriculum will best support children’s learning and development
when they use a variety of strategies to support children’s learning—such as focusing on
interactions, scaffolding learning experiences, engaging in explicit instruction, changing the
environment and materials, and making adaptations to the learning environment.

Teachers make use of daily routines as an important context for learning, integrating engaging
learning opportunities into the everyday routines of arrivals, departures, mealtimes, naptimes,
hand- washing, setup, and cleanup, both indoors and outdoors. Children enthusiastically
practice and apply emerging skills when they are helpers who ring the bell to signal it is time to
come inside; when they count how many are ready for lunch; when they move a card with a
child’s photo and name from the “home” column to the “preschool” column of a chart near the
room entry; when they put their name on a waiting list to paint at the easel; or when they help
set the table for a meal, making sure that each place has a plate, utensils, and a cup. Such
routines offer opportunities for children to build language skills, to learn the rituals of sharing
time with others, and to relate one action in a sequence to another” (adapted from CDE 2010,
18).

Figure 5.2: This young girl is learning through the daily routine of setting the table.3

3 Image by Senior Airman Brittany A. Chase is in the public domain

https://www.misawa.af.mil/News/Photos/igphoto/2001667162/

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Based on teachers’ assessments of individual children’s learning, the teachers might add
materials to play-based interest areas, decide to read books with small or large groups, adapt
activities to meet the diverse learning needs of children in the classroom, and think of a
particular topic area that children would be interested in investigating. Guided by the California
preschool learning foundations, teachers use their understanding of children’s learning and
development as a way to ensure they adequately support children’s development across all
domains. With clear ideas or objectives in mind, teachers plan curriculum that includes
strategies to enhance the learning of all children in a group, as well as strategies to support the
learning of individual children (adapted from CDE 2010a, 21). Please refer to Chapter 4 for a
closer look at the curriculum planning process.4

Analyzing the Environment
In a educators’ guide, the Australian Government Department of Education states:

Children are important sources of inspiration and creativity when planning the
environment, so it is an opportunity to learn by being open-minded and to collaborate
with the children. It is important to include materials which are inviting and which can be
used in a variety of ways.

• How does your environment convey a sense of belonging for children, families
and educators?

• Do children have a sense of autonomy?

• What involvement do children have in the planning of the environment?

• Have you tried to make the environment more home-like?

• How might you make it more aesthetically pleasing?5

4 California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission (pg.
40-45)
5 Australian Government Department of Education (n.d.) Educator My Time, Our Place. Retrieved from
http://files.acecqa.gov.au/files/National-Quality-Framework-Resources-Kit/educators_my_time_our_place (p.
48)

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

http://files.acecqa.gov.au/files/National-Quality-Framework-Resources-Kit/educators_my_time_our_place

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Teacher Tip
During an annual ECE conference, a presenter challenged the participants
to change their thinking on student readiness. As a teacher, I spent a lot of
time considering how to best prepare the children in my care for the
transition to older classrooms. Attending this workshop inspired me to
think differently. Readiness is not about getting children ready, but rather
getting our environments ready for the children as they come to us. To put
this into practice, our preschool teachers visited children in the toddler
classrooms and observed the interest in specific areas, materials and took
notes on skills observed. As the children began to transition into our
preschool classroom the room was set with a mixture of materials they
were familiar with as well as new materials appropriate for their new stage
of development. The pressure was off of the toddler teachers to prep for
what they thought the children needed to be ready with and the new
preschool teachers had realistic expectations of the children as they
matriculated into their new environments. We took this idea one step
further with our older preschoolers and had them help us to create the
spaces they wanted to use. The children walked from area to area and
estimated how many children could safely exist in each area. Next, we
placed the number of students allowed in each area at a time (from the
children’s perspective) and we let them experiment. We reflected with the
children our observations and their experiences and decided together if the
amount of children allotted per area was reasonable or needed adjusting.
We found that by incorporating the children’s ideas and participation in
environmental design, they were more respectful of the environment and
the environment reflected their ideas and values. Remember: Not every
area of the classroom has to be created equal. The environment should
reflect the interests and skills of the people who use it.6

Early childhood teachers see and support children as scientists and thus design the play
environment to serve the children’s inquisitive minds. Teachers also provide the materials
children need to construct concepts and ideas and master skills in the natural context of play.
Children learn from opportunities to discover materials that they may be seeing for the first
time and need time to explore and get to know the properties of these materials. It means
offering children materials that they can organize into relationships of size, shape, number, or
function and time. Children can investigate what happens when they put these materials
together or arrange them in new ways, experiencing the delight of discovering possibilities for
building with them, transforming them, or using them to represent an experience.

6 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Loose Parts
An article by Reading Play discusses Loose Parts Theory:

‘Loose parts’ theory is about remembering that the best play comes from
things that allow children to play in many different ways and on many
different levels. Environments that include ‘loose parts’ are infinitely more
open-ended, stimulating, and engaging than static ones. The play
environment needs to promote and support imaginative play through the
provision of ‘loose parts’ in a way that doesn’t direct play and play
opportunities, but allows children to develop their own ideas and explore
their world.

• Must be included in both indoor and outdoor environments

• Have no defined use and play workers must support the children when
they decide to change the shape or use of them.

• Must be accessible physically and stored where they can be reached by
children without having to ask the play workers. The children should
know that they can use them whenever and however they wish.

Must be regularly replenished, changed, and added to.7

Early childhood teachers also design the daily routines as rich opportunities for children to
participate actively and to use their emerging skills and ideas in meaningful situations. Equally
important are the ways in which teachers use interactions and conversations with children to
support learning.8

Connecting Theories to Environments
Environments should be planned with developmental theories in mind:

• Jean Piaget and the Cognitive Theory: Environments should encourage active learning,
stimulate skills of inquiry and promote problem-solving/risk-taking. Examples: Materials
are placed low on shelves that make easy access for children. The shelves should be
labeled with pictures of the materials so that children are encouraged to place these
materials where they belong by matching the material to the photo when they finish
playing with them. The environment must be stimulating for children to encourage
knowledge seeking.

• Vygotsky and the Sociocultural Theory: Environments should provide opportunities for
meaningful interactions that challenge children (zpd) and in which scaffolding exists
through child-child and child-adult interactions.

7 Reading Room (n.d.). The Theory of Loose Parts by the Reading Room. Retrieved from
http://www.readingplay.co.uk/GetAsset.aspx?id=fAAyADUAMgB8AHwARgBhAGwAcwBlAHwAfAA4AHwA0
8 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission (pg. 19-21)

http://www.readingplay.co.uk/GetAsset.aspx?id=fAAyADUAMgB8AHwARgBhAGwAcwBlAHwAfAA4AHwA0

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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• Behavioral Theory: Daily routines must be consistent and expectations of behavior
should be clearly defined.

• Erikson: Environments provide opportunities for children to develop feelings of
trustworthiness, autonomy and initiative in the early years. The environment provides
areas for children to feel safe, play independently, and make choices throughout the
day.9

Curriculum Occurs Throughout the Day
As previously stated, young children learn in everyday moments of play and interaction. A child
who arrives in the classroom and sees his name written on a cubby where he deposits what he
brought from home is learning. That learning is amplified when he walks to a nearby metal tray
(labeled with the words “Home” and “School”) and moves the magnet attached to his photo
from the “Home” side of the frame to the “School” side. The learning continues when he stops
to write his version of his name in the sign-in binder, located near a ring of cards with a child’s
name and photo printed on each. In this area, he can observe the accompanying family
member sign him in as well.

Figure 5.3: An example page from a sign-in binder.10

A bit later, that same child is learning when he describes to the teacher his frustration that his
“favorite tricycle is still being used by another child.” The teacher suggests what he might say to
encourage the other child to explore how the two of them might cooperate. After that
conversation, his learning continues as he ventures into the block area and takes on the
challenge of turning a container of blocks and boxes into a gas station, negotiating varying roles
in the pretend play with his friends. At lunch, when he pours milk into his glass using a small
measuring cup, he is learning. Each moment of learning, in this example, emerged from

9 Content by Kristin Beeve is licensed under CC BY 4.0
10 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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thoughtful, intentional curriculum planning. Early childhood teachers plan such opportunities
for young children to learn throughout the day.
Teachers’ early childhood curriculum plans include the physical space as a context for learning.
This means that teachers plan what, when, and how materials and furnishings are made
available to the children for use. Teachers also plan the social environment—the roles,
responsibilities, and guidance offered to children—during the daily routines and during
moments of spontaneous interactions. A broad definition of curriculum includes the following
components:

• Play spaces designed as environments for learning

• Care routines designed to invite children’s active participation

• Interactions and conversations with children that support their understanding of
themselves and others

Play Spaces as Curriculum
With play being central to the way in which children construct knowledge about the world
around them, an important task for teachers is to develop play spaces thoughtfully and
purposefully. Play spaces are children’s environments for learning. Seeing children as young
scientists leads to the creation of play spaces that become the children’s laboratories for
learning. Whether inside or outside, their play spaces are where they explore, experiment, and
solve problems. Play spaces include materials and furnishings that invite children to figure out
what the world is like and how it works. When early childhood teachers thoughtfully select and
organize materials for play, they support an essential aspect of curriculum—self-initiated
exploration, investigation, and invention of ideas. Jones and Reynolds (2011) list the varied
roles assumed by early childhood teachers, one of which they call “stage manager.” This role
means that the early childhood teacher purposely sets the stage for learning by selecting toys,
furnishings, and materials that invite children to explore, experiment, and solve problems. In a
well-designed early childhood program, the play environment holds immense possibilities for
learning and creativity.

Consider how the play environment provides a context for learning in the following vignette:

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Vignette
During a moment of play in the art area, infant teacher Joette watches as
two-year-old Lucila picks up a wooden frame that encloses two sheets of
blue plexi-glass. Lucila puts her eyes up close to the plexi-glass and peers
through. She holds the frame out to Joette, gesturing for her to take it.
Joette responds, “You want me to see what you saw, don’t you? I’d love
to!” Joette looks through and exclaims, “I see everything blue! Here, your
turn, Lucila.” Lucila looks through the block again. Another child walks up
and reaches for a different frame, this one with yellow plexi-glass inside.
The two children laugh together as they move the frames back and forth in
front of their eyes. Teacher Joette watches and then picks up a third frame,
which has red plastic sheets. She holds it near the window, and a red patch
appears on the floor. She gestures to the two toddlers and says, “Oh, look
what’s over here!” They rush to the red patch. Lucila steps onto the red and
laughs with excitement. “It made red!” she says. “Yes!” says teacher Joette,
“Will yours make a color on the floor, too? You want to try?” Lucila holds
her frame to the sun, sees a blue spot, and says, “Yes, I made blue!”11

It is easy to see evidence of the children’s thinking in this moment of play. They take full
advantage of the materials available in this well-stocked play space designed to prompt play
with colors and textures of materials. They notice the distinct features of the panes of
translucent plastic. They compare them as they play. They use one item in relation to the other.
They experience how they can use the different-colored panes to transform the shadows on the
floor. They explore how the shapes change in space and how their actions cause different
reactions. The inventions of one child are exchanged with those of the other. In this play space,
children can be seen constructing concepts of shape, orientation, light, and transformation.

Joette and her co-teachers supplied this art area with the same care that scientists might stock
their laboratories. In the art interest area for toddlers, they placed an array of toys and
materials that invite exploration and comparison of color, line, shape, and texture. They made
certain that there were objects with similar features as well as distinct features, in order to
challenge the toddlers’ emerging ability to sort one object from another. They gathered similar
objects graduated in size, in order to challenge the toddlers to explore concepts of size and
sequencing. In the collection were identical objects for creating pairs and for assembling many
rather than few. The teachers made the materials easily available to the toddlers, on low
shelves and in wide, shallow baskets and bins. A variety of containers were labeled, each
holding a distinct type of object—objects made from paper in one; a collection of orange and
red fabric pieces in another; a collection or blue fabric, feathers, and ribbons in another; and a
collection of translucent colored frames in another.

In the natural course of spontaneous play, toddlers encounter such materials and build
relationships of identity, order, size, shape, number, and space. Many of the materials, like the

11 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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collection of fabric pieces, are familiar to the toddlers, already available in the bins of the play
space for many days. Other materials, like the long pieces of translucent cellophane paper in a
variety of colors, have been recently added by teachers, with the hope of extending and adding
complexity to the toddlers’ play with color.

The new materials added to the play space are part of the teachers’ curriculum plan. During
their weekly planning, Joette and her co-teachers discuss the observations they made of Lucila
and her friends as the children explored the colored panes of plexi-glass. As the teachers
interpreted the play, they wondered how to add some challenge and surprise to the toddlers’
enjoyment of making colored shadows on the floor with the sunlight and the translucent
plastic. The subsequent curriculum plan held a question: “In what ways will the children explore
the long lengths of colored cellophane that they discover in the art area?” The teachers
wondered whether these new materials might provoke toddlers’ deeper exploration of
relationships of size, space, and similarity and difference. The teachers explored possible
questions to prompt toddlers’ experiments in transforming the primary colors in the yellow and
the blue cellophane into the secondary color of green.

Once the stage is set for play, teachers observe to discover what will ensue. At times, teachers
might narrate what goes on as the children play, offering language related to the play. The
teachers might also prompt new ways of looking at the materials, as Joette did when she held
the colored pane near the window to catch the sunlight and cast a colored shadow. In this
moment, she artfully scaffolded the toddlers’ learning by suggesting a new way of playing with
the plexi-glass. A scaffold is a structure that allows someone to go higher in order to accomplish
a task that the person could not have done alone. Teachers scaffold children’s play when they
connect in shared knowing with children and support them in going further to figure something
out.

Environmental Design
Rich learning environments with a variety of activities enhance young children’s learning and
development. In an environment in which children have the opportunity to make observations,
ask questions, plan investigations, gather and interpret information, and communicate findings
and ideas (CDE 2012b, 53), they explore concepts in domains such as science, math, and
history–social science. Dance, music, and drama not only introduce children to the arts and
allow them to explore creative processes, they also provide opportunities for children to learn
to regulate their behavior and take the perspective of another person.12

12 California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission (pg
2)

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Creating Environments for Infants and Toddlers
The infant/ toddler framework proposes the following play spaces to consider for an
infant/toddler program:

• A cozy area for books and stories

• A small-muscle area

• A sensory perception area

• An active movement area

• A creative expression area

Here is a sample infant/toddler classroom. See Appendix B for an older toddler classroom and
for the corresponding blueprints.

Figure 5.4: An infant/toddler classroom.13

Creating Environments for Preschoolers
The preschool framework offers the following list of suggested play spaces when creating a
learning environment for children three to five years of age:

• Dramatic play area

• Block area

• Art area

• Book area

• Writing area

• Math area

13 Image by Community Playthings is used with permission

https://www.communityplaythings.com/inspiration/sample-classrooms/infant-room-c-2019

https://www.communityplaythings.com/

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• Science/Sensory area

• Family display area

• Music/movement

• Meeting area (for conferencing)

And here is a sample preschool classroom. Additional sample classrooms for preschoolers and
corresponding blueprints can be found in Appendix B.

Figure 5.5: A preschool classroom.14

In both cases, it is helpful to think of ways that the spaces can be used by two or three children
together, one child alone, or an adult and one or two children, as well as larger areas for more
exuberant group play. Providing opportunities for small configurations enables the play space
to support growing social relationships and meet needs of children who prefer more defined
space or space away from others. 15

14 Image by Community Playthings is used with permission
15 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission (pg. 24-29)

https://www.communityplaythings.com/inspiration/sample-classrooms/head-start-c-2019

https://www.communityplaythings.com/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Licensing Requirements for Indoor Preschool Classrooms in California
Here are a few of the licensing requirements to keep in mind when
planning indoor environments for young children in California:

• The program provides for quiet and active play, rest and relaxation,
eating, and toileting. (101230)

• 35 square feet of indoor activity space per child (not including
bathrooms, halls, offices, food preparation areas, or storage.
(101238)

• That each child has individual storage space for clothing, personal
belongings, and bedding. (101238)

• Storage must be provided for play materials, equipment, and
napping equipment. (101238)

• Combustibles, cleaning equipment and cleaning agents shall be
stored in an area separate from food supplies in a locked cabinet or
in a location inaccessible to children. (101238)

• Tables and chairs scaled to the size of children must be provided.
(101239)

• All play equipment and materials used by children must be age-
appropriate. (101239)

• Drinking water must be available freely to children. (101239)16

Ensuring Quality in the Indoor Environment
Tools, such Environment Rating Scales, can be used to help ensure the environment is high
quality. Here are some items that describe high quality indoor environments for preschool-aged
children according to the Early Childhood Environment Rating Scale (ECERS). A full checklist can
be found in Appendix C.

• Space is accessible to children and adults, including those with disabilities

• There is ample space for the people and furnishings

• Adequate storage and seating

• Storage for play materials and personal belongings are accessible to children

• Cozy spaces and other soft furnishings and materials are provided

• At least five of the following centers are provided and accessible to children:
o Art
o Blocks
o Dramatic Play
o Reading
o Nature/Science
o Manipulatives/Fine Motor

• Spaces for active and quiet activities are separated

• There is more than one space for a child to have privacy

• Children’s work makes up a majority of the classroom display

16 Child Care Center General Licensing Requirements is in the public domain

http://www.cdss.ca.gov/ord/entres/getinfo/pdf/ccc6

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• Diversity is featured throughout the space (people of different races, cultures, ages,
abilities, and gender in non-stereotyping roles)

• New materials are provided/rotated at least monthly

• The following materials are provided to children
o Books feature many topics/genres
o Fine motor toys (such as building materials, puzzles, art materials, and

manipulatives)
o Art materials (such as drawing materials, paints, play dough, clay, collage

materials, and tools)
o Musical instruments and different types of music
o Blocks (such as unit blocks, large hollow blocks, and homemade blocks) and

accessories
o Dramatic play equipment and props
o Sand and water play equipment and materials (such as containers, funnels,

scoops, and accessories)
o Natural materials (such as collections, living things, books, games, toys, and

tools)
o Materials featuring numbers and shapes

• All materials are organized and in good condition

• Materials of differing levels of difficulty are provided17

Outdoor Spaces
The areas highlighted in the frameworks should be represented in outdoor play spaces as well.
Materials may vary but all areas should be reflected in both the indoor and outdoor
environments.

Many outdoor spaces feature play equipment, such as what is shown in the following image,
which is a great way to provide for children’s large motor play and exploration.

Figure 5.6: An outdoor play area.18

17 MiraCosta College (n.d.). Preschool Environment Checklist. Retrieved from
https://www.miracosta.edu/instruction/childdevelopmentcenter/downloads/5.2PreschoolEnvironmentChecklist.p
df
18 Image by Staff Sgt. Nathan Bright is in the public domain

https://www.miracosta.edu/instruction/childdevelopmentcenter/downloads/5.2PreschoolEnvironmentChecklist

https://www.miracosta.edu/instruction/childdevelopmentcenter/downloads/5.2PreschoolEnvironmentChecklist

https://www.166aw.ang.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/867237/affordable-licensed-child-care-available-for-delaware-guard-members-on-drill-we/

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But materials and experiences that would typically be indoors can easily be taken outside as
well.

Figure 5.7: Caption: musical instruments can be explored indoors or outdoors19

A variety of additional equipment can be purchased to expand children’s experiences outside,
although a large budget is not required to create high quality outdoor spaces for young
children.

Figure 5.8: Sensory play is one of the most popular activities for young children. While this setup allows for many

children to play, less elaborate spaces would still create quality experiences for children.20

19 Image by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is in the public domain
20 Image by Community Playthings is used with permission

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/elof-ohs-framework

https://www.hhs.gov/

https://www.communityplaythings.com/inspiration/room-inspirations

https://www.communityplaythings.com/

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Figure 5.9: These children are busy building. Similar activities could be done with non-commercial materials.21

Programs may choose to provide a playground made of natural materials to immerse children
in nature as well.

Figure 5.10: This preschool features nature heavily. Children can engage in many of the same experiences outdoors

with these natural materials and “equipment.”22

21 Image by Community Playthings is used with permission
22 Image by Jim Triezenberg is licensed under CC BY 3.0

https://www.communityplaythings.com/inspiration/room-inspirations

https://www.communityplaythings.com/

https://vimeo.com/jimtriez

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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Licensing Requirements for Indoor Preschool Classrooms in California
The following are some licensing requirements that programs in California
should incorporate in the design and planning for their outdoor space:

• There shall be at least 75 square feet per child of outdoor activity
space. (101238)

• The outdoor space shall permit children to reach the space safely.
(101238)

• A shaded rest area should be provided. (101238)

• The surface of the activity space shall be in a safe condition and free
of hazards. (101238)

• The areas around and under climbing equipment, swings slides and
similar equipment shall be cushioned with material that absorbs
falls. (101238)

• Equipment and activity areas shall be arranged so that there is no
hazard from conflicting activities. (101238)

• Sandboxes shall be inspected daily and kept free of foreign
materials. (101238)

• The playground shall be enclosed by a fence at least four feet high.
(101238)

• Hazardous equipment such as a fuse box shall be inaccessible.
(101238)23

Ensuring the Quality of the Outdoor Environment
According to the ECERS, here are some items that describe high quality outdoor spaces for
children. See Appendix C for the full checklist:

• There is adequate space for gross motor play

• The space is easily accessible to children

• The space is organized so activities do not interfere with one another

• The following materials are included
o Stationary equipment (such as, swings, slides, climbing equipment)
o Portable equipment (such as, wheeled toys, mats, jump ropes, bean bags, balls)
o Equipment that stimulates

▪ Balancing
▪ Climbing
▪ Ball play
▪ Steering
▪ Tumbling
▪ Jumping
▪ Throwing
▪ Pedaling

• Equipment provides skill development at multiple levels

23 Child Care Center General Licensing Requirements is in the public domain

http://www.cdss.ca.gov/ord/entres/getinfo/pdf/ccc6

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• Enough equipment that children do have to wait long to play

• Equipment is in good repair

• Equipment is appropriate for the age and ability of the children

• Adaptations are made for children with disabilities24

Temporal Environment: The Daily Schedule
One feature of a well-organized classroom is the use of a schedule and established routines.
Schedules and established routines are important because they influence a child’s social and
emotional development. While referred to as the daily schedule, it is important to recognize
that the flow, or the predictable order of the day, should be the focus (rather than abiding by
rigid timelines for the different parts of the day). While there may be parts of the day that at
are at fixed times (for example meals or using a shared outdoor space), teachers should use
flexibility to make the schedule meet the needs of the children. If an activity seems to be
coming to a natural conclusion earlier, consider transitioning to the next part of the day. If
children are really engaged in an activity, consider giving them additional time to wrap up their
exploration. Flexibility also comes in handy when there are changes that affect the schedule
that are beyond your control, such as bad weather preventing outdoor play.25

Why Have a Daily Schedule?
Schedules are important because they

• Help children know what to expect:
o Schedules and routines help children understand the expectations of the

classroom environment—which may be very different than in other settings.
o Knowing expectations may lower behavior problems.

• Enhance feelings of security:
o Predictable and consistent schedules in preschool classrooms help children feel

secure and comfortable.
o Those children who have difficulty with change especially need to feel secure.
o Children who do not yet speak and understand English well also benefit from

predictable and consistent classroom schedules and routines.

• Influence a child’s cognitive and social development:
o When periods of play are longer, children engage in more complex social and

cognitive play.

• Increase child engagement rates:

24 MiraCosta College (n.d.). Preschool Environment Checklist. Retrieved from
https://www.miracosta.edu/instruction/childdevelopmentcenter/downloads/5.2PreschoolEnvironmentChecklist.p
df
25 Guide to Managing the Classrooms: Schedules and Routines by the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services is in the public domain;
Content by Jennifer Paris is licensed under CC BY 4.0

https://www.miracosta.edu/instruction/childdevelopmentcenter/downloads/5.2PreschoolEnvironmentChecklist

https://www.miracosta.edu/instruction/childdevelopmentcenter/downloads/5.2PreschoolEnvironmentChecklist

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/no-search/iss/managing-the-classroom/schedulesandroutines-presenternotes

https://www.hhs.gov/

https://www.hhs.gov/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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o Child engagement is defined as the amount of time a child spends interacting
with his or her environment (adults, peers, or materials) in a developmentally
and contextually appropriate manner, at different levels of competence.

o Schedules that give children choices, balanced activities, planned activities, and
individual activities result in a higher level of engagement.

Several factors influence child engagement.

• Attention span of children:
o Plan activities to maximize children’s engagement:

▪ Use other adults to assist.
▪ Use novel materials.

o Limit duration to ensure children stay engaged throughout the activity.

• Alertness level:
o Plan activities that require more child attention and listening skills during times

when children are more alert.
o Plan calming activities after active activities.
o Note if some children may be tired or sick.

• Adult availability:
o For a more active part of your day, you may want to have more adults to support

the children’s learning and the management of the classroom.

• Time for children’s needs—allow enough time for children to fully engage and benefit
from an activity. When children engage in longer periods of play they:

o Show higher levels of exploration, experimentation, and persistence.
o Utilize materials in more creative ways.
o Develop social relationships.26

Creating the Daily Schedule
The first component is “blocks of time,” the big chunks of time set aside for classroom activities.
Preschool schedules typically include:

• Large group or circle time

• Child-initiated play time

• Snack time and meals

• Outdoor time

• Rest time

The next component is the sequence. Sequencing the blocks of time requires taking into
consideration multiple factors including:

• Method of arrival/departure (bus or transportation provided by families)

• Schedules of other classrooms (e.g., which classroom goes outdoors at what times?)

26 Guide to Managing the Classrooms: Schedules and Routines by the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services is in the public domain

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/no-search/iss/managing-the-classroom/schedulesandroutines-presenternotes

https://www.hhs.gov/

https://www.hhs.gov/

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Schedules include some of the daily routines such as meal times, but may not include others
such as bathroom breaks or clean up routines.

Figure 5.11: This is a visual schedule that shows children images of the different parts of their day.27

Figure 5.12: Here is a schedule that combines visual cues, written times, and text descriptions.28

Finding Balance in the Schedule
When planning the schedule you want to provide balance. This includes:

• Alternating active with quiet activities to help children with self-control.

• Having a mix of small group and large group activities.

• Having activities that differ in noise level, pace, person leading (child vs. adult), and
location (indoor vs. outdoor).

• Having a mix of teacher-guided and child-initiated activities.29

27 Image by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is in the public domain
28 Image by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is in the public domain
29 Guide to Managing the Classrooms: Schedules and Routines by the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services is in the public domain

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/video/schedules-routines

https://www.hhs.gov/

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/no-search/iss/managing-the-classroom/schedulesandroutines-presenternotes

https://www.hhs.gov/

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/no-search/iss/managing-the-classroom/schedulesandroutines-presenternotes

https://www.hhs.gov/

https://www.hhs.gov/

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Child-Initiated Play and Teacher-Guided Activities
The daily schedule balances child-initiated play and teacher-guided activities. The latter involves
teachers planning, introducing, and guiding specific activities to enhance children’s learning
during small- and large-group times. In contrast, child-initiated play refers to children’s
responses to ideas and materials introduced by teachers that the children are free to explore
without teacher guidance. Child-initiated play also includes those times when children create,
organize, and engage in activities completely on their own.

A daily schedule that ensures ample time for children to initiate their own play in well-
developed interest areas is critical to the teaching and learning. Young children need ample
time to engage in play, in the company of peers, in order to build their ideas, to pose problems,
to try out solutions, and to negotiate and exchange ideas. When children initiate, organize, and
develop their own play in the interest areas, it is called child-initiated learning. At times,
children choose to play alone, but frequently, child-initiated play takes place in small groups of
their own choosing.

In a schedule with ample time for children to initiate play in well-stocked interest areas, there
are times when teachers organize and guide specific activities for children. Such teacher-guided
curriculum activities are clearly distinct from child-initiated curriculum activities. Teacher-
guided activities occur in two contexts—small groups and large groups. A small group would
consist of one teacher working with a group of four to eight children. A large group is typically a
gathering of all the children in an early childhood setting. Each context serves a different
purpose and requires different preparation and different teaching strategies.

For some aspects of the curriculum, teachers may choose to organize an activity with a small
group of children. Although initiated and guided by the teacher, an effective small-group
encounter of this nature should still be rich in possibilities for children to contribute and
negotiate ideas with each other. Teacher-guided activities in small groups work best in quiet
spaces away from distractions of the full group and provide a manageable context for children
to discuss and explore ideas and experiences. The teacher listens to children’s ideas, helps
orchestrate the give-and-take of ideas among children, and poses ideas or problems for
children to wonder about, explore together, or even solve. Away from the distractions of a
large group, teachers can easily observe, listen, and converse with children in a small group, as
well as note how individual children think, express ideas, relate with others, and use their
emerging skills.

Such teacher-guided conversations can enrich children’s learning in all domains, particularly the
children’s language and vocabulary development. In addition, teachers can intentionally guide
the development of specific skills by planning small-group activities (e.g., songs, games, shared
reading) for short periods of time that playfully engage children in using specific emerging skills.

Small-group activities have several advantages over large-group activities. With small groups of
children, teachers can readily observe, listen, and document children’s developmental progress.

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Teachers can also individualize the curriculum and use questions or prompts to scaffold each
child’s thinking in more complex ways.

Whether the activities are child-initiated or teacher-guided, children’s use of materials in
interest areas provide teachers with excellent opportunities to observe how they build
concepts and skills and how they negotiate ideas with others. Moments of observed play and
interactions also provide teachers with ideas on how to extend children’s exploration and
learning through future encounters with related materials that add novelty, challenge, and
complexity in each domain.

Large groups provide another context for teacher-guided activities. The large group—typically a
gathering of the entire class—works well for singing, acting out songs and stories, playing
games, sharing experiences with each other, telling stories, building a sense of community, and
organizing the daily schedule and activities. Storytelling is one of the more popular large-group
experiences, one that has rich potential for adding to children’s understanding about the world
around them. Storytelling allows teachers, children, family members, as well as storytellers
from the community to tap into and build children’s knowledge and experiences in meaningful
ways. Large-group time is also when teachers let the whole group of children know what new
experiences will be available in the interest areas or what will happen in small groups that day.
Large-group gatherings that occur at the end of the day provide opportunities to review
noteworthy happenings and to anticipate what will be available the next day.30

Here are some examples of daily schedules for preschool classrooms.

Table 5.1: Half-Day Program Sample

Time of Day Routine/Activity Description
8:00 Arrival/Greetings Wash Hands, Sign-in, Get Name

tags

8:05-8:20 Group Time Welcome, Songs, Stories,
Discussions

8:20-9:30 Open Choice Time Outdoors Explore classroom areas

9:30 Clean-up Wash Hands, transition to indoors

9:35-10:45 Snack/Open Choice Indoors

10:45 Clean-up

10:50-11 Closing Circle

30 California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Table 5.2: Full Day Program Sample Daily Schedule31

Time of Day Routine/Activity Description
8:00 Arrival/Greetings Wash Hands, Sign-in, Get Name

tags

8:05-8:20 Group Time Welcome, Songs, Stories,
Discussions

8:20-9:30 Open Choice Time Outdoors Explore classroom areas

9:30 Clean-up Wash Hands, transition to indoors

9:35-11:00 Snack/Open Choice Indoors

11:00 Clean-up

11:10-11:25 Story Time Transition to wash hands for lunch

11:30-11:50 Lunch

11:50 Explore books on rest Mats

12:10-2:00 Rest Time

2:00-3:15 Indoor Choice Time/Snack

3:15 Clean-up

3:20 Large Group Circle Games, Songs, Stories

3:40 Explore Outdoors

5:00 Clean-up

5:05 Indoor Small Group/Choice
Centers

Fewer areas open

Routines and Rituals
Schedules define the whole day, whereas routines are more specific sets of regularly occurring
behaviors. Routines provide some security and a sense of what comes next; children are able to
anticipate what will happen, and thus feel more secure.

Daily routines and rituals also provide a second context for curriculum. They offer possibilities
for children to use their emerging skills and to apply emerging concepts and ideas. Early
childhood daily routines include arrivals and departures, mealtimes, naptimes, diapering,
toileting, dressing, handwashing, tooth-brushing, and transitions between one place and
another. They also include rituals such as sign-in sheets, health checks, waiting lists, attendance
counts, dictated stories, reminder notes, or voting.

Children sit down for a meal, wash their hands, and put jackets and shoes on hundreds of times
in order to provide excellent opportunities for children to use and build emerging skills and
concepts. In group care, the care routines during arrivals, departures, meals, naps, diapering,
toileting, and dressing provide excellent opportunities for children to use and challenge their
emerging skills and concepts. When an infant whose diaper is about to be changed hears her
teacher describe what it is she is about to do, the infant experiences a flood of words, which

31 Based on the College of the Canyons Early Childhood Education Sample schedule

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eventually become an anticipated phrase that gives meaning to a familiar experience. When
this same infant hears a request to put his arm into the sleeve of a shirt, he is invited to
demonstrate that he has understood this phrase and experiences the joy that comes with
sharing meaning with the teacher. When a preschool child looks in anticipation each morning at
the helper chart to see what job she gets to do that day, they are invited not only to cooperate
in the care of the classroom, but also to build their emerging skills in understanding the
meaning of print that accompanies the photo or drawing. Care routines are natural
opportunities for children to engage in learning. Therefore, teachers plan the routines of care
and the daily rituals that pepper the day in ways that invite children to be active participants
and to use and build their emerging skills and concepts in meaningful situations.32

A vignette featuring toddlers shows the kind of learning that occurs in another routine:

Vignette
Four toddlers are seated at a low table for lunch. Their primary care teacher
sits with them at the table. To his right, on a low bench, the primary care
teacher has a bin that holds everything he needs for the meal. He pulls out
bibs for each toddler and helps each toddler put one on. Each toddler finds
a cube chair to sit in. The teacher puts an empty bowl in front of the toddler
on his left. He offers this toddler a pair of small plastic tongs, holds a plate
of small sandwiches, and asks, “Would you like to take a sandwich?” The
toddler grabs the tongs and, after a few trials, manages to pick up one of
the sandwiches and drop it onto his plate. Later, after each toddler has
taken a sandwich, the teacher pulls from the bin a clear plastic measuring
cup, on which a red line is drawn at the one-cup mark. He fills the
measuring cup to the red line. He places an empty glass in front of a toddler
and, offering the toddler the measuring cup, says, “Would you like to
pour?” The toddler wraps his hand around the handle and tips the cup over
his glass. He spills a bit at first, but adjusts his hand and manages to empty
the measuring cup. He looks up at the teacher and smiles. The teacher
smiles in response, saying, “You poured your milk, Stephan! You know how
to do it!” The toddler seated next to Stephan reaches for the empty
measuring cup. The teacher says, “And now you can pour milk into your
glass, Alexi. I’ll put the milk in the measuring cup first.”33

32 Guide to Managing the Classrooms: Schedules and Routines by the U.S. Department of Health and Human
Services is in the public domain;
The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission (pg. 29-32)
33 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/no-search/iss/managing-the-classroom/schedulesandroutines-presenternotes

https://www.hhs.gov/

https://www.hhs.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Tips for Teachers for Schedules and Routines34

Transitions
It is important to focus on creating and managing smooth transitions between activities in the
classroom. Reasons to address transitions between activities in early childhood classrooms
include:

• Transitions take up a great deal of time in preschool classrooms.

• During transitions, children often spend a lot of time waiting (e.g., waiting until
everyone has finished their snack, waiting for everyone to clean up before beginning
large group time). All of this time waiting with nothing to do can lead to unrealistic
expectations and challenging behaviors.

• Some children (and adults) have stressful and frustrating experiences during transitions
between activities (e.g., children arguing over who took out what toys and who should
put them away; children not knowing where to put certain toys when they are done

34 Tips for Teachers by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is in the public domain

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/no-search/iss/managing-the-classroom/schedulesandroutines-teachertips

https://www.hhs.gov/

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with them; children not knowing what to do, children not knowing expectations for the
transition).

• Many preschool teachers and other caregivers consider children’s ability to
independently make transitions between activities one of the essential skills needed in
group contexts such as preschool and kindergarten.35

Supporting Successful Transitions
There are numerous strategies that can be used to ensure well-organized transitions between
activities. These include strategies you use before the transition, during the transition, and
following the transition.

• Before the Transition
o Plan your daily schedule to include the minimal number of transitions that occur

over the course of the day. Minimize the number of transitions in which all
children have to do the same thing at the same time (e.g., Do all children have to
go to the restroom at the same time? Can some children come over to the rug
and sing a song or read a book, while other children finish an activity?).

o Plan for what adults will do during transition times (e.g., Which adult is
responsible for greeting the children? Who will begin looking at books on the
carpet with children?).

o Teach children the expectations for the transition routine. Teaching children how
to clean up and how to line up will reduce the length of transition times. By
reducing transition times, more time is available for children to spend in other
learning activities. As children become familiar with the expectations, problem
behaviors are less likely to occur.

o Provide verbal and nonverbal cues before transitions (e.g., “Five minutes ‘til
snack. It’s almost time for clean-up,” show pictures of the next activity, beat a
drum). Once a transition cue has been established, the cue should be used
consistently to signal the transition.

• During the Transition
o Engage children in transition activities (sing songs, play word or guessing games,

recite rhymes, organize finger plays). Transition activities provide children with
an activity to complete while other children are still transitioning. These
activities also encourage children to finish their previous task, so that they can
play the game or sing the song. During these activities, skills related to the
transition can also be taught (e.g., setting the table for snack or lunch, sorting
toys during clean-up time).

o Allow children adequate time to finish projects or activities so they do not
become frustrated by activities ending too soon. Give them a warning that it is
about time to change activities.

o Plan something to engage those children who finish an activity quickly, so they
are not waiting without anything to do (e.g., if some children finish cleaning up

35 Guide to Presenting Managing the Classroom: Classroom Transitions by the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services is in the public domain

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/no-search/iss/managing-the-classroom/classroom-transitions-presenter-notes

https://www.hhs.gov/

https://www.hhs.gov/

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and getting to large group quickly, they might look at books while waiting for
other children to finish cleaning up).

o Individualize support to accommodate individual children’s needs.
▪ Photos to help anticipate what activity is next.
▪ Directions given in a child’s home language or sign language.
▪ An individual warning to a child that it will soon be time to clean up and

begin a new activity.

• Support may need to be individualized (i.e., one child may need
an adult to provide a five-minute, three-minute, and one-minute
warning before clean up while the rest of the class might need
only a three-minute warning).

• After transitions
o Provide positive attention and feedback to children following transitions.

▪ When children pick up toys without much prompting, share with them
how this shows how well they take care of the classroom materials.

▪ When children are working together to accomplish the task more quickly,
let them know how much you appreciate their teamwork (e.g., “Nicholas
and Jorge did a great job cleaning together and moving to the carpet”).

You can also work to promote independence during transitions by

• Allowing children to move individually from one area to another area when they
complete an activity (e.g., as children finish snack, they are encouraged to go to the
carpet and choose a book; as children finish putting away their coats and backpacks,
they are encouraged to get a puzzle).

• Teaching children to help others (e.g., have children move as partners from one activity
to another, or ask one child to help another child gather his/her backpack).

• Helping children self-monitor during transitions (e.g., children can be asked to think
about how quietly or quickly they moved from one activity to another).

The following vignette offers an opportunity to watch and listen for the learning that occurs
during a transition routine and to reflect on the planning that had to occur in order for this
experience to play out as it did.

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Vignette
Ms. Cone had used the children’s name tags in transition activities for quite
some time, at first pointing out and naming the first letter in each name as
she called children to go wash hands or to get their jackets before going
outside. Somewhat later, she held up each of the nametags and pointed to
the first letter as she asked the child to name it. Today, she is using the first
sounds in names to send a few children at a time from the circle time area
to wash hands for lunch: “If your name starts with /k/, you may go wash
your hands. Yes, Connie and Carolina, you may go to the sink. Both of your
names start with the /k/ sound.” Cindy sees Connie and Carolina stand up,
and she stands up too. Ms. Cone explains that Cindy begins with the /s/, not
/k/ sound, and that she’ll get a turn soon. Cindy says, “I’m a C too!” Ms.
Cone says, “Oh, you are right. Your name begins with the letter c like
Connie and Carolina, but it starts with a different sound. We hear /k/ at the
beginning of Connie and Carolina—/k/ Connie, /k/ Carolina. We hear /s/ at
the beginning of your name—/s/—Cindy. I’m going to say that sound next:
‘If your name starts with /s/, you may go wash your hands.’” Sabrina stood
up, joined hands with Cindy, and they walked to the sink together.36

Built into this large-group gathering is a dismissal ritual that takes full advantage of young
children’s interest in their names and the names of their friends. As part of this dismissal ritual,
the teacher invites children to use their emerging skills in distinguishing the distinct sounds of
language, described in the language and literacy foundations as phonological awareness. She
embeds this learning in the context of a game, one that inspires children to listen carefully to
the sounds spoken in instructions for inviting small groups of children to wash hands. The
transition from large group to the sink area goes much more smoothly as a result, and in the
process, children get to use an important emerging skill. 37

36 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission
37 Guide to Presenting Managing the Classroom: Classroom Transitions by the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services is in the public domain;
The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/no-search/iss/managing-the-classroom/classroom-transitions-presenter-notes

https://www.hhs.gov/

https://www.hhs.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Chapter 6: Guiding Behavior and
Managing the Classroom

Figure 6.1: Social-emotional development is a foundation for other learning.1

Chapter Objectives
At the end of the chapter, students should be able to:

• Identify factors that influence behavior

• Discuss the role of teachers in guiding behavior

• Explain influences on behavior

• Summarize principles of positive guidance

• Describe guidance strategies to use for children with disabilities

• Apply positive strategies to address behaviors

Introduction
Social-emotional development is foundational to children’s learning in all other domains.
Through children’s experiences in close relationships with parents and teachers, children
develop and learn the social-emotional skills necessary to act and interact with self-confidence,
regulate their behavior, and be successful in the early school years and beyond. With the
guidance of responsive and caring adults, “young children develop an understanding of other
people’s feelings and needs, are encouraged to feel empathy and caring, learn to manage their
own behavior as responsible group members, and acquire a variety of other capabilities that
will be directly related to their success in managing the classroom environment of kindergarten
or the primary grades” (CDE 2008, 4).2

1 Image by Bessi on Pixabay
2 California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission (pg.
24)

https://pixabay.com/photos/siblings-brother-sister-children-817369/

https://pixabay.com/users/Bessi-909086/

https://pixabay.com/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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The Teacher’s Role: Build and Maintain Positive
Relationships with Children
Teachers build meaningful relationships with children during day-to-day interactions with them.
Since relationships are central to young children’s learning and development, effective
preschool teachers engage in consistent efforts to develop positive and nurturing relationships
with each child they serve. Preschool teachers understand the importance of consistency,
continuity, and responsiveness in supporting children’s healthy social and emotional
development (adapted from California Department of Education and First 5 California 2012,
121). In cases in which children display challenging behaviors, teachers can focus even more
directly on cultivating a relationship with the children during less stressful times (when children
behave appropriately) and rely on additional support through ongoing mentoring and coaching
(e.g., reflective supervision, early childhood mental health consultation) to put in place
effective strategies to establish and sustain positive relationships with young children. When
teachers engage in positive, nurturing relationships with young children, children feel safe and
confident to engage deeply in exploration and learning. For those children who come to the
classroom displaying challenging behaviors, nurturing, stable, and positive relationships with
teachers often help to provide them with the emotional support needed to develop future
positive relationships with teachers and peers (Buyse et al. 2008).3

Development is often referred to as a journey, not a race. Children navigate their journey
through individual rates of development. Along the journey, there are many milestones and
developmental successes to celebrate, but alongside these celebrations there are behavioral
considerations that challenge children and their caregivers. Teaching young children is not just
about creating an environment and a curriculum, but also providing limits, clear expectations
and applying developmentally appropriate strategies to guide young children in navigating their
journey. Most importantly, teachers must also demonstrate a sensitivity to a variety of
children’s needs, temperaments and learning styles.4

Factors that Influence Behavior
There are many factors that influence the behaviors of children. It’s important for teachers to
keep these in mind as they observe, interpret, and respond to children’s behaviors.5

Developmental Factors by Age
While each child develops at their own rate and in their own time and may not match every
listed item, here are some general descriptions of children by age:
1-2 Year Olds

o Like to explore their environment

3 California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission (pg.
39-40)
4 Content by Kristin Beeve is licensed under CC BY 4.0
5 Content by Jennifer Paris is licensed under CC BY 4.0

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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o Like to open and take things apart
o Like to dump things over
o Can play alone for short periods of time
o Still in oral stage, may use biting, or hitting to express their feelings or ideas

2-3 Year Olds

o Need to run, climb, push and pull
o Are not capable of sharing, waiting or taking turns
o Want to do things on their own
o Work well with routine
o Like to follow adults around
o Prolong bedtime
o Say “no”
o Understand more than he/she can say

3-4 year Olds

o Like to run, jump, climb
o May grow out of naps
o Want approval from adults
o Want to be included “me too”
o Are curious about everything
o May have new fears and anxieties
o Have little patience, but can wait their turn
o Can take some responsibility
o Can clean up after themselves

4-5 Year Olds

o Are very active
o Start things but don’t necessarily finish them
o Are bossy and boastful
o Tell stories, exaggerate
o Use “toilet” words in a “silly” way
o Have active imaginations

5-6 Year Olds

o Want everything to be fair
o Able to understand responsibility
o Able to solve problems on their own
o Try to negotiate6

6 Factors influencing Behavior by Age by Wendy Ruiz is licensed under CC BY 4.0

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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Table 6.1: Positive Approaches for Developmental Factors7

Ages/Stages Developmental Factors
Examples of a Positive Approach

to developmental factors to
manage behavior

Infant/Toddler Children this age:

• Actively explore
environments

• Like to take things apart

• Have limited verbal ability, so
biting or hitting to express
feelings is common

• Like to dump things over

Children in this stage tend to dump
and run, so plan games to enhance
this behavior in a positive way. Have
large wide-mouth bins for children
to practice “dumping items” into
and out of. This strategy redirects
the behavior of creating a mess into
a structured activity to match the
development.

Older Toddlers Children this age:

• Need to run, climb, push and
pull

• Are incapable of sharing;
waiting or taking turns

• Express beginning
independence

• Work well with routines

• Say “no” often

• Comprehend more than they
can verbally express

Teachers of this age often find
children trying to climb up on tables,
chairs and shelves. Incorporate
developmentally climbing
equipment and create obstacle
courses to redirect activity into
positive behaviors.

Avoid using the word “no” and
create expressions that teach what
to do instead of what not to do.

Young
Preschool
(3-4 years)

Children this age:

• Like to be active

• Are curious and ask many
questions

• Express new fears and
anxieties

• Have little patience

• Can clean up after
themselves

• Can take some responsibility

• Seek adult approval

Young preschoolers become curious
and create many misconceptions as
they create new schemas for
understanding concepts. Listen to
ideas sensitively address them
quickly and honestly. Model
exploration and engagement in new
activities (especially ones they may
be fearful of engaging in)

Older
Preschool
(4-5 years)

Children this age:

• Are highly active

• Can be “bossy”

• Have an active imagination

• Exaggerate stories

Ask the children to create new silly,
but appropriate words to represent
emotions rather than focusing on
the “bad” words they use.

7 Content by Kristin Beeve is licensed under CC BY 4.0

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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Ages/Stages Developmental Factors
Examples of a Positive Approach

to developmental factors to
manage behavior

• Often use “toilet words” in
silly ways

• Start things but don’t always
finish

Young School-
Age

Children this age:

• Are able to problem solve on
their own

• Begin to understand
responsibility

• Think in terms of fairness

• Attempt to negotiate

Fairness is a big issue for this group
so working with this age group, a
teacher should sit with children to
develop “rules” and “consequences”
so they can take ownership of
behavioral expectations

Environmental Factors
o Weather
o Adequate Play Space
o Room Arrangement
o Materials Available (not enough)
o Peers they interact with
o Parent/child relationship
o Sibling Relationship
o Relationships with friends
o Daily Routine (Rushed, busy, not enough time to play, run or exercise)
o T.V. Exposure (screen time- amount and quality)
o Lack of Sleep
o Nutrition8

Table 6.2: Positive Approaches for Environmental Factors9

Area Approach
Weather • Plan for alternate gross motor experiences during inclement

weather

• Provide flexibility in the daily routine to accommodate weather
extremes

Adequate
Play Space

• Ensure the space provided for each center/learning area is
adequate

8 Factors influencing Behavior by Age by Wendy Ruiz is licensed under CC BY 4.0
9 Content by Jennifer Paris is licensed under CC BY 4.0

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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Area Approach
• If there is crowding, look at the messages the space is giving the

children about how many can play there

• Make sure you are using all the spaces of the classroom
effectively (is the unused space in the center of the room?)

Room
Arrangement

• Separate active/boisterous spaces from those that are quiet

• Watch that you don’t create “runways” and “islands” to run
around

• Provide protection for children’s creations (try to avoid creating
walkways through spaces where children are engaged)

• Put messy spaces where it is easier to clean up (near sinks and on
flooring that can be easily cleaned)

Materials • Especially for younger children, have duplicates of popular toys

• Make sure that there are enough materials to ensure that
children always have new choices available (without waiting)

• Ensure that they are stored in an organized way

• Make them accessible to children to get out and put away
independently

Relationships • Support children’s relationships and attachment to their
families/parents

• Support relationships between children in the classroom

• Build a strong sense of classroom community

• Facilitate problem-solving and conflict-resolution

Technology • Create a policy on the use of screen media in which technology is
used as a learning tool (rather than entertainment)

Basic Needs
(sleep,
nutrition,
etc.)

• Schedule adequate rest time for children and create a peaceful
environment for resting

• Serve nutritious snacks and meals for children that are offered
every couple of hours

• Consider how to provide for children who are sleepy and hungry
at other times of the day

Individual Factors/Personal Styles
o Temperament (Easy, Difficult, Slow to Warm)
o Learning styles/personal uniqueness

Social Emotional Needs

o To feel loved
o To be included
o To feel important
o To be heard
o To feel valued

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o To feel safe
o To have friends10

Positive Approaches for Individual Factors, Personal Styles, and
Social/Emotional Needs
Young children communicate their needs and wants through behaviors. Educators and parents
can observe children’s behavior and look for clues about what it means. Since families know
their children best, early childhood educators can ask families about their children’s behaviors
and what they notice at home. Sometimes, the behavior’s meaning is clear to adults. Other
times, educators and parents need to try different responses and watch the child’s reactions.
Over time, adults will likely improve in responding effectively to a particular child’s
communications.11

Motivation behind Behavior
In order to respond effectively to children’s behaviors and to extend positive relationships with
children, it’s important to understand the motivation behind children’s behaviors and then
match your approach.12

Table 6.3: Motivation13

Motivation Approach
Attention – Positive or Negative Provide positive attention

Power – To be the “boss” Provide many opportunities for choice
making (choices you can live with) and
practice decision-making

Revenge – Children that are hurt want to
hurt others to feel important

Acknowledge intense feelings and stay
positive

Inadequacy – Children don’t want others to
expect anything from them for fear of
failure

Provide opportunities for positive success

Having Appropriate Expectations for Behavior
It is really important that we realize that often what adults consider to be challenging behaviors
are entirely age-appropriate responses from children. So it is important that teachers:

• Respond adaptively to individual children, considering each child’s age, temperament,
language, communication skills, culture, interests, and abilities.

10 Factors influencing Behavior by Age by Wendy Ruiz is licensed under CC BY 4.0
11 Understanding Children’s Behavior as Communication Presenter Notes by the U.S. Department of Health and
Human Services is in the public domain
12 Content by Jennifer Paris is licensed under CC BY 4.0
13 Factors influencing Behavior by Age by Wendy Ruiz is licensed under CC BY 4.0

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/no-search/behavior-as-communication-notes

https://www.hhs.gov/

https://www.hhs.gov/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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• Examine their own expectations of “appropriate” and “safe” behavior, looking for
potential bias toward gender or developmental skills.14

14 Content by Jennifer Paris is licensed under CC BY 4.0;
California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission (pg.
126-127)

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Prevention of Challenging Behavior for Children with Disabilities15
Challenging behavior can often be addressed through prevention strategies.
For children with disabilities who have challenging behavior, the process is
the same as for all children, but the strategies might differ depending on
children’s Individual Education Plans (IEPs) and their specific needs and
strengths. The following strategies can be individualized as needed.

Classroom schedules and routines:

• Have consistent schedules and routines

• Make sure the content and length of activities are developmentally
appropriate

• Be intentional about using visuals to teach routines

• Give consistent feedback

• Provide more individualized support for children with disabilities
who have challenging behavior during routines. They may need an
individualized visual schedule or a peer buddy, for example.

Transitions:

• Try to minimize the number of transitions

• Teach expectations

• Model or provide visual examples of appropriate things to do while
waiting (counting, singing a group song, playing Simon Says)

• Allow children to transition at separate times or in smaller groups as
needed

Large Group Activities:

• Consider the length of the activity (especially circle time). Is it age
appropriate?

• For children who are working on expanding their attention, shorten
wait times and allow breaks.

• Use visuals to make rules clear and to break tasks into smaller steps

• Provide ongoing feedback to expand children’s understanding,
participation, and learning

Types of Supports

• Visuals
o To help children communicate their needs
o To break down tasks
o To clarify expectations

• Timer
o To provide a safety signal so children know when something

is coming to an end

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• Adult support
o To facilitate large group and small group activities
o To model and provide examples, and help children who need

more intensive support
o To provide choices

• Peer support
o To model, think-pair-share, or be a buddy

• Child preferences
o To increase children’s motivation and engagement in tasks

that can trigger challenging behavior

Involving Children in Guidance Curriculum
It is a valuable learning experience to involve children in creating/defining the classroom rules.
They become invested in those expectations. Teachers should use the following umbrella when
creating classroom rules:

• Keep self safe: (walk inside, feet on the floor, etc…)

• Keep others safe: (keep hands to themselves)

• Keep materials/environment safe: (keep books on the shelf to prevent tearing, throw
balls, dig with shovels, etc…)

15 Presentation Summary for Challenging Behavior: Prevention Strategies for Children With Disabilities by the U.S.
Department of Health and Human Services is in the public domain

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/no-search/dd-webinar-01-2015-followup

https://www.hhs.gov/

https://www.hhs.gov/

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Classroom Teaching Strategies for Positive Interactions and Prosocial
Behavior16
Instruction is more effective when it is embedded in the meaningful
activities and contexts that occur throughout a child’s day (Katz & McClellan
1997). Here are suggestions and examples for teaching social skills within
classroom activities.

Modeling. Demonstrate the skill while explaining what you are doing. As
you pass a block to a child, say, “Look, I am sharing my blocks with my
friend.”

Modeling with puppets. Use puppets to model the skill while interacting
with a child, an adult, or another puppet. A puppet can explain to the
teacher and the class how she became angry and hit her brother to get a
toy. You can ask the puppet to consider other solutions and then discuss
what a child might do when he or she wants a toy that another child is
using.

Preparing peer partners. Ask one child to show another child the skill or to
help the child use the target skill. You can prompt the peer by saying,
“Carmen, Justin is still learning how to wait and take turns. Since you know
what to do, can you help him? Show him the line-up picture while you wait
for a drink at the water fountain.”

Singing. Introduce a new skill through a song. To teach children to trade
toys, pass out small toys during a large group activity, then sing the
following song to the tune of “Mary Had a Little Lamb” and practice trading:

I can be a problem solver, problem solver, problem solver, I can be a
problem solver, let me show you how.
Maybe I can trade with you, trade with you, trade with you, Maybe I
can trade with you; let me show you how.

Children then practice trading toys with each other.

Doing fingerplays. Introduce the skill with a finger- play, then follow up
with a discussion or story. While showing fingers, have children recite this
rhyme:

One little friend cried, “Boo-hoo”; a friend gives a hug and then
there are two.
Two little friends share with me; we play together and that makes
three.
Three little friends ask for more; they all say “Please,” and then
comes four.

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Four little friends take turns down the slide; another comes to play,
and that makes five.
Five little friends have fun at school, because they follow every rule.

Using a flannel board. Introduce a new skill using flannel board activities
and stories. For example, to teach turn taking you could have flannel pieces
for Humpty Dumpty and change the rhyme so that “All the king’s horses
and all the king’s friends / Work as a team to put Humpty together again.”
As you say the rhyme, have the children take turns putting the pieces
(castle, bricks, Humpty Dumpty pieces, horses, and friends) on the flannel
board. When you finish the rhyme, extend the activity by talking about how
Humpty felt when he sat on the wall; when he fell; and when his friends
helped put him back together.

Using prompts. Give a child verbal, visual, or physical prompts to use a skill
during interactions and activities. When a child who has difficulty with
initiating play interactions moves toward a group playing together, you
might say privately, “Remember to use your words and ask to play.”

Giving encouragement. Provide specific feedback when the child uses the
skill. For example, describe what the child did: “You asked Joey for a turn. I
saw that you two had a good time playing together.” Encouragement can
be verbal or a signal (a thumbs-up or high five).

Using incidental teaching. Guide the child to use the skill during
interactions and activities. Quietly say to the child, “Quan, I see that you are
very angry that all the trucks are being used. What can you do when you
are angry? Let’s go over the steps.”

Playing games. Use games to teach problem solving, words that express
feelings, identification of others’ feelings, friendship skills, and so on. Place
photographs of each child in a bag. Have the children take turns pulling a
photo out of the bag and offering a compliment to the child in the photo.

Discussing children’s literature. Read books to help teach friendship skills,
feeling words, problem solving, and so on. While reading a story, pause and
ask the children how a character in the story might feel or ask them to
suggest ideas for solving the character’s problem.

Stating Behavior Expectations
Behavioral expectations are the appropriate behaviors expected from children during specific
activities and routines. By stating behavioral expectations in advance of activities, routines and

16 You Got It by Supporting Inclusive Early Learning is used with permission

https://cainclusion.org/teachingpyramid/materials/classroom/you_got_it

https://cainclusion.org/

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transitions, we allow children more opportunities to be successful. When children clearly
understand what we expect of them, they can more securely play and work within a set of
parameters. Other benefits of teaching behavioral expectations are that it:

• Maximizes children’s learning time. When we tell children our expectations ahead of
time, we spend less time playing catch-up during the activity.

• Builds a common language. When we outline behavioral expectations for activities,
routines and transitions, we help build a common language among the teachers and
children. Using the same phrases during the same activities, help children to understand
the meaning of the expectations (i.e., walking feet and putting breakfast dishes in the
brown bucket).

• Provides a consistent message to children. Giving children mixed messages about what
is okay and not okay detracts from learning and engagement over time. When we say,
write, and model our message consistently to children, they are more likely to get it.

• Sets the stage for learning. Developing behavioral expectations before activities begin
creates an atmosphere ripe for engagement and learning.

• Helps prevent behavior problems before they happen. When we tell children in positive
ways what is expected of them before they act, we can more readily reinforce the
behaviors we want to see, based on our stated expectations.17

Tips for Teachers – Stating Behavioral Expectations

Anticipate – Think through activities, routines, and expectations

Plan – Develop a plan to support appropriate behaviors by determining
which behaviors you want children to use and which behaviors you do not
want to see

Prepare children

• State expected behaviors in advance.
• Post expectations.
• Provide demonstrations.
• Use role play.
• Lead discussions.

Recognize appropriate behavior – give recognition and feedback
• Catch children following the expected behaviors.
• Make a statement about their effort.

Encourage them to keep it up!18

17 Presenter Notes for Stating Behavioral Expectations by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is in
the public domain
18 Tip for Teachers Stating Behavioral Expectations by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is in the
public domain

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/no-search/iss/behavior-guidance/state-presenter-notes

https://www.hhs.gov/

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/no-search/iss/behavior-guidance/state-teacher-tips

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State What Children Should Do
1. Tell a child what to do instead of what not to do.
2. Show the child by modeling or using a picture of the action.
3. Clearly and simply state what you expect the child to do.
4. Remember that young children may use inappropriate behavior because they do not

understand the social rules and/or because they are unable to consistently apply what
they are in the process of learning.

5. Talk to young children using language they understand. Young children may not
understand a word like “don’t” because it is a short word for “do not” and he/she may
not know what the “negation” of a word means.

6. Encourage the child in a way that lets him/her know that he/she is exhibiting the
desired behavior. Use positive, descriptive acknowledgement while the child is making
an effort or is doing the desired behavior.

7. Some children will respond better to more subdued expressions, and acknowledging
them in a “matter of fact” way might be more effective.

8. For the most part, be enthusiastic and generous with encouragement. Most children can
never get enough!

Here are some examples:

Table 6.4: Stating What Children Should Do19

Avoid Say/Model
Positive Descriptive
Acknowledgement

Don’t run! • Walk

• Use walking feet

• Stay with me

• Hold my hand

• You’re holding my hand. That is so
respectful.

• You walked across the classroom.
You made a safe choice.

• You are walking beside me and
keeping me company. That is so
friendly!

Stop
climbing!

• Do you need something up high?
Let’s find a safe way to reach it.

• Wow! You have both feet on the
floor! You are being safe.

• You asked for help to get
something, you are being careful.

19 Tell Me What to do Instead by Supporting Inclusive Early Learning is used with permission;
Adapted in 2013 by Laura Fish of WestEd from Lentini, R., Vaughn, B. J., & Fox, L. (2005). Creating Teaching Tools
for Young Children with Challenging Behavior [CD- ROM]. (Early Intervention Positive Behavior Support, The
Division of Applied Research and Educational Support 13301 Bruce B. Downs Tampa, FL 33612)

https://cainclusion.org/

https://cainclusion.org/

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Avoid Say/Model
Positive Descriptive
Acknowledgement

Don’t
touch!

• Look with your eyes

• Keep your hands down

• You were really listening; you are
looking with your eyes!

• You kept your hands down. That is
respectful.

No yelling!

• Use a calm voice

• Use an inside voice

• Turn the volume down

• You are using a calm voice! You
look happy.

• You are using a soft voice inside
the classroom. How respectful.

Stop
whining!

• Use a calm voice

• Talk so that I can understand you

• You are talking so clearly! That is
so helpful.

• You told me with your words what
was wrong. That is respectful.

• You used your words. How
respectful!

Don’t
stand on
the chair!

• Sit on the chair

• Chairs are for sitting

• Do you need something up high?

• Let’s find a safe way to reach it.
• You are sitting on the chair. What

a careful girl.
• You were responsible when you

sat in the chair.
• You stood on the ladder. You

chose to be safe.

Don’t hit!

• Gentle hands
• Hands are for playing, eating, and

hugging.

• When you used gentle hands you
were being respectful.

• You used your hands for clapping!
You like being safe.

• You are hugging her. What a
friendly girl.

No coloring
on the
wall!!

• Color on the paper
• Put the paper on the easel if you

want to color standing up

• You put the paper on the easel.
That is being responsible.

• Wow. You are coloring so
carefully. You are focused.

• You are an artist standing at the
easel.

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Avoid Say/Model
Positive Descriptive
Acknowledgement

Don’t
throw your
toys!

• Play with the toys on the floor
• Toys stay close to the ground
• Please keep the toys on the table

1. You are playing with the toys on
the floor. So safe.

2. You decided to keep the toys on
the table. You are respectful.

Stop
playing
with your
food!

• Food goes on the spoon and then
in your mouth

• Say “all done” when you are
finished eating

• You’re using your spoon. You’re
being careful.

• You said “all done.” That is
helpful.

• You are eating your food using
your spoon and fork. That is
practicing manners.

Don’t play
in the
water/sink!

• Wash your hands
• If you’re finished washing your

hands, please dry them

• You washed your hands. What a
healthy guy!

• You followed the hand washing
steps! You try hard.

Teacher Tips20
The concept of time is very abstract for young children thus stating, “Clean
up in five minutes” is not meaningful in terms of time. Suggested
alternatives for directing clean up actions can include statements, “When
the lights go off it will be time to clean up, “When you hear the ringing of
the timer, it will be time to…”

To further gain cooperation in transitioning from one activity to another
consider,

• Talking individually to children at their level so they can hear you
and know you are addressing them in particular

• Allow them a space to place unfinished work to revisit at a later
time

• Provide choices for cleaning up areas

Assign jobs each day for clean-up (book collectors, snack helper, etc…)

20 Content by Kristin Beeve is licensed under CC BY 4.0

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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Redirecting Behavior
Redirecting is a proactive teaching strategy used to address challenging behavior (something
that interferes with learning and engagement in prosocial interaction) BEFORE it escalates or
continues. Redirecting:

• Allows a teacher to guide children to engage in alternative behaviors that are more
acceptable.

• Consists of instruction and simple cues teachers can easily embed into teachable
moments throughout the day.

• Is one of multiple proactive teaching strategies teachers use in combination with other
strategies (e.g., creating classroom rules, clearly stating expectations for classroom
behaviors).

• Stops a child from engaging in a challenging behavior before it escalates.

• Re-engages a child with appropriate activities which is key to maximizing learning time.

• Maximizes learning time for all children in the classroom as they will not be distracted
by the challenging behavior.

Teachers redirect challenging behavior by

• Minimizing attention to the challenging behavior.

• Providing a clear description of the behavior expected from the child (e.g., “You can ask
for a turn nicely,” or “We play with the trucks by driving them on the carpet.”)

• Providing positive attention and/or feedback (e.g., “That’s playing with the trucks safely,
Miguel! I see you are driving them on the carpet.”), or access to the desired material as
soon as it is available.

Redirection can be used when a child

• is off task to redirect attention to the task.

• uses materials inappropriately to provide a reminder of how to use the materials
properly.

• talks out of turn to help the child wait for a turn.

• gets upset by a situation to guide the child away from that situation, to address the
child’s feelings, and to engage the child in an alternate activity

Four types of redirecting are most commonly used in the preschool classroom:

• Verbal redirecting: A teacher gives an instruction which distracts the child from the
challenging behavior and directs him to a more appropriate activity.

• Physical redirecting: A teacher physically prevents a child from engaging in a challenging
behavior and redirects her to an alternative or new activity.

• Redirecting with a cue that is visual or gestural (e.g., a picture or gesture).

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• Redirecting attention to a positive model in a child’s proximity (proximal attention): For
example, a teacher draws attention to a nearby child who is engaged in an appropriate
behavior.21

Addressing Challenging Behavior
Preschool children rely on guidance from their teachers to practice and eventually master the
complex skills required to navigate social interactions with peers and adults. With guidance
from caring adults in their environment, preschool children can develop a sense of competence,
learn developmentally appropriate ways to socialize with peers, and resolve conflicts.22

Teacher’s Role
As the adults that work with children on a daily basis and who form positive relationships with
them, teachers have a critical role in addressing challenging behaviors. Teachers should:

• Observe and identify the emotions underlying challenging behaviors.

• Gather input from colleagues, other program staff members, and families
to gain a greater understanding of the function or purpose behind children’s challenging
behaviors and to develop strategies—including self-reflection and peer-reflection—for
addressing those behaviors.

• Share observations appropriately and respect confidentiality when discussions involve
children and families.

• Implement strategies designed by colleagues, families, and other specialists to address
children’s challenging behaviors.

• Develop, modify, and adapt schedules, routines, and the program environment to
positively affect challenging behaviors.23

Program’s Role
Teachers also need support from their programs. Programs should:

• Provide support and professional development on the practices that are most likely to
prevent challenging behaviors in young children, including strong relationships,
supportive environments (including carefully planned transitions, schedules, and
grouping), and teaching social–emotional skills to children.

• Provide professional development opportunities to staff and resources to families on
the use of strategies to respond to challenging behaviors, including support from
behavioral or developmental specialists, early interventionists, and mental-health
professionals as necessary.24

21 Presenter Notes Redirecting Behavior by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services is in the public
domain
22 California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission
23 Content by Jennifer Paris is licensed under CC BY 4.0;
California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission
24 Content by Jennifer Paris is licensed under CC BY 4.0;
California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/no-search/iss/behavior-guidance/redirecting-presenter-notes

https://www.hhs.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Conflict Resolution
Conflict is a natural part of social interactions. Teachers can help children navigate conflict
successfully by facilitating conflict resolution. Teachers should:

• Support children in expressing their emotions and negotiating conflict in
developmentally appropriate ways.

• Model appropriate behavior for resolving conflicts.

• Refine and implement developmentally appropriate strategies to help children learn
how to express emotions, negotiate conflict, and solve problems.

• Work with coworkers to utilize a similar and consistent process with children in the
same classroom or environment.

• Engage colleagues and other program staff, children, and families in discussions around
conflict resolution.25

Steps for Resolving Conflict26
Include the children directly involved and use these steps

1. Acknowledge there is a problem or conflict: What happened? How
do you feel?
✓ Approach children calmly, take deep breaths, and acknowledge

feelings
✓ Ask what happened and how do you feel?; hear from both

children. This is about listening to each other
2. Ask for solution ideas

✓ See if the children have ideas first
✓ Get a “solution kit” if needed

3. Give it a try
✓ Get the children to signal agreement: thumbs up, hand shake
✓ You can state the solution again if needed and provide PDA

(Positive, Descriptive Acknowledgment) for being flexible, being
good at solving problems, asking for help, staying calm

4. Follow up with children, use PDA (Positive, Descriptive
Acknowledgment)

It’s important to see that the issue is resolved or that the children move on.

The Teaching Pyramid
Challenging behavior often indicates that a child is experiencing stress from a number of
factors: internal stress from fatigue, poor nutrition, illness, pain or discomfort; external stress
from a mismatch in the classroom environment or expectations, poor relationships with the

25 Content by Jennifer Paris is licensed under CC BY 4.0;
California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission
26 Supporting Inclusive Early Learning: Working Together for Inclusion & Belonging by Supporting Inclusive Early
Learning is used with permission

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://cainclusion.org/resources/tp/documents/materials/ConflictResolutionSteps https:/cainclusion.org/resources/tp/documents/materials/ConflictResolutionSteps

https://cainclusion.org/

https://cainclusion.org/

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teachers or children, overly difficult or overly simple tasks, limited social skills, trauma in the
home environment; or a combination of these factors. A consistent and supportive teacher or
other important adult can provide support for the child during short periods of stress. If
challenging behavior continues over longer periods of time, it may be necessary to examine
possible contributors to the behavior in the classroom and from other sources. A tiered
intervention framework such as the Teaching Pyramid may be an appropriate response to
challenging behavior.

The teaching pyramid model (Fox et al. 2003) describes a primary level of universal practices—
classroom preventive practices that promote the social and emotional development of all
children built on a foundation of positive relationships; secondary interventions that address
specific social and emotional learning needs of children at risk for challenging behavior; and
development of individualized interventions (tertiary level) for children with persistent problem
behavior (see the diagram “The Teaching Pyramid”).27

Figure 6.2: Promoting Healthy Social Emotional Development.28

27 California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission (pg.
143-144)
28 Graphic by the California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Universal classroom practices include developmentally appropriate, child-centered classroom
environments that promote children’s developing independence, successful interactions, and
engagement in learning. While universal practices may be enough to promote the development
of social competence in the majority of children in the classroom, teachers may find that there
are children whose lack of social and emotional skills or whose challenging behavior requires
more focused attention.

According to the California Collaborative on Social and Emotional Foundations for Early
Learning (CA CSEFEL), fundamental to promoting social and emotional competence in young
children is guiding children in their efforts to build positive relationships with adults and peers
and creating supportive social and emotional learning environments for all children. For
children at risk of developing behavior problems, targeted social and emotional strategies may
be necessary, and for those children who display very persistent and severe challenging and
behavior problems, individualized intensive interventions are required, when the children do
not respond to typical preventive practices, child guidance procedures, or social–emotional
teaching strategies that would normally work with most children (CA CSEFEL Teaching Pyramid,
Promoting Social and Emotional Competence, Module 3a, 2013).

Table 6.5: Addressing Children’s Challenging Behavior 29

Old Way New Way
General intervention for all behavior
problems

Intervention matched to purpose of the
behavior

Intervention is reactive Intervention is proactive

Focus on behavior reduction Focus on teaching the child new skills

Quick fix Long-term interventions

Moving from Praise to Acknowledgment: Providing
Children with Authentic Support
The way teachers respond to positive behavior also has an impact. We can encourage children’s
efforts by providing specific acknowledgement rather than empty praise (which can either
become meaningless or addictive for a child).

“The only lifelong, reliable motivations are those that come from within, and one of
the strongest of those is the joy and pride that grow from knowing that you’ve just
done something as well as you can do it.”

-Lloyd Dobens and Clare Crawford-Mason

29 California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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When a child has done something impressive, instead of saying, “Good job,” try one of the
following:

1. Report what you see (narrating).
A short, objective statement such as, “You put your dishes in the tub,” or “You figured
out a solution to the problem,” acknowledges children’s efforts and allows them to
judge for themselves the merits of their achievement. Elaborate on the details of their
actions to provide more specific feedback. For example, “It looks like you used blue and
green to make an ocean.”

2. Connect it with a desired character trait, value, or expectation (PDA: Positive,
Descriptive Acknowledgment).

When a child does something that is an example of a character trait, value or
expectation, add the expectations language to the comment. For example, if a child has
put away toys on the floor say, “You cleaned up the blocks. You are keeping the area
safe.” Or if they helped a friend you might say, “You gave Yoon Seo the fire truck. That’s
being friendly.” Expectations language provides definitions for the character words,
builds self-efficacy (belief that you have the ability to succeed at a task), and helps the
child to internalize the behaviors.

3. Emphasize the impact on others.

If a child does something caring or something that benefits the community,
acknowledge the positive impact. For example, if a child has put away toys on the floor
say, “You cleaned up the blocks. Now someone else can have a turn.” Or if they helped a
friend you might say, “You gave Yoon Seo the fire truck. He looks really happy to have
it.” Such language builds a sense of agency (ability to intentionally make things happen
through your actions) by drawing the child’s attention to the impact his/her actions
have on another child.

4. Ask open-ended questions.

Being curious encourages the child to reflect. “What do you like best about your
tower?” or “How did you know to put the puzzle piece there?” Asking open-ended
questions builds language and engages the children in abstract thinking.

5. Say nothing.

When children are playing, we often feel the need to continually comment on their
actions. This can be disruptive and can create an extrinsic motivation to explore. Let

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children take joy in their own learning and allow them to experience the pride of their
own accomplishments.30

Planning for Guiding Behavior
The plans for guiding behavior, although typically not seen on a daily or weekly plan posted for
all to see, will likely be found in the program manual. In a program manual, teachers and
administrators explain strategies for guiding children’s behavior to support learning how to get
along respectfully and cooperatively with others. Short written handouts on common issues like
sharing, biting, hitting, or name-calling are also useful ways to make visible to families how
teachers support young children in getting along respectfully and cooperatively with others.
(The CA CSEFEL Teaching Pyramid Web site at https://cainclusion.org/teachingpyramid/ is a
resource that provides downloadable handouts on such topics in English, Chinese, and Spanish.)
It is important that families see that such planning is part of the broad definition of curriculum.
Families are integral to this planning, as they have their own perspectives on guiding learning
and behavior. Collaborating with families opens up possibilities to help children learn
expectations both at home and at school, because children are learning ways of being with
others in both settings.

There will be times when social–emotional development and negotiating relationships between
children take center stage in the written plan. For example, in a toddler classroom, several
children might be learning the importance of not biting others when they are upset. This
behavior might become a focus for teacher reflection and curriculum planning for the group at
large for several weeks. Teachers might decide to read stories to the children about things to do
when angry. Or schedules may be adjusted to allow a teacher to shadow a child who tends to
bite when upset. Teachers might also document over the course of several days to see if biting
tends to occur at particular times.

Another example comes from a classroom of three-year-olds who are all new to the program.
The term “cleanup time” may not make sense to the children, so the teachers plan
opportunities when children can experience and discuss what this term means. It becomes the
topic of discussion during a large-group gathering. It also takes on a special look during the
cleanup that happens before lunch, as a teacher adds a new routine in which each child gets to
pull from a basket a sign that says, “I cleaned” and carries it into the meal area. The idea of
cleanup also gets written into a story, dictated by several children who are dismayed that not
everyone was helping with cleanup. The teachers make time during large-group gathering to
read the story. Prompted by the teacher’s suggestions, several children illustrate the story,
which becomes part of a homemade book that finds a home in the book/story area.31

30 Moving From Praise to Acknowledgement by Supporting Inclusive Early Learning is used with permission;
Adapted by WestEd CA CSEFEL August 2012 from Hooked on Praise: Quit saying “Good Job!” by Alfie Kohn; content
by Jennifer Paris is licensed under CC BY 4.0
31 The Integrated Nature of Learning by the California Department of Education is used with permission (pg. 32-36)

https://cainclusion.org/teachingpyramid/

https://cainclusion.org/teachingpyramid/materials/general/MovingFromPraisetoAcknowledgement

https://cainclusion.org/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/intnatureoflearning2016

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Section IV: Planning for

Children’s Learning

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Introduction to Planning for
Preschoolers

Objectives
By the end of this introduction, you should be able to:

• Summarize the developmental characteristics of preschoolers

• Explain what learning foundations are

• Describe the purpose of the curriculum frameworks

• Discuss the role of the Desired Results Developmental Profile

• Identify the domains that we categorize curriculum into for the purpose of learning
about planning and implementing it

What Preschoolers are Like
In order to plan for children it is vital to begin with one aspect of developmentally appropriate
practice, which relates to the developmental characteristics of children based on their age.
Here are some representations of what children are like at each age in the preschool years. You
can find more developmental milestones in Appendix E.

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Figure 1: What Preschoolers are Like.1

You will notice that consideration for the other two aspects of developmentally appropriate
practice which are also critical to our work, understanding individual children and seeing
children in the context of their families and larger culture, are included throughout each
domain based chapter.

Using the California Preschool Learning Foundations,
California Preschool Curriculum Framework, and Desired
Results Developmental Profile
The following six chapters on planning curriculum for preschools have been compiled using the
California Preschool Learning Foundations and the Preschool Curriculum Frameworks. These
well-researched documents published by the California Department of Education can be used
along with the Desired Results Developmental Profile (DRDP), to support implementing the
curriculum planning process with young children.

Each of these resources fulfills an important role in the curriculum planning process:

• The Foundations are what we want children to learn and develop.

1 Images by Ian Joslin and Anthony Flores are licensed by CC-BY 4.0

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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• The Curriculum Framework outline how teachers can support this learning and
development.

• And the Desired Results Developmental Profile is a tool to assess children’s learning and
development and to inform programming.2

California Preschool Learning Foundations
The foundations describe competencies—knowledge and skills—that most children can be
expected to exhibit in a high quality program as they complete their first or second year of
preschool. In other words, the foundations are destination points of learning that, with
appropriate support, children move toward and often reach during the preschool years.

The foundations are designed to promote understanding of young children’s development of
knowledge and skills and to help with considering appropriate ways to support children’s
learning. In essence, the foundations serve as a cornerstone for educating practitioners about
children’s learning and development. The foundations are designed to be used in combination
with other sources of information: formal educational course work on early learning and
development, information on individual differences, including those related to disabilities,
knowledge about the contribution of cultural and linguistic experiences to early development,
and English-language development, insights from children’s families, and the practical
experiences of preschool teachers and program directors.

The support needed to attain the competencies varies from child to child. Many children learn
simply by participating in high-quality preschool programs. Such programs offer children
environments and experiences that encourage active playful exploration and experimentation.
With play as an integral part of the curriculum, high-quality programs include purposeful
teaching to help children gain knowledge and skills.3

The foundations are at the heart of the California Department of Education’s (CDE) approach to
promoting preschool learning. Teachers use best practices, curricular strategies, and
instructional techniques that assist children in learning the knowledge and skills described in
the preschool learning foundations. The “how-to’s” of teaching young children include setting
up environments, supporting children’s self-initiated play, selecting appropriate materials, and
planning and implementing teacher-guided learning activities.

2 Content by Jennifer Paris is licensed by CC-BY-4.0
3 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission (pg. xi)

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Figure 2: The materials for this shelf were carefully chosen and displayed to invite children to explore.

Image by Jennifer Paris is licensed under CC-BY-4.0

Two major considerations underlie the “how-tos” of teaching. First, teachers can effectively
foster early learning by thoughtfully considering the preschool learning foundations as they
plan environments and activities. And second, during every step in the planning for young
children’s learning, teachers have an opportunity to tap into the prominent role of play.
Teachers can best support young children by both encouraging the rich learning that occurs in
children’s self-initiated play and by introducing purposeful instructional activities that playfully
engage preschoolers in learning.

Professional development is a key component of early care and education in fostering
preschool learning. The foundations can become a unifying element for both preservice and in-
service professional development. Preschool program directors and teachers can use the
foundations to facilitate curriculum planning and implementation. At the center of the CDE’s
evolving system for supporting young children during the preschool years, the foundations are
designed to help teachers be intentional and focus their efforts on the knowledge and skills that
all young children need to acquire for success in preschool and early elementary school—and
throughout life.4

4 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission (pg. xvi)

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Making Connections
Here’s an example of a learning foundation from the Music strand of the
Visual and Performing Arts Domain.

At around 48 months children:
3.3 Improvise vocally and instrumentally

This foundation will be connected to the CA Preschool Curriculum
Framework and the Desired Results Developmental Profile 2015 later in this
introduction. 5

California Preschool Curriculum Framework
Young children enter preschool with a sense of wonder and a love of learning. They have an
insatiable appetite for knowledge when they have learning experiences that are engaging and
enjoyable. Positive experiences in which children can make choices and explore help them feel
competent and confident. How can we offer them engaging and enjoyable learning experiences
that fuel their intellectual engines and build their confidence? How can we connect children’s
fascination with learning in every domain and make the most of their time in preschool? With
these questions in mind, the California Department of Education (CDE) developed the
curriculum framework for preschool programs, which include any early childhood setting where
three- to five-year-old children receive education and care.

Figure 3: Some of the most engaging play is sensory-based. What might these children be learning here?6

This curriculum framework provides an overall approach for teachers to support children’s
learning through environments and experiences that are:

• developmentally appropriate

• reflective of thoughtful observation and intentional planning

• individually and culturally meaningful

• inclusive of children with disabilities or other special needs.

5 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission (pg. xvi)
6 Image by Seattle City Council is in the public domain

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

CDSA preschool photos

thumbnail_DD2B7061-CF0F-490C-8422-0748E4097964_1_201_a

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The framework presents ways of setting up environments, encouraging and building upon
children’s self-initiated play, selecting appropriate materials, and planning and implementing
teacher-guided learning activities. As preschool teachers plan learning environments and
experiences, the foundations provide the background information to:

• understand children’s developing knowledge and skills

• consider appropriate ways to support children’s learning and development.

In essence, curriculum planning should offer children learning opportunities that are attuned to
their developing abilities and their interests and should be connected with their experiences at
home and in their communities.

In the National Association for the Education of Young Children’s accreditation criteria, it is
stated that a curriculum includes the goals for the knowledge and skills to be acquired by
children and the plans for learning experiences through which such knowledge and skills will be
acquired. A preschool curriculum typically defines a sequence of integrated experiences,
interactions, and activities to help young children reach specific learning goals. A curriculum
framework provides general guidance on planning learning environments and experiences for
young children. Thus, as a curriculum framework, this document provides:

• principles for supporting young children’s learning

• an overview of key components of curriculum planning for young children, including
observation, documentation, and reflection

• descriptions of routines, environments, and materials that engage children in learning

• sample strategies for building on children’s knowledge, skills, and interests

Figure 4: This teacher is engaging in a planned activity with a small group of children.7

Eight principles have guided the development of this curriculum framework. Grounded in early
childhood research and practice, the following eight principles emphasize offering young

7 Image by Seattle City Council is in the public domain

CDSA preschool photos

thumbnail_DD2B7061-CF0F-490C-8422-0748E4097964_1_201_a

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children individually, culturally, and linguistically responsive learning experiences and
environments:

1. Relationships are central.
2. Play is a primary context for learning.
3. Learning is integrated.
4. Intentional teaching enhances children’s learning experiences.
5. Family and community partnerships create meaningful connections.
6. Individualization of learning includes all children.
7. Responsiveness to culture and language supports children’s learning.
8. Time for reflection and planning enhances teaching.8

The concepts and strategies described in the preschool curriculum framework require
thoughtful planning and implementation. They are grounded in evidence-based practices that
have evolved in the early childhood education field over decades. The ability to apply a broad
understanding of early learning and development in the preschool setting takes time and
experience. With appropriate professional development, preschool program administrators and
teachers can use the curriculum framework to guide their planning and implementation of
environments and experiences that allow all young children to prosper during the preschool
years.9

8 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission (pg. 2-3; 5)
9 The California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission
(pg. 73)

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Making Connections
How do teachers use the Curriculum Frameworks to support children’s
development of the foundations? Here are some takeaways from the
Curriculum Framework in Visual and Performing Arts domain that will
support the example foundation “Improvise vocally and instrumentally”
mentioned before:

A guiding principle:

• Children make their own meaning. Original, imaginative expression
is a natural occurrence when children engage in the arts that is
scaffolded by adults in an appropriate environment.

A basic needs for the environment and materials:

• It is important that music not be limited to prerecorded songs.
Music is an active process. Music may be a little more demanding of
specialized materials. A variety of rhythm instruments, such as
wooden blocks, bongo drums, or hollow, hardwood boxes, can be
used by children; little instruction is necessary. When these
materials are not available, clapping hands and stomping feet can
keep rhythm. Other musical instruments that may extend this
collection include recorder-like wind instruments, shakers, stringed
plucking devices, and so on.

Teachers can support music foundations by:
[Providing] music areas where children can experience instruments or
musical activities as individuals or in a small group.10

Desired Results Developmental Profile (DRDP)
The Desired Results Developmental Profile (2015) is a developmental continuum from early
infancy to kindergarten entry. It is a formative assessment instrument developed by the
California Department of Education for young children and their families used to inform
curricular decisions and program development. It was designed to improve the quality of
programs and services provided to young children who are enrolled in child care outside the
home.

Key Features of the DRDP 2015

• It is administered in natural settings through teacher observations, family observations,
and examples of children’s work. Ongoing documentation of children’s knowledge and
skills in everyday environments is a recommended practice for early childhood
assessment. It is completed by the teacher who best knows the child.

10 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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• “[It] is written to facilitate observation during the developmentally age-appropriate
play-based and instructional activities that are typical in high-quality programs.”

• It represents a full continuum of development from early infancy up to kindergarten
entry. It has two views: the Infant/Toddler view for use with children in infant/toddler
programs, and the Preschool View, for children in preschool programs.

• It is designed for use with all children from early infancy up to kindergarten entry,
including children with special needs.

• It is aligned with all volumes of the California’s Infant/Toddler and Preschool Learning
and Development Foundations, the Common Core Standards, and the Head Start Child
Development and Early Learning Framework.

• It takes into consideration the specific cultural and linguistic characteristics of
California’s diverse population of young children, with specific consideration for children
who are young dual language learners (see section below).

• It was developed with the goal of ensuring that all children have the opportunity to
demonstrate their knowledge and skills. To enable access to the assessment for diverse
populations, the principles of Universal Design were followed. It is embedded into
program activities, not contrived activities.11

Figure 5: Teachers can use opportunities like this group time to observe children’s development as part of the

assessment process.12

The DRDP will be further explored in Chapter 17 on Documentation and Assessment.

11DRDP (2015) by The California Department of Education is used with permission (pg. 2)
12 Image by Staff Sgt. Sarah Hanson is in the public domain

https://www.desiredresults.us/sites/default/files/docs/forms/DRDP2015PSC_090116

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.hurlburt.af.mil/News/Features/Display/Article/495550/hurlburt-cdc-teacher-inspires-children-for-29-years/

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Making Connections
And to close the loop on these three resources, here is a measure in the
Desired Results Developmental Profile (2015) Visual and Performing Arts
domain that assesses where a child is currently at developmentally in
relation to the example foundation, “Improvise vocally and instrumentally”:

VPA 2: Music – Child expresses and creates by making musical sounds, with
increasing intentionality and complexity.13

Dividing Development and Curriculum Into Domain
We know that children certainly do not develop in isolated domains (as the images earlier in
this introduction might lead you to assume). Their development is holistic and the domains are
interrelated. What happens in one domain or area influences and/or is influenced by what
happens in other domains or areas. We also know that learning is integrated and that
curriculum should reflect that. Children do not just learn about one curriculum area or domain.
A spontaneous or planned experience will touch on numerous curriculum areas.

Figure 6: Domains of Development14

13 DRDP (2015) by The California Department of Education is used with permission
14 Image by Ian Joslin is licensed by CC-BY-4.0

https://www.desiredresults.us/sites/default/files/docs/forms/DRDP2015PSC_090116

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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But to make these domains easier to explore we study them separately, while keeping in mind
that they are interconnected and interrelated.

The Preschool Learning Foundations and Curriculum Frameworks are divided into nine
domains. Our book will feature these as eight separate chapters. This table summarizes how
these are related. 15

Table 1: Curriculum Domains16

California Resources Domains Textbook Chapter
Social and Emotional Development Social and Emotional Development

Language and Literacy Language and Literacy

Mathematics Mathematics

Science Science

Visual and Performing Arts Creative Arts

History-Social Science History and Social Science

Physical Development Physical Development

Health Health and Safety

English Language Development (not included)

15 Content by Jennifer Paris is licensed by CC-BY-4.0
16 Content by Jennifer Paris is licensed by CC-BY-4.0

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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Chapter 7: Social and Emotional
Development

Objectives:
By the end of the chapter, you should be able to:

• Explain how social-emotional development lays the foundation for and is interrelated
with all other domains and areas of development

• Describe the foundations in social and emotional development that high quality early
childhood programs support

• Discuss how the environment contributes to children’s social and emotional
development

• Identify ways educators can support children’s social and emotional development

• Summarize ways to engage families in curriculum for social and emotional development

Introduction
Social-emotional development indicates how preschool children acquire the social skills, self-
awareness, and personal qualities that are interconnected with learning in a classroom. Why is
social-emotional development important to early learning?

• Many social-emotional qualities—such as curiosity; self-confidence as a learner; self-
control of attention, thinking, and impulses; and initiative in developing new ideas—are
essential to learning at any age. Learning, problem solving, and creativity rely on these
social-emotional and motivational qualities as well as basic cognitive skills.

• When learning occurs in groups, such as in preschool classrooms or family child care
programs, the social environment significantly influences how learning occurs. When
young children enjoy interacting with adults and other children, they are more
enthusiastic about activities and participate more.

• The interest and enthusiasm of others fuels the child’s own excitement about learning,
and children are also motivated by others’ acknowledgment of the child’s
accomplishments.

• Children who have been reported as having the greatest difficulties in learning are
hindered by the lack of social-emotional qualities more than academic concepts.

• The developing brain is not neatly divided into separate areas governing learning,
thinking, and emotions. Instead, it is a highly interconnected organ with different
regions influencing, and being affected by, the others. This means, for example, that
young children who experience emotional challenges (perhaps because of stress) are
less ready for learning because the brain regions related to memory are being affected
by other regions governing emotion. 1

1 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Figure 7.1: Working constructively with a peer takes a lot of social skills.2

Pause to Reflect
What is your reaction to the importance of social and emotional development
to children’s learning? Did you already know this information? Do you think
most people are aware of this?

Guiding Principles for Supporting Social and Emotional
Development
Early learning is supported by attention to social-emotional development. Rather than taking
time away from activities promoting learning and thinking, attention to the development of
self, social interactions, and relationships is an essential component of an early childhood
curriculum designed to promote learning in all young children. Here are some guiding principles
on how to do that:

• Support social-emotional development with intentionality and ample opportunities to
practice skills

• Attend to the impact of overall program design on social-emotional development (how
you group children, what you model, etc.)

• Utilize curriculum practices that support healthy social-emotional development,
including:

o allow many opportunities for practicing social interaction and relationship skills
o provide support for the growth of age and developmentally appropriate self-

regulation abilities
o encourage curiosity and initiative
o provide each child a network of nurturing, dependable adults who will actively

support and scaffold his or her learning in a group setting

• The most effective approach is play-based active learning

2 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Here are some additional strategies to support children’s social and emotional development:

• Create a program environment and daily routines that offer children opportunities for
responsible and cooperative roles in the classroom or family child care community.

• Model desirable behavior and attitudes in interactions with children and other adults.

• Use the family culture to create bridges between the program and the home, supporting
children’s pride in their family experience, and understand individual differences in
background and viewpoint.

• Enlist adults as active co-explorers in children’s chosen activities.

• Encourage children’s ideas, initiative, and contributions to shared activities.

• Observe children attentively, as they play, to understand each child’s needs, interests,
strengths, and areas of growth in social-emotional development.

• Establish developmentally and culturally appropriate expectations for children’s
behavior, especially expectations for self-control and self-regulation.

• Narrate for children what they are observed doing and expressing, providing language
to describe their thoughts and feelings and to clarify others’ feelings.

• Provide specific feedback to children about their efforts, reinforcing their choices that
support learning and linking their actions to outcomes.

• Coach and guide children’s behavior by using positive, respectful phrasing and tone to
prompt problem solving and to give brief instructions and reminders.

• Help children to understand social cues (facial expressions, body language, tone of
voice). This can be fostered by simply allowing the children to freely play with their
peers (learning through experience), or by modeling your own thought processes by
thinking out loud (“I wonder what it means when Hayden is crying?”)3

Figure 7.2: Children’s emotions sometimes look like this. But with adult support they can learn to self-regulate.4

3 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission;
Content in blue by Clint Springer is licensed by CC BY-4.0
4 Image by Your Village is licensed by CC BY-3.0

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://vimeo.com/yourvillage

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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Environmental Factors in Supporting Social and Emotional
Development
The physical environment provides young children with expectations for behavior. When
educators are mindful of the aesthetics, organization, and function of each area in the space,
challenging behavior is likely to decrease while constructive, cooperative behavior increases.
A program’s vision for learning and philosophy of care dictate how an environment is designed.
For example, if the curriculum is based on the view that children are competent directors of
their own learning, educators develop a physical setting and activities that reflect children’s
emerging interests and provide easy access to meaningful play materials. Shelves for
manipulatives and other materials are near the floor where children can easily reach them.
Special areas in the room are designed for individual, small-group, and larger-group
interactions. Play materials and other materials are carefully selected to reflect children’s
emerging interests, as observed in the context of play and conversation. In this environment,
adult-child interactions can expand children’s questions and comments.

High-quality learning environments set the stage for social-emotional exploration and growth.
When children are presented with a warm, inviting, and culturally familiar environment, they
feel comfortable and secure. The attractive spaces adults prepare for children communicate
expectations of responsibility and cooperative care (we all play in and care for this beautiful
place together).

Figure 7.3: This classroom sends clear messages about how children are to play with the materials and each other.5

Preparing a variety of learning areas with open-ended materials encourages each child to
participate in meaningful play experiences that match their individual temperaments and
abilities. Incorporating elements from the home creates an atmosphere of community while
simultaneously acknowledging the presence of individuals.

5 Image by Community Playthings is used with permission

https://www.communityplaythings.com/inspiration/room-inspirations/learning-through-play

https://www.communityplaythings.com/

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A physical environment that supports social-emotional learning has the following
characteristics:

• Challenging and developmentally appropriate materials

• Ample supply of materials

• Appropriately sized small-group activities

• A variety of small-group activities within a range of adult supervision

• Aesthetically appealing

• Spaces to be with others and spaces to be alone

• Furnishings and materials accessible to children

• Displays of children’s work

• Space for children’s belongings

• Reflective of diversity

• Space for arrivals and departures

• Supportive of children’s active engagement

• Outdoor areas supportive of social-emotional development

Just as the physical environment helps young children successfully meet the social-emotional
demands of the curriculum so, too, does the design of the daily schedule. Young children are
better able to manage themselves and their relationships when daily routines and activities are
predictable, transitions are signaled and supported, and there is a balance between relatively
active and relatively quiet play and between group and individual activities. In the sections that
follow, strategies to support social-emotional development are described in detail.6

6 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Helping Children Cope with Stress
Teachers in an early childhood education program are often the first
persons outside the family to become aware that a young child may be
experiencing overwhelming stress. They may notice a child who reacts with
uncharacteristic aggression to a peer’s comment that would not bother
another child, or they may notice that a child has become unusually quiet
and withdrawn lately. Young children convey their stress in individualized
ways: some are emotionally over-reactive, while others are emotionally
over-controlled; some become clingy, others withdrawn; some become
provocative and defiant. A common characteristic is that young children
under stress exhibit a marked change from their ordinary behavior. They
often lose their capacity for competence and self-control that they
previously had. When teachers observe these changes in a child, it can be
helpful to consult with parents to discover whether recent events have
created challenges that children are having difficulty managing. Often these
challenges arise from within the family.

How can teachers assist young children under stress? One of the most
important things they can do is provide the child with a predictable, safe
haven where children can feel secure. Teachers can create a comfortable
and comforting everyday routine that is child-centered, individualized,
responsive, and helpfully structured to give young children a sense of
control and predictability that may be lacking in other aspects of the child’s
life. Central to these efforts is providing children with supportive adult
relationships that are reliable and helpful. This may be more difficult than
one would expect because young children under stress often test these
relationships to see whether teachers and other adults will remain
responsive to them even when children act defiantly or negatively.

Figure 7.4: A teacher who cares makes a difference.7

7 Image by Staff Sgt. Sarah Hanson is in the public domain

https://www.hurlburt.af.mil/News/Art/igphoto/2000835765/

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In some circumstances, it can be helpful for teachers to obtain the advice of
an early childhood mental health consultant who can observe the child in
the classroom, talk with the teacher about the child’s behavior, and suggest
strategies for providing supportive assistance. Early childhood mental
health consultants can be valuable resources to an early childhood
education program. They can help teachers provide much-needed support
to young children who may not have other such sources of support
elsewhere in their lives.8

Pause to Reflect
What environments make you feel most socially and emotionally competent?
How do you deal with your stress? Why should you be thinking about those
things as a teacher?

Introducing to the Foundations
The domain of social-emotional development encompasses three areas or strands:

• self

• social interaction

• relationships9

Supporting Children’s Developing Self
Early learning deeply engages the self. Most preschool children approach learning opportunities
with enthusiasm and self-confidence, excited by the prospect of new discovery. Their successes
(and occasional failures) shape their sense of what they can do and sometimes drive their
efforts to acquire new skills. Their achievements and occasional disappointments also provoke
the responses of others—adults and peers—that further influence children’s self-concept and
self-confidence. Young children value learning for themselves because it is valued by the people
who matter to them.

In a preschool program, learning is a social activity. Therefore, preschool children’s success in
learning depends on their capacity to understand and participate constructively in the social
environment. Early childhood is a period of rapid growth in social and emotional understanding
in which the children’s capacity for empathy and caring is also developing. This is also a period
of growth in self-regulation as young children are acquiring skills for sustaining their attention,
focusing their thinking and problem-solving, managing their behavioral impulses, and
controlling their emotions. Even so, lapses in self-regulation are as apparent as young children’s

8 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
9 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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successes, and developmentally appropriate expectations for children’s self-control are
essential.

Figure 7.5: This group of children is working together, with their teacher, to connect these pieces.10

Therefore, a thoughtfully designed preschool curriculum that supports social-emotional
development devotes considerable attention to the direct and indirect ways that children’s
classroom experiences shape the development of self.

The foundations for Self include those for self-awareness, self-regulation, social and emotional
understanding, empathy and caring, and initiative in learning:

Self

1.0 Self-Awareness
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.1 Describe their physical characteristics,
behavior, and abilities positively.

4.1 Compare their characteristics with those
of others and display a growing
awareness of their psychological
characteristics, such as thoughts and
feelings.

2.0 Self-Regulation
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

4.2 Need adult guidance in managing their
attention, feelings, and impulses and
show some effort at self-control.

2.1 Regulate their attention, thoughts,
feelings, and impulses more consistently,
although adult guidance is sometimes
necessary.

10 Image by Mary H. Allen is in the public domain

https://www.wpafb.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/818461/child-development-center-offers-preschool/

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3.0 Social and Emotional Understanding
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

4.3 Seek to understand people’s feelings and
behavior, notice diversity in human
characteristics, and are interested in how
people are similar and different.

4.1 Begin to comprehend the mental and
psychological reasons people act as they
do and how they contribute to
differences between people.

4.0 Empathy and Caring
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

4.4 Demonstrate concern for the needs of
others and people in distress.

4.2 Respond to another’s distress and needs
with sympathetic caring and are more
likely to assist.

5.0 Initiative in Learning
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

4.5 Enjoy learning and are confident in their
abilities to make new discoveries
although may not persist at solving
difficult problems.

4.3 Take greater initiative in making new
discoveries, identifying new solutions,
and persisting in trying to figure things
out.

Teachers can support children’s development of the Self with the following:

• Provide ample space, use child-sized shelves and furnishings, and adapt materials to
make all learning areas and activities accessible

• Designate learning areas to help children select preferred sites for exploration

• Place active play zones away from quiet areas to better support children in their choices
for play

• Make use of adaptive tools and play materials to help the autonomous exploration of
children with special needs

• Observe individual children attentively during a variety of activities

• Incorporate artwork and play materials that reflect children’s home cultures

• Describe aloud for children observations of what they do and express as they play,
explore, and participate in group activities

• Compare aloud children’s past and present abilities as you observe them

• Give specific feedback to children about their efforts

• Use planned activities and children’s own observations to draw attention to people’s
similarities and differences, including preferences and feelings

• Set up opportunities to practice problem solving with children who have not yet
developed those skills

• Use appropriately stimulating aesthetic elements such as soothing colors, natural woods
and fibers, and soft textures

• Eliminate or reduce background noise to help children attend to what you want them to
hear

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• Model behavior and attitudes that are warm, respectful, and caring

• Maintain developmentally appropriate expectations for preschool children’s behavior

• Guide and coach children’s behavior

• Prompt and guide desired behavior

• Reinforce children’s good choices and link their actions to positive outcomes

• Provide a consistent but flexible daily routine

• Alternate between active and quiet activities

• Time group experiences to match children’s developing attention spans, social skills, and
self-control

• Introduce children to relaxation exercises

• Plan developmentally appropriate transitions

• Play games with rules periodically to help children learn to focus their attention and
regulate their impulses in order to achieve a goal

• Observe the levels of social and emotional understanding that children already have

• Label the emotions people express and communicate with children about what may be
provoking those feelings

• Discuss characteristics openly and answer their questions about differences, being
thoughtful to counter stereotypes by using concrete examples

• Make use of the experiences and emotions of characters in stories

• Acknowledge and express appreciation for children’s empathic responses

• Encourage empathy and caring for the natural world, including plants and animals

• Model curiosity and enthusiasm when you learn new things

• Engage in play and exploration with children instead of simply supervising their activities

• Provide ample time for free exploration, scheduling play and exploration periods of at
least one uninterrupted hour at a time

• Help children generate ideas for solving problems they encounter

• Model persistence during challenging tasks; explaining that unsuccessful attempts to do
something are not failures, but simply steps toward learning what will work11

11 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission;
The California Preschool Learning Foundations, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoollf

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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7.6: Careful planning will ensure that group times are just the right length.12

Pause to Reflect
There were a lot of strategies listed to for teachers to help support children’s
developing sense of self. What are the top five that stood out to you? Are
there any that you are unsure about?

12 Image by Jessica Gibson is in the public domain.

https://www.vance.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/370624/fit-families-program-teaches-healthy-eating-exercise-to-prevent-obesity/

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Vignettes
A child in a wheelchair enters the housekeeping area where three children
are pretending to be a family. They have dishes on the table and dolls in the
doll bed. The child in the wheelchair moves closer to the table and tries to
join the play but cannot get close enough. After a few minutes, one of the
children takes some dishes and puts them on the wheelchair tray. The two
children play together. Mr. Luke comments, “I like your idea to use Andy’s
tray as a table.”

Chloe cries in Ms. Julia’s arms. Ms. Julia pats her back softly and
communicates in a soothing manner. “It sounds like that hurt. You can tell
Paz you don’t like that. Say, ‘I don’t like that, Paz.’” Chloe tucks her injured
arm in toward Ms. Julia’s body, shakes her head slowly side to side, and
looks out warily at Paz. Paz stands close with her head lowered. “Chloe is
upset because you pinched her arm. It hurt her quite a bit. Is there
something you think we could do to help her feel better, Paz?” asks Ms.
Julia.

Paz responds softly, “Sorry, Chloe,” and reaches forward to give Chloe a
hug.

Chloe whimpers and clings more closely to Ms. Julia. “When a friend is hurt,
giving a hug often helps. I guess Chloe isn’t ready for a hug right now. Thank
you for trying, Paz. Maybe we can ask her again later.”13

Supporting Children’s Social Interaction
Group learning always involves social interaction. The ease and skill with which children interact
with adults and peers (in a preschool classroom or family child care program) and the
competence with which they assume their roles and responsibilities as group members
significantly influence how they learn. The development of these skills in the preschool years is
a foundation for children’s capacity to be socially skilled and competent classroom members in
the primary grades.

For some children, unfortunately, difficulties in social interaction—because children are timid
and inhibited, are aggressive or disruptive, struggle with being cooperative, or have physical or
behavioral characteristics that often result in them being excluded—can pose significant
obstacles to benefiting from social interactions with adults and peers. For them and for all
children, attention to social interaction skills can be a significant contribution to preschool
children’s learning in early childhood classrooms.

13 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Figure 7.7: This teachers stays close to support children as they navigate the problem solving of both the computer

program and working together.14

A thoughtfully designed preschool curriculum that supports social-emotional development
devotes considerable attention, therefore, to the direct and indirect ways that classroom
experiences shape the growth of children’s social interaction skills. This includes interactions
with adults, peers, and in groups as well as cooperation and responsibility.

14 Image by Staff Sgt. Jeff Nevison is in the public domain.

https://www.incirlik.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/302410/cdc-sees-results-with-interactive-learning-program/

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Chapter 8: Language and Literacy
Objectives:
By the end of the chapter, you should be able to:

• Discuss the importance of language and literacy development for children’s overall well-
being and learning

• Summarize the foundations in language and literacy that high-quality early childhood
programs support

• Identify ways for educators to support children’s listening and speaking, reading, and
writing

• Describe how the environment should contribute to children’s language and literacy

• Summarize ways to engage families in supporting their children’s language and literacy

Introduction
Language is one of the most crucial tools that children acquire, one that is essential for
cognitive development, reading achievement, and overall school performance, as well as for
social relations. It allows people to share a society’s achievements and history and the deepest
emotions. Language includes conventional sounds, gestures, and visual symbols, such as
writing, that are used separately and jointly for purposes of communication.

The human brain is “hard-wired” to learn language, a process quite similar in all children. Yet
children differ a good deal as to when they hit milestones such as when they use their first
words, start to combine words into sentences, and use complex sentence forms to
communicate meaning. Though children begin to develop language and literacy at birth, with
nonverbal cues such as eye gaze and gestures, they arrive at preschool ready to communicate
with symbols: words, signs, and pictures.

Children’s early language and literacy environments often vary, with the amount and kind of
experiences differing across families. Some children experience more conversations and book
reading than other children and more than one language. Some children see print primarily in
the environment (e.g., street signs, store coupons, labels on containers). Other children engage
with print in many contexts, including books read to them regularly.

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Figure 8.1: These children are really engaged with these books. Their prior experience with books and being read to

helps them understand how books are used.1

Some children have opportunities to scribble, draw, and write with crayons and markers long
before they come to preschool, while others have few of these emergent writing opportunities.
Teachers should encourage all preschoolers to join in activities that will expand their language
and literacy skills. Each child’s family should be invited to participate in this exciting process.

The following components constitute oral language:

Figure 8.1: Parts of Oral and Sign Language System2

1 Image from The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of
Education is used with permission
2 Image from the Preschool English Learners, 2nd Edition by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/Re/documents/psenglearnersed2

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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• Phonology—the sound system of language, such as noticing that hat, cat, and mat differ
by only a single initial sound

• Semantics—the meaning conveyed by words, phrases, and sentences

• Syntax or grammar—the rules that govern how sentences are put together

• Morphology—the units of meaning within a language, also called morphemes, such as —
ed for past tense (e.g., walked) and s for plural (e.g., dogs)

• Vocabulary—the words in a given language

• Pragmatics—the rules of language used in social contexts (e.g., one would talk
differently to the president than to one’s mother). Pragmatics includes gathering
information, requesting, and communicating. Good conversations depend on staying on
the topic and turn-taking

These components are used in the auditory (i.e., listening, speaking) and visual (i.e., sign,
reading, writing) modalities. Language allows children to express their feelings and needs,
acknowledge the feelings and needs of others, and to talk about emotions.

Figure 8.2: Language allows you to express yourself, understand others, and work together. 3

Preschool is also an exciting time for written language development and for promoting interest
in reading. If the social and physical environments in preschool and the home support the
development of reading and written language, children will want to hear stories from books
and to use books to find out more about things of interest. They will also be inclined to create
marks that approximate letters and to learn how to write their own names. They will enjoy
playing with the sounds of language as well. All of these experiences are foundations for the
conventional reading and writing that come later.4

3 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
4 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Research Highlight
The principles and curricular suggestions offered in this chapter are based
on 40 years of scientific research on language acquisition and literacy
development. Here are just a few of the amazing discoveries that form the
background of this chapter. The following findings come from this vast body
of research:

• Even in infancy, children are active learners who use data from the
language they hear to grasp patterns. Children learning language
behave as young mathematicians who respond to patterns and
calculate, for instance, that in English –ed generally comes at the
end of verbs to indicate the past tense (e.g., he walked or it
dropped).

• When young children hear language around them, they are
accumulating the data they need to use their skills and to grasp the
features of their native language. In addition, the very practice of
reading with children (e.g., starting at the front of a book and
moving page by page to the end) teaches the patterns of book
structure and handling and the general ways that print works (e.g.,
English is read from the left to right and top to bottom on a page).
When book reading is accompanied by explicit comments (e.g.,
“This is the title of the book: Whistle for Willie”) and actions (e.g.,
underlining the title as it is read), children learn even more about
the features of books and how print works.

• Children’s storytelling skill and vocabulary development are
supported through shared reading experiences. Stories have a
predictable structure: setting, characters, a problem, and its
resolution. As children hear stories, they learn this basic structure
and begin to use this knowledge to shape the stories they create.
Children also learn the meaning of new words from listening to
multiple readings of good stories, “friendly explanations of words”
(explanations with wording and examples within the preschool
child’s grasp rather than a more formal definition from a dictionary)
offered by teachers and parents as they read stories to children, and
from engagement with adults in discussions during story reading.5

Sources:
P. W. Jusczyk, The Discovery of Spoken Language (Cambridge, MA: Massachusetts Institute
of Technology Press, 1997).

G. F. Marcus and others, “Overregularization in Language Acquisition,” Monographs of the
Society for Research in Child Development 57, no. 4 (1992), Serial No. 228.

L. M. Justice and H. K. Ezell, “Print Referencing: An Emergent Literacy Enhancement
Strategy and Its Clinical Applications,” Language, Speech, and Hearing Services in Schools
35, no. 2 (2004): 185–93.

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N. L. Stein, “The Development of Children’s Storytelling Skill,” in Child Language: A Reader,
ed. M. Franklin and S. S. Barten (New York: Oxford University Press, 1988), 282–95.

W. B. Elley, “Vocabulary Acquisition From Listening to Stories,” Reading Research Quarterly
24 (1989): 174–87.

I. L. Beck, M. G. McKeown, and L. Kucan, Bringing Words to Life: Robust Vocabulary
Instruction (New York: Guilford Press, 2002).

S. Q. Cabell and others, “Strategic and Intentional Shared Storybook Reading,” in Achieving
Excellence in Preschool Literacy Instruction, ed. L. M. Justice and C. Vukelich (New York:
Guilford Press, 2008), 198–220.

G. W. Whitehurst and others, “Accelerating Language Development Through Picture Book
Reading,” Developmental Psychology 24, no. 4 (1988): 552–59.

National Center for Family Literacy, Developing Early Literacy: Report of the National Early
Literacy Panel (Jessup, MD: National Institute for Literacy, 2008).

Guiding Principles for Supporting Language and Literacy
It is critical that teachers and caregivers be responsive to young children’s attempts at
communication and language by focusing on things that are meaningful to the children and
their families. No single component of any curriculum will have more impact on a preschooler’s
development than language.

Figure 8.3: Listening to children’s message (and not correcting their errors) is vital to their language development.6

Preschool is also an exciting time for written language development and for promoting interest
in reading. If the social and physical environments in preschool and the home support the
development of reading and writing, children will want to hear stories from books and to use

5 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
6 Image by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is licensed by CC-BY-2.0

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Talking_about_the_WOW_Express_(7159682843)

https://www.flickr.com/people/43322816@N08

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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books to find out more about things of interest. They will also be inclined to create marks that
approximate letters and to learn how to write their own names. They will enjoy playing with the
sounds of language as well. All of these experiences are foundations for the conventional
reading and writing that come later.

Here are some guiding principles on how to support children’s language and emerging literacy:

• Language and literacy work together. They often occur in the same context. And having
well-developed oral language contributes to later success with more formal reading and
writing.

• The more language children hear, the more their language grows.

• It is important to give children rich models of speech/communication and reading and
writing.

• Opportunities to learn language and literacy are everywhere.

• Children learn best from experiences that are interesting, useful, and fun. This includes
silly songs, poems with surprise endings, and interesting and informative books.

• Celebrate and support the individual. Things such as temperament, prior experience,
and disabilities affect children’s starting places with language and literacy.

• Connect with families. Providing them with certain materials and strategies to support
their children’s language and literacy development benefits children’s learning.

• Create a culturally sensitive environment. Some children have been encouraged to
speak up more than others.

• Encourage children to use language for negotiating with other children, asking for what
they want, and expressing their emotions.

• Create many opportunities for children to do the talking. Ask open-ended questions and
model engaging in the back-and-forth of conversations.

• Make thoughts more explicit to children by thinking out loud.

• Support curiosity and confidence. Children should freely use “Why? and “How come?”

• Create well-organized, literacy-rich environments, both indoors and outdoors.

• Observe how children engage with language and literacy to meet each child’s needs.7

7 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Environmental Factors in Supporting Language and
Literacy

Figure 8.4: This large-group experience supports language in an engaging way.8

How the learning environment is arranged affects how children learn to talk, read, and write.
An environment that fosters language development, two-way communication, and literacy
skills provides rich curriculum content. The daily schedule accommodates a variety of groupings
(e.g., large group, small group, and individual), and the learning materials fascinate children.
Children learn more when adults model language and literacy as well as provide playful,
purposeful instruction. Play spaces with literacy props (e.g., signs, lists) allow children to
congregate and to make choices that foster rich language and literacy experiences.

• Create time in the daily routine for adult-child and child-child interactions.

• Have space and times for large-group times

• Create spaces and times for children to gather in small groups

• Provide a space to display family-related items; consider how to add text to those
displays

• Organize your classroom into centers or interest areas to create clear spaces for children
to engage and collaborate (and communicate), including

o A dramatic play area
o A block area
o An art area
o A writing area
o A cozy library or book area
o A science area
o A game area
o A math area

• Choose materials for small- and large-group times that the children will be interested in
and use them with intention

• Create a learning environment to fascinate children and prompt conversations

8 California Preschool Program Guidelines by The California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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• Extend the classroom beyond its wall; being outdoors, going on walks, and taking field
trips are all great for promoting conversation

• Be flexible in your environment; allow children to expand their ideas to new areas9

Figure 8.5: In this image, you can see the reading area (on the left) and the writing area (on the right).10

Pause to Reflect
How might the centers just listed each support language and literacy?

9 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
10 Image by Community Playthings is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

https://www.communityplaythings.com/inspiration/room-inspirations/literacy-area

https://www.communityplaythings.com/

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Learning English as a Second Language

In California as many as half of children will be identified as English learners
upon kindergarten entry. The home languages of these children include
Spanish, Vietnamese, Cantonese, Hmong, Tagalog, Korean, and other
languages.

In general the development of a second language follows these predictable
stages

Stage Description of Stage of Second Language Development
1st stage The child uses their home language to try and communicate

2nd stage The child figures out that it is not successful to use the home
language so they pass through a period of observation and
listening

3rd stage The child attempts to use new language in more abbreviated
form through the use of one or two word sentences

4th stage The child begins to use more elaborated phrases and short
sentences to communicate in the new language

While some express concern that learning more than one language is
confusing or delays children’s development, there have been no negative
effects of bilingualism found in research. According to Gigi Luk, an associate
professor at Harvard’s Graduate School of Education, “bilingualism is an
experience that shapes our brain for a lifetime.” There are many potential
benefits to knowing more than one language, including: increased ability to
pay attention, better reading of social cues, better reading ability, better
school performance and engagement, increased comfort with diversity and
different cultures, and even protection from age-related dementia11 It’s
important for educators to support and advocate for the maintenance of
children’s home languages for both the benefits mentioned here but also
because,12 “[t]he child’s first language is critical to his or her identity.
Maintaining this language helps the child value his or her culture and
heritage, which contributes to a positive self-concept.13

Children who are English learners bring a wealth of ability and knowledge as
well as varied cultural backgrounds to early childhood settings; English
learners also require curricular adaptations to make the most of their
abilities while they progress toward full English proficiency. The high-quality
early childhood practices described in the other domains will also benefit
preschool children who are English learners, but they may not be enough.14

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There are many resources available to support teachers of children who are
English Language Learners including these from the California Department
of Education:

• The California Preschool Learning Foundations (Volume 1):
https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoollf

• The California Preschool Curriculum Framework (Volume 1):
https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1.pd
f

• Preschool English Learners (2nd edition):
https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/Re/documents/psenglearnersed2.pd
f

Introducing the Foundations
The preschool learning foundations for Language and Literacy are organized into three broad
categories or strands

• listening and speaking

• reading

• writing15

Supporting Listening and Speaking
Language takes place all around us—in social interactions between teachers and children, in
classroom management, in play between children, and in instructional activities. For example,
when children learn mathematics and science, they learn them through language as well as
through meaningful, multisensory experiences.

11 Kamenetz, A. (2016). 6 Potential Brain Benefits Of Bilingual Education. Retrieved from
https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/11/29/497943749/6-potential-brain-benefits-of-bilingual-education.
12 Content by Jennifer Paris is licensed by CC-BY-4.0
13 IDRA. (2000). Why is it Important to Maintain the Native Language? Retrieved from

Why is it Important to Maintain the Native Language?


14 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
15 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoollf

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/Re/documents/psenglearnersed2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/Re/documents/psenglearnersed2

https://www.npr.org/sections/ed/2016/11/29/497943749/6-potential-brain-benefits-of-bilingual-education

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Why is it Important to Maintain the Native Language?

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

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https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

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Figure 8.5: This hands on math activity includes a language-rich interaction.16

Language also enhances or limits children’s ability to choose playmates and join in games on
the playground. The foundations for listening and speaking include:

Language use and conventions focuses on how children use their language for a number of
purposes, including learning how to participate in short conversations.

1.0 Language Use and Conventions
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.1 Use language to communicate with
others in familiar social situations for a
variety of basic purposes, including
describing, requesting, commenting,
acknowledging, greeting, and rejecting.

1.1 Use language to communication with
others in both familiar and unfamiliar
social situations for a variety of basic and
advanced purposes, including reasoning,
predicting, problem solving, and seeking
new information.

1.2 Speak clearly enough to be understood by
familiar adults and children.

1.2 Speak clearly enough to be understood by
both familiar and unfamiliar adults and
children.

1.3 Use accepted language and style during
communication with familiar adults and
children.

1.3 Use accepted language and style during
communication with both familiar and
unfamiliar adults and children.

1.4 Use language to construct short
narratives that are real or fictional.

1.4 Use language to construct extended
narratives that are real or fictional.

16 The California Preschool Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolproggdlns2015

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Vocabulary learning is one of the most important accomplishments of early childhood and is
related to later reading comprehension.

2.0 Vocabulary
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.1 Understand and use accepted words for
objects, actions, and attributes
encountered frequently in both real and
symbolic contexts.

2.1 Understand and use an increasing variety
and specificity of accepted words for
objects, actions, and attributes
encountered in both real and symbolic
contexts.

2.2 Understand and use accepted words for
categories of objects encountered and
frequently used in everyday life.

2.2 Understand and use accepted words for
categories of objects encountered in
everyday life.

2.3 Understand and use simple words that
describe the relations between objects.

2.3 Understand and use both simple and
complex words that describe the relations
between objects.

Grammar allows children to go beyond mere naming with their vocabularies to express their
ideas in sentences. It’s understanding how words are put together in a sentence.

3.0 Grammar
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

3.1 Understand and use increasingly complex
and longer sentences, including sentences
that combine two phrases or two to three
concepts to communicate ideas.

3.1 Understand and use increasingly complex
and longer sentences, including sentences
that combine two phrases or two to three
concepts to communicate ideas.

3.2 Understand and typically use age-
appropriate grammar, inducing accepted
word forms, such as subject-verb
agreement, progressive tense, regular
past tense, regular plurals, pronouns, and
possessives.

3.2 Understand and typically use age-
appropriate grammar, inducing accepted
word forms, such as subject-verb
agreement, progressive tense, regular
and irregular past tense, regular and
irregular plurals, pronouns, and
possessives.

Teachers can support children’s development of the listening and speaking foundations with
the following:

• Make sure that children have a chance to talk by setting aside time for them to discuss
and to share their ideas.

• Acknowledge their contributions by making eye contact, using their names, restating
their talk, providing explanation when they ask a question, and building on what they
say.

• Engage in “getting to know you” conversations.

• Model the use of language conventions and encourage children to do the same.

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• Build on preschool children’s own experiences by asking children to recount simple daily
experiences.

• Use dramatic play and co-construct stories.

• Give story stems.

• Notice where children look and then talk about the things that are the focus of attention
and action, using interesting, rich vocabulary.

• Narrate what you are doing.

• Use new vocabulary in natural conversations.

• Play language games.

• Ask children to tell you about their artwork and other creations.

• Talk one-on-one with children.

• Know individual children and their families (especially important for children whose
home language is not English)17

Vignettes
It is Lara’s turn to share a special story from home. Lara, who is beginning
to use an assistive technology communication device, had some key words
added to her device that enable her to share. As Mr. Tony holds up the
pictures, she pushes the button that labels the picture. Mr. Tony expands
the label by saying “Tango. This is your new dog, Tango.” Lara beams as the
children get excited. “I got a dog like that!” Emilio says, “He is black too.”
Mr. Tony holds up another picture and asks, “What is Tango doing in this
picture, Lara?

In response to the construction outside their classroom, the room is filled
with activity as children use their plastic hammers and wrenches, tool belts,
and benches. The planned curriculum includes a Construction Unit. Outside
the window, the children can see the cranes move and the workers in hard
hats. They hear the sound of hammer against nail. This week the teacher
reads to the class stories about construction equipment and information
books about how tall buildings are made. The construction outside gives
Ms. Vase an opportunity to expose children to the names of common and
even not-so-common tools. Ms. Vase sent home a one-page newsletter in
the languages of families represented in her classroom, telling parents
about the Construction Unit and about vocabulary children are learning.
She asked if any parents who are builders or carpenters would like to come
to class to share their experiences.18

17 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
The California Preschool learning Foundations, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
18 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoollf

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Pause to Reflect
How do you find yourself naturally engaging with others through
conversation? What do you already do that will translate well into supporting
children’s listening and speaking? What might you want to change or add to
grow your skills in supporting their ability to speak and listen effectively?

Supporting Reading
Reading billboards effortlessly on a car ride or making a shopping list involves literacy skills.
Literacy includes both reading and writing. Literacy is also involved when people understand
language and know enough about the world to comprehend the books they read. Children hear
many books read aloud before they can read for themselves, and they can use scribbles to
represent the thoughts they compose before they will use conventional print. Literacy does not
develop overnight; it comes from being talked to and read to and from being encouraged to
look at books, to draw, and to write. Children start on their journey to literacy at birth through
visual and auditory observation of their world and through interactions with people and
materials, in a variety of daily experiences, both at home and at school.

Figure 8.6: This sign for the math center, includes print in the home languages of the children and images to help

children interpret the print.19

Reading provides access to meaning represented by print. It requires the translation of print
into speech and the interpretation of meaning. Reading depends heavily on oral vocabulary and
grammar and also on specific literacy knowledge (e.g., names of alphabet letters) and skills
(e.g., detecting sounds in spoken words). Preschool children engage in reading by listening to
stories and by retelling familiar books. They also engage in reading when they interpret
environmental print by using physical clues (e.g., the stop sign is the red one at the end of their
street) or when they reenact through play the literacy-related social behavior of family

19 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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members (e.g., making a shopping list or pretending to read the cooking directions on a food
box).

The foundations for reading are organized into:

Concepts about print involves the understanding that print is meaningful and can be used for a
variety of purposes.

1.0 Concepts about Print
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.1 Begin to display appropriate book-
handling behaviors and begin to recognize
print conventions.

1.1 Display appropriate book-handling
behaviors and knowledge of print
conventions.

1.2 Recognize print as something that can be
read.

1.2 Understand that print is something that is
read and has specific meaning.

Phonological awareness concerns learning to notice that spoken words have parts.

2.0 Phonological Awareness
Foundations

2.1 Orally blend and delete words and syllables without the support of pictures or objects.

2.2 Orally blend the onsets, rimes, and phonemes of words and orally delete the onsets of
words, with the support of pictures or objects.

Alphabetics and word/print recognition includes identifying alphabet letters and linking letters
in printed words to sounds in spoken words.

3.0 Alphabetics and Word/Print Recognition
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

3.1 Recognize the first letter of own name. 3.1 Recognize own name or other common
words in prints.

3.2 Match some letter names to their printed
form.

3.2 Match more than half of uppercase letter
names and more than half of lowercase
letter names to their printed form.

none
3.3 Begin to recognize that letters have

sounds.

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Comprehension and analysis of age-appropriate text involves thinking that leads to
understanding stories and other kinds of books.

4.0 Comprehension and Analysis of Age-Appropriate Text
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

4.1 Demonstrate knowledge of main
characters or events in a familiar story
(e.g., who what, where) through
answering questions (e.g., recall and
simple inferencing), retelling, reenacting,
or creating artwork.

4.1 Demonstrate knowledge of details in a
familiar story, including characters,
events and ordering of events through
answering questions (particularly
summarizing, predicting, and inference),
retelling, reenacting, or creating artwork.

4.2 Demonstrate knowledge from
informational text through labeling,
describing, playing, or creating artwork.

4.2 Use information from informational text
in a variety of ways, including describing,
relating, categorizing, or comparing and
contrasting.

Literacy interest and response includes children’s engagement in and motivation for reading.

5.0 Literacy Interest and Response
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.1 Demonstrate enjoyment of literacy and
literacy-related activities.

3.1 Demonstrate, with increasing
independence, enjoyment of literacy and
literacy-related activities.

2.2 Engage in routines associated with
literacy activities.

3.2 Engage in more complex routines
associated with literacy activities.

Teachers can support children’s development of the reading foundations with the following:

• Provide print props to support dramatic play.

• Provide print props in the block area.

• Use literacy terminology, such as letter and word, naturally.

• Use print, with supporting images, to support classroom routines and limits.

• Take the time to read environmental print.

• Model using print as a tool to get things done and to record information.

• Use print to support teacher-guided activities.

• Model basic print conventions, such as reading left to right.

• Write down interesting words as they come up and encourage verbal explanations of
word meaning.

• Play games that focus on sounds.

• Use silly songs and poems daily.

• Play with sounds.

• Discuss rhyming words and words that begin with the same sound.

• Use children’s printed names as labels and to support routines, transitions, and free-
play experiences

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• Provide access to alphabet letters in a variety of contexts.

• Focus on first letters and sounds in alphabet books and posters.

• Use everyday opportunities to model attending to print details in words.

• Provide materials with environmental print in an interest area.

• Provide predictable textbooks in library and listening areas.

• Read stories daily.

• Make stories come alive with your voice and expression.

• Make story time just the right length (not too long, not too short).

• Read stories several times over a few days.

• Define new words in a story you are reading.

• Discuss a story after reading it.

• Read information (nonfiction) books.

• Model using information gained from text (books and nonbook sources) and provide
opportunities for children to do the same.

• Provide the space and materials for children to retell stories independently.

• Place books in all areas of the classroom.

• Make reading and writing meaningful and useful.

• Provide ample opportunities for children to cross their midline (moving the left hand or
foot to the right side of the body, and the right hand or foot to the left side of the body
which requires communication between your brain’s left and right hemispheres)20

Figure 8.7: This flannel set that corresponds with a book recently read in the classroom. He can use these pieces to

retell the story.21

20 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
The California Preschool Learning Foundations, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
Source of text in blue: Clint Springer
Speech-Language Pathology/Stuttering/Recommended Books on WikiBooks is licensed by CC-BY-3.0
21 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

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https://en.wikibooks.org/wiki/Speech-Language_Pathology/Stuttering/Recommended_Books

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Vignettes
Pairs of children walk hand in hand to return to their classroom after
playing outside. Sasha stops walking, points to a sign posted in the hallway,
and says to Yasmin, her partner, “That sign says to be quiet because the
babies are sleeping.” In a soft voice, the teacher says, “Yes, we are walking
past the babies’ room. We’ve talked about how they might be sleeping. This
sign says, “Remember to Walk.” Do you think we need to make another
sign for the hallway, one to remind us to talk softly?” The children agree
that the second sign is needed, and several offer to help.

After singing “Down by the Bay” at circle time, Mr. Zhang used an
illustrated book to review the song and engage children in playing with
some sounds in the words: “Here’s the funny bear, combing his hair. Bear,
/b/-/ear/; hair, /h/-/air/. The last parts of those words [i.e., the rime
portion] sound the same, don’t they? They rhyme.” Several children agreed
enthusiastically. “And who’s on this page?” “The llama,” shout several
children. “Eating his /p/ . . . (pause)” Mr. Zhang continued.

“Pajamas!” several children called out. As he turned the page, several
children called out, “The fly with a tie.” “Yes, the fl-y wearing a t-ie. Before I
turn the next page, I’ll give you a clue about what you’ll see next: A /wh/-
ale . . .” “A whale!” the children called out. “With a polka-dot /t/-ail,”the
teacher continued. “Tail,” several children called out.

The caregiver shares an alphabet book with a few children. “This is the page
for the letter B. Here is the big B and here’s the little b.” She engaged the
children to help identify the pictures on the B page: “Blueberries, broccoli,
beets, bananas, beans.” Then she comments, “B is the first letter in each of
these words. This word (pointing to the first letter in blueberry, printed
above a picture of a box of blueberries) starts with the letter B. It says,
Blueberry (underlines the rest of the word, as she reads it). Blueberry starts
with the /b/ sound. What do you think this word says? (She points to the
word above the picture of some bananas.) One child says, “banana;”
another says, “platano.” The caregiver confirms that banana can be called
by either name, one Spanish and the other English. “The words in this book
are written in English—/b/ is for banana (points to banana). I think we
could write some of these words in Spanish and paste them into the book.
We could write brecol to put here with broccoli.” “When can we do that?” a
child asks. “After rest time today, if you’d like. Miguel and Alexandria will
still be sleeping. I can help you and Aaliyah spell Spanish words that will
work in this alphabet book. We can type them on the computer and then
print them out to paste in our book.”22

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Pause to Reflect
What memories of reading and books do you have from your childhood? How
do you feel about reading now? Is that how you want children to feel about
reading? If so, how can you share that? If not, what might you do to ensure
they have a different perspective about reading?

Supporting Writing
Developing as a writer depends on the writer’s understanding of how a particular written
language looks and on the writer’s language and thinking skills. Conventional writing requires
knowledge of alphabet letters and an understanding that letters stand for sounds in spoken or
signed words. Deciding what to write requires oral or sign language, knowledge, and thinking.
Preschool children engage in writing when they use scribble marks and proudly announce their
meanings (e.g., “This says ____”). Preschool children frequently use drawing, rather than
writing marks, to represent their thoughts, and they often combine scribble or other writing-
like marks with their drawings to communicate. Preschool children are happy to serve as their
own interpreters, telling people what their early writing and drawing is meant to say. Teachers
are careful not to criticize children’s early scribble productions. To find out what a child’s
writing means, teachers may ask a child: “Tell me about these wavy lines down here.”

Figure 8.8: Ask children about their writing to see what it represents.23

Writing focuses on understanding that print represents ideas and on learning to move from
drawing and scribble writing to using letters and words. Much exploration with paper and
writing tools occurs before children will try to write to convey specific meanings. When children
write to convey meaning, they are using their language, their physical ability to hold a crayon or

22 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
23 The California Preschool Learning Foundations, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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pencil, and the cognitive understanding that the marks they make on the page are symbols that
represent a meaning that can be shared.

1.0 Writing Strategies
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.3 Experiment with grasp and body position
using a variety of drawing and writing
tools.

3.3 Adjust grasp and body position for
increased control in drawing and writing.

2.4 Write using scribbles that are different
from pictures.

3.4 Write letters or letter-like shapes to
represent words or ideas.

2.5 Write marks to represent own name. 3.5 Write first name nearly correctly.

While direct writing instruction is not yet developmentally appropriate for preschool-aged
children, who do not quite have the fine motor coordination needed to write legibly, they are
developing important skills and knowledge that contribute to their ability to communicate in
written form.

Table 8.1: Four Levels of Writing Development over the Preschool Years

Level Description
Exploring The child explores with marking tools on a variety of writing surfaces,

creating scribble marks. The child sometimes focuses on making marks
without any intention of using these to stand for writing. Sometimes the
marks prompt the child to think of something from the child’s world that is
familiar, and the child attributes meaning to scribbles

Developing As the child continues to explore with mark making, the child organizes
scribble marks into lines when “writing,” which indicates the child’s
observation that marks for writing and marks for pictures are organized
differently. Often, the child will point to scribble marks that are lined up and
say, “This says . . .” In other words, children begin to attribute meaning to
their scribble writing.

Building Children’s skill in using marks to create both pictures and writing increases
to the point where others can recognize a child’s intentions. Although the
marks are still not always well formed, adults have a good idea what the
child intended to portray and the letters a child intended to write. Children
sometimes make up new designs that look remarkably like actual letters.
They do not yet know that there are just 26!

Integrating At this phase, children know most, if not all, of the uppercase alphabet
letters, and they combine these to make words. Some of the words are
ones they see frequently, such as their names. Most are quite legible,
although not perfectly formed, of course, and a letter might be written with
its orientation reversed. In addition to their names, children sometimes
write a few simple words, such as love or yes and no. They also might string

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Level Description
letters together in sets that look like words and ask adults, “What word is
this?” A few older preschoolers might have figured out that letters selected
to make words relate to the sounds in the spoken words, and invent
spellings, such as KK for cake or CD for candy

Figure 8.9: Often the first word that children write is their own name.24

Teachers can support children’s development of the writing foundations with the following:

• Setting up a well-stocked writing area

• Frequently adding new materials to the writing area

• Providing writing materials in other interest areas and outdoors

• Embed writing in everyday transitions and routines

• Encourage children to write in the art interest area

• Respond sensitively to children’s emergent writing; focus on the meaning that children
are trying to convey rather than on the form of their writing

• Respond to children’s questions and requests for help with writing; describe and model
how to write the letter on a separate piece of paper

• Model writing

• Display children’s writing

• Provide ample opportunities for children to cross their midline

• Provide experiences in which children strengthen fine motor muscles (fingers, hand,
wrist, forearm), and develop dexterity, such as working with clay, cutting with scissors,
and working with tools25

24 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
25 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission;
Source of text in blue: Clint Springer;
The California Preschool Learning Foundations, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with

permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Crossing the Midline
“The body’s mid-line is an imaginary line down the cent[er] of the body that
divides the body into left and right. Crossing the body’s mid-line is the
ability to reach across the middle of the body with the arms and legs. This
allows children to cross over their body to perform a task on the opposite
side of their body (e.g. being able to draw a horizontal line across a page
without having to switch hands in the middle…”

“Crossing the body’s mid-line is an important developmental skill needed
for many everyday tasks such as writing… When a child spontaneously
crosses the mid-line with the dominant hand, then the dominant hand gets
the practice needed to develop good fine motor skills by repeated
consistent hand dominance. If a child avoids crossing the mid-line, then
both hands tend to get equal practice at developing skills and the child’s
true handedness may be delayed. This means that once a child starts
school, learning to write is much more difficult when they have two less
skilled hands rather than one stronger, more skilled (dominant) hand.
Difficulty crossing the mid-line also makes it difficult to visually track a
moving object from one side to the other or track from left to right when
reading, meaning reading can also be delayed.”26

26 Kidsense. (2019). Crossing the Body’s Midline. Retrieved from https://childdevelopment.com.au/areas-of-
concern/finmotor-skills/crossing-the-bodys-midline/

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Vignettes
Jessalyn is delighted with the birthday card picture from a peer and wants
to write a thank-you note. She draws a picture and then tells the teacher, “I
want real words, too, but I can’t make them.”

“What would you like the words to say?” the teacher asks. Jessalyn
dictates: “I liked the pretty picture of me. It was a pretty birthday card.”
“Do you want me to write that down or help you?”

“I can do letters,” Jessalyn explains, “but I can’t make words. Well, just
love.” The teacher helps Jessalyn spell the word pretty by segmenting some
of its sounds and naming the letters needed to write the sounds. After the
teacher names the last letter in pretty, Jessalyn remarks, “y? Why not e?”
The teacher explains that e is used to write this sound in many words, but,
in others, y is used.

Then the teacher asks, “What letter is at the end of your friend Jeremy’s
name?” “Oh, y!” Jessalyn realizes. “Do we have anybody with e?” she asks.
“Not this year. But last year, there was a girl named Kaylee, and she used e
to write the /e/ sound.”27

Engaging Families
Teachers can use the following strategies to help families to develop their children’s language
and literacy.

• Send families home with things to look for on the weekend, topics to talk about, or
stories to tell together (written in their home language).

• Suggest ways that parents can send a response back to the classroom.

• Send books, other reading materials, and writing materials home with children.

• Provide a lending library in the home languages of the children and encourage parents
to read to their children in their home language.

• Share ideas with parents about questions they might ask about books, and provide
these in the home language.

• Introduce parents to community resources to get books for home

• Encourage family members to share their writing with children.

• Share children’s triumphs and experiences and people they really enjoy with families.

• Use displays to help family members understand the developmental nature of writing.

• Invite families to share their stories with you.

• Think about projects to do in class in which children can bring materials from home.28

27 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
28 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

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Figure 8.10: It looks like a father, a younger sister, and an older sister have all joined this girl in a favorite classroom

activity. Family involvement is a great way to validate children’s interests and efforts. (And it can spark great
conversation later!)29

Conclusion
Decades of research have shown that playful learning, intentional teaching, and a rich
curriculum help children learn about the world and master language and literacy. The principles
and strategies provided in this chapter are based on this research. Teachers must be mindful of
what the research has revealed about how children acquire a vast array of knowledge and skills.
However, teachers must also assume responsibility for weaving together a program that
combines children’s play with their own specific plans in ways that secure a bright academic
future for each child. By definition, this means that children’s interest in and motivation to
learn are maintained. The satisfaction and joy of teaching come from knowing that the very
best efforts were made and from seeing the results of such efforts in the children’s faces every
day. The progress documented for each child over the course of a year also brings joy and
satisfaction.30

Pause to Reflect
What are some of the ways language and literacy occur naturally in the
everyday lives of children? What are additional things that teachers will need
to intentionally bring into the program (this could include materials,
interactions, activities, environmental design, etc.)?

29 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
30 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

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Chapter 9: Mathematics
Objectives:

• Explain what math education in early childhood is and what it is not

• Summarize the foundations in mathematics

• Identify ways that educators can support spontaneous experiences with math and
intentionally plan to build children’s mathematical knowledge.

• Describe how the environment supports mathematics.

• Relate how to engage families in support their children’s mathematic knowledge.

Introduction
Mathematics is a natural part of the preschool environment. Young children actively construct
mathematical knowledge through everyday interactions with their environment, whether inside
or outside.

Figure 9.1: When measuring two cups of flour, ½ cup of salt, two tablespoons of oil to help make playdough,

children use and build their mathematical knowledge.1

Mathematics learning grows naturally from children’s curiosity and enthusiasm to learn and
explore their environment. During the preschool years, children continue to show a
spontaneous interest in mathematics and further develop their mathematical knowledge and
skills related to number, quantity, size, shape, and space. Teachers should encourage children’s
natural enthusiasm and interest in doing mathematics and use it as a vehicle for supporting the
development of children’s mathematical concepts and skills.

High-quality mathematics education in preschool is not about elementary arithmetic being
pushed down onto younger children. It is broader than mere practice in counting and
arithmetic. It is about children experiencing mathematics as they explore ideas of more and

1 Image by Senior Airman Ryan Sparks is in the public domain

https://www.grandforks.af.mil/News/Article/1100048/warrior-of-the-north-recognized-for-work-at-base-childcare-facility/

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less, count objects, make comparisons, create patterns, sort and measure objects, and explore
shapes in space. Mathematics learning happens throughout the day, and it is integrated with
learning and developing in other developmental domains such as language and literacy, social-
emotional, science, music, and movement. There is a general consensus “that high-quality,
challenging and accessible mathematics education for three- to six-year-old children is a vital
foundation for future mathematics learning.”

Teachers have a significant role in facilitating children’s construction of mathematical concepts.
When teachers join children in becoming keen observers of their environment and in reasoning
about numbers, shapes, and patterns, mathematics is enjoyable and exciting for all.

Figure 9.2: Songs and games are fun ways to support math.2

Teachers may not always realize the extent to which their current everyday classroom practices
support children’s mathematical development. For example, when singing with children “Five
Little Ducks Went Out One Day,” incorporating finger play with counting, the teacher develops
children’s counting skills and understanding of numbers. Discussing with children how many
children came to school today and how many are missing supports children’s arithmetic and
reasoning with numbers. Playing with children in the sandbox by filling up different cups with
sand and discussing which cup is the smallest or the largest or how many cups of sand it would
take to fill up a bucket introduces children to concepts of comparison and measurement.3

Guiding Principles for Supporting Math
The following principles will guide teachers’ classroom practices in establishing a high-quality,
challenging, and sensitive early mathematics preschool program. These principles are partially
based on the ten recommendations in Early Childhood Mathematics: Promoting Good

2 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
3 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

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Beginnings set forth by the National Association for the Education of Young Children and NCTM
in 2002.

• Build on preschool children’s natural interest in mathematics and their intuitive and
informal mathematical knowledge

• Encourage inquiry and exploration to foster problem solving and mathematical
reasoning

• Use everyday activities as natural vehicles for developing preschool children’s
mathematical knowledge

• Introduce mathematical concepts through intentionally planned experiences (in
addition to what they spontaneously engage in)

• Provide a mathematically rich environment

• Provide an environment rich in language, and introduce preschool children to the
language of mathematics

• Support English learners in developing mathematical knowledge as they concurrently
acquire English

• Observe children to discover opportunities to clarify, extend, and reinforce their existing
mathematical concepts and to help them discover new mathematical concepts

• Provide an environment in which all children can learn mathematics, set appropriately
high expectations for all children, and support individual growth

• Establish a partnership with parents and other caregivers in supporting children’s
learning of mathematics4

Figure 9.3: This pillow face made with shapes is math in action.5

Environmental Factors in Supporting Math
Young children actively construct mathematical knowledge through everyday interactions with
their environment. Setting up a high-quality physical environment is essential for children’s
mathematical development. The preschool environment sets the stage for children’s physical

4 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
5 Image by Lisa Stevens is licensed by CC-BY-2.0

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Child centred learning

Clare Seccombe - An Ambitious Primary Languages Curriculum

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and social exploration and construction of mathematical concepts. It should provide access to
objects and materials that encourage children to experiment and learn about key mathematical
concepts through everyday play.

• Enrich the environment with developmentally appropriate, challenging, and engaging
materials that promote mathematical growth

• Integrate math-related materials into all interest areas in the classroom

• Use materials, books, and real-life settings that reflect the culture, ways of life, and
languages of the children in the group

• Use children’s books to explore mathematics with children

• Be intentional and mindful in setting up and using the physical environment (children do
not effectively use materials and engage in experiences just because you provide them)6

Figure 9.4: This spindle box is designed to support math in a Montessori classroom.7

6 The California Preschool Learning Foundations, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
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Math

Sandpaper letters

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Research Highlight
Research indicates that the ability to reason about numbers starts as early
as infancy. Five-month-olds show sensitivity to the effects of addition or
subtraction of items on a small collection of objects. Toddlers viewing three
balls put into a container and then one being removed know to search for a
smaller number of balls, and many search for exactly two balls.

By the time children are in preschool, prior to having any formal lesson in
arithmetic, they use a variety of strategies to solve simple addition and
subtraction problems. They may use manipulatives or fingers to represent
the numbers in the problem and count out loud to find out the answer. As
they get older, they rely less and less on finger counting. To solve an
addition problem such as 4 + 2 presented with concrete objects (e.g., color
crayons), the child may count all objects “one, two, three, four” and then
continue with the second set of objects “five, six” and find out there are a
total of six. At a later stage, the child may “count on” from the second set
of objects. Knowing the number of objects in the first set (e.g., “four”), the
child starts with “four” and continues to count “five, six” to find out the
total number of objects, rather than starting to count from “one” with the
second set of objects.8

Source:

K. Wynn, “Addition and Subtraction by Human Infants,” Nature 358 (1992): 749– 50.

P. Starkey, “The Early Development of Numerical Reasoning,” Cognition 43, no. 2 (1992):
93–126.

R. S. Siegler, “The Perils of Averaging Data Over Strategies: An Example from Children’s
Addition,” Journal of Experimental Psychology: General 116, no. 3 (1987): 250–64.

Introducing the Foundations
The California preschool learning foundations for math have been divided into five broad areas
or strands.

• Number Sense

• Algebra and Functions (Classification and Patterning)

• Measurement

• Geometry

• Mathematical Reasoning9

8 The California Preschool Learning Foundations, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
9 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

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Supporting Number Sense
The Number Sense strand refers to concepts of numbers and their relationships. It includes the
development of counting skills, the understanding of quantities, recognizing ordering relations
(which has more, fewer, or less), part-whole relationships, and a basic understanding of “adding
to“ and “taking away” operations.

Figure 9.5: These children are exploring numbers and quantity as they play with dominos.10

1.0 Children begin to understand numbers
and quantities in their everyday
environment.

1.0 Children expand their understanding of
numbers and quantities in their
everyday environment.

1.1 Recite numbers in order to ten with
increasing accuracy.

1.1 Recite numbers in order to twenty with
increasing accuracy.

1.2 Begin to recognize and name a few
written numerals.

1.2 Recognize and know the name of some
written numerals.

1.3 Identify, without counting, the number of
objects in a collection of up to three
objects (i.e., subitize).

1.3 Identify, without counting, the number of
objects in a collection of u to four objects
(i.e., subitize).

1.4 Count up to five objects, using one-to-one
correspondence (one object for each
number word) with increasing accuracy.

1.4 Count up to ten objects, using one-to-one
correspondence (one object for each
number word) with increasing accuracy.

1.5 Use the number name of the last object
counted to answer the question, “How
many . . . ?”

1.5 Understand, when counting, that the
number name of the last object counted
represents the total number of objects in
the group (i.e., cardinality).

10 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
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2.0 Children begin to understand number
relationships and operations in their
everyday environment.

2.0 Children expand their understanding of
number relationships and operations in
their everyday environment.

2.1 Compare visually (with or without
counting) two groups of objects that are
obviously equal or nonequal and
communicate, “more” or “same.”

2.1 Compare, by counting or matching, two
groups of up to five objects and
communicate, “more,” “same as,” or
“fewer” (or “less”).

2.2 Understand that adding to (or taking
away) one or more objects from a group
will increase (or decrease) the number or
objects in the group.

2.2 Understand that adding one or taking
away one changes the number in a small
group of objects by exactly one.

At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.3 Understand that putting two groups of
objects together will make a bigger group.

2.3 Understand that putting two groups of
objects together will make a bigger group
and that a group of objects can be taken
apart into smaller groups.

2.4 Solve simple addition and subtraction
problems nonverbally (and often verbally)
with a very small number of objects (sums
up to 4 or 5).

2.4 Solve simple addition and subtraction
problems with a small number of objects
(sums up to 10), usually by counting.

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Figure 9.5: Image by Ian Joslin is licensed by CC-BY-4.0

Teachers can support children’s development of the number sense foundations with the
following:

• Observe children’s spontaneous counting and foster growth through scaffolding or
modeling

• Encourage counting during everyday interactions and routines

• Include preschool children’s home language in counting activities, whenever possible

• Ask questions that encourage purposeful counting

• Foster one-to-one correspondence within the context of daily routines (such as setting
the table)

• Support preschool children’s ability to apply the counting procedure by
o Providing a lot of objects to count
o Starting with small sets
o Modeling counting
o Encouraging children to self-correct their counts

• Consider adaptations for children with special needs

https://koolkoalaj.com/

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• Use games, books, and other materials accessible to preschool children

• Plan group activities focused on counting

• Promote the use of comparison terms (more, same as, fewer, or less) through everyday
interactions

• Use everyday interactions and routines to illustrate and discuss addition and subtraction
transformations (“adding to” results in more and “taking away” results in less)

• Make estimations

• Use graphing with children11

Figure 9.6: Here is a material that supports children’s understanding of Arabic numerals and counting.12

Vignettes
Playing with cars on the rug, a child argued, “I have more: one, two, three,
seven, nine, ten.” His friend replied, “No, I have more: one, two, three,
four, five, six, seven.” The teacher intervened and asked, “How do you think
we can find out who has more cars?” “I count,” said one of the children.
The teacher suggested, “Let’s count together,” and she modeled counting
together with the children. She put the cars in each set, in a row, and lined
up the two sets against each other. The teacher pointed to each car while
counting.

During snack time, Veronica asked: “Can I have two more crackers?” The
teacher replied, “Yes, and I see you already have two crackers. When I give
you two more, how many crackers will you have altogether?”13

11 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission;
The California Preschool Learning Foundations, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
12 Image by Lisa Maruna is licensed by CC-BY-2.0
13 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
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Montessori Math Materials

Sandpaper letters

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Supporting Algebra and Functions (Classification and Patterning)
Obviously, preschool is not the time to teach traditional algebra, but this is the period when
foundational algebraic concepts evolve and gradually develop. Children observe the
environment and learn to recognize similarities and differences. They learn to sort, group, and
classify objects. They learn to recognize ordering relations, such as large to small, and to
identify patterns. They develop the ability to make predictions, form generalizations, and derive
rules.

Figure 9.7: As she built this tower, this young girl made a pattern with the colors red and blue.14

At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.0 Children begin to sort and classify
objects in their everyday environment.

1.0 Children expand their understanding of
sorting and classifying objects in their
everyday environment.

1.1 Sort and classify objects by one attribute
into two or more groups, with increasing
accuracy.

1.1 Sort and classify objects by one or more
attributes, into two or more groups, with
increasing accuracy (e.g., may sort first by
one attribute and then by another
attribute).

2.0 Children begin to recognize simple,
repeating patterns.

2.0 Children expand their understanding of
simple, repeating patterns.

2.1 Begin to identify or recognize a simple
repeating pattern.

2.1 Recognize and duplicate simple repeating
patterns.

2.2 Attempt to create a simple repeating
pattern or participate in making one.

2.2 Begin to extend and create simple
repeating patterns.

14 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
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Teachers can support children’s development of the algebra and functions foundations with the
following:

• Organize the classroom into different categorized storage areas to facilitate
classification

• Include materials and objects for sorting in the environment

• Identify opportunities for sorting and classifying in everyday routines

• Recognize and extend sorting in play

• Plan for children at different levels

• Integrate sorting into children’s current topic of interest and study

• Point out patterns in the environment

• Engage preschool children in conversations about patterns

• Play with patterns in various formats such as
o Objects
o Movement
o Sounds
o Rhymes and stories15

Figure 9.8: Providing sets of materials in different colors sets up natural opportunities for classification and

grouping.16

15 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
The California Preschool Learning Foundations, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
16 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

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Vignettes
As part of a curriculum unit on the seasons, the children went for a nature
walk and collected various types of leaves. During the walk and later in the
classroom, the children explored the leaves and were encouraged to
describe different attributes of the leaves such as shape (pointy, round,
long, needle), size (small, tiny, wide, big), color (red, green, yellow, orange,
brown) and texture (smooth, soft, hard, wet, dry, rough). Children were
then asked by the teacher to sort the leaves: “Put leaves that belong
together in groups.”

The teacher asks Enrique, “Why did you put these leaves together and
those leaves together?” Enrique responds, “They are same.” The teacher
asks, “How are these the same?” Enrique points and says in Spanish, “Café
aquí, amarillo aquí, y hojas rojas.” (“Brown here, yellow, here, and red
leaves here.”). The teacher points to each group of leaves and says in
English, “Great! Brown, yellow, and red leaves. What other ways can we
sort the leaves? How about putting all the big leaves here and all the small
ones there?” The teacher models for the child, sorting leaves by size.
“Where do you think this leaf would go?”

Pause to Reflect
Before reading this section, did you think that algebra was something that
should be considered in the preschool classroom? Why or why not?

Supporting Measurement
The Measurement strand involves comparing, ordering, and measuring things. Included in this
strand is the child’s ability to compare and order objects by length, height, weight, or capacity;
to use comparison vocabulary; and to begin to measure. Young children develop an intuitive
notion of measurement through natural everyday experiences. They explore and discover
properties such as length, height, volume, and weight as they look for a longer block, measure
who is taller, pour sand from a small bucket to a larger one, or try to pick up a heavy box and
ask for help. They make comparisons to see which is longer, taller, heavier, larger, or smaller.

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Figure 9.9: Tools such as this balance can help children compare weight.17

At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.0 Children begin to compare and order
objects.

1.0 Children expand their understanding of
comparing, ordering, and measuring
objects.

1.1 Demonstrate awareness that objects can
be compared by length, weight, or
capacity, by noting gross differences,
using words such as bigger, longer,
heavier, or taller, or by placing objects
side by side to compare length.

1.1 Compare two objects by length, weight,
or capacity directly (e.g., putting objects
side by side) or indirectly (e.g., using a
third object).

1.2 Order three objects by size. 1.2 Order four or more objects by size.

This box intentionally left blank

1.3 Measure length using multiple duplicates
of the same-size concrete units laid end
to end.

Teachers can support children’s development of the measurement foundations with the
following:

• Provide opportunities to promote measurement concepts in the environment (things to
measure and measure tools)

• Observe preschool children’s measurement concepts in everyday play and routines

• Facilitate and reinforce measurement concepts in everyday play and routines by
o Building the descriptive and comparative vocabulary
o Asking questions to bring their attention to the measurable properties of objects
o Challenging them to use measurement to solve problems

• Provide opportunities to compare and order objects

• Use literature to illustrate measurement concepts

• Provide small-group activities using standard and nonstandard measurement

• Encourage estimations of measurement

17 Image by Jimmie is licensed by CC-BY-2.0

balance scale and pattern blocks

Linda Hobar (author of Mystery of History) talking about learning styles & dateless planner at my #memphis #homeschool group.

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• Encourage recording and documentation of measurements18

Figure 9.10: This boy is measuring the boulder with a yardstick19

Vignettes
As part of exploring and learning the concept of growth, the children have
planted sunflower seeds in the garden. A long stick was attached to each
plant, and the teacher asked that every week the children mark on the stick
the height of the sunflower. Tracking the growth of sunflowers has
generated comparison and measurement experiences. For example, one
week the teacher pointed to one of the sunflowers and explained to the
children, “Last week when we measured this sunflower, it was up to here. It
was seven inches long. This week it is up to here. How many more inches
do you think it grew in the past week? What is your estimate?”

Children were encouraged to make estimates and then were invited to
measure the growth of this sunflower. “How can we measure how much it
has grown since last time?” Children had different ideas. Some children
said, “You need a ruler.” Others said, “With this” and pointed to a
measuring tape. Over time, children were also comparing the sunflowers
one to another. On one occasion, the teacher helped a small group of
children compare the height of two flowers by using a string to represent
the height of one flower and then laying the string against the second
flower.

Children enjoyed tracking the sunflowers’ growth and finding out, “Which
sunflower is taller?” and “Which is taller?”—the child or the sunflower.20

18 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission;
The California Preschool Learning Foundations, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
19 Image by Dennis Bratland is licensed by CC-BY-4.0
20 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

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Pause to Reflect
Involving children in measuring things that are meaningful to them is a great
way to engage children in mathematics. Do you remember any measurements
experiences from your childhood? This could be formal, like keeping track of
your height on a wall or growth chart or measuring the weight and/or length
of a fish caught or informal, such as recognizing that a new storage container
holds more (volume) or noticing the length difference in a new pair of shoes.

Supporting Geometry
Geometry is the study of shapes and spatial relationships. Children enter preschool with a
strong intuitive knowledge about shapes, spatial location, and transformations. They learn
about geometry as they move in space and interact with objects in their environment. From
infancy they begin to form shape concepts as they explore their environment, observe shapes,
and play with different objects. Before they can name and define shapes, very young children
are able to match and classify objects based on shape. During the preschool years, children
develop a growing understanding of shape and spatial relationships. They learn the names of
shapes and start to recognize the attributes of two- and three-dimensional shapes. They also
develop an understanding of objects in relation to space, learning to describe an object’s
location (e.g., on top, under), direction (e.g., from, up, down) and distance (e.g., near, far).

Figure 9.11: By using their bodies to make a triangle these children are working with shapes and spatial

understanding.21

21 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.0 Children begin to identify and use
common shapes in their everyday
environment.

1.0 Children identify and use a variety of
shapes in their everyday environment.

1.1 Identify simple two-dimensional shapes,
such as a circle and square.

1.1 Identify, describe, and construct a variety
of different shapes, including variations of
a circle, triangle, rectangle, square, and
other shapes.

1.2 Use individual shapes to represent
different elements of a picture of design.

1.2 Combine different shapes to create a
picture or design.

2.0 Children begin to understand positions in
space.

2.0 Children expand their understanding of
positions in space.

2.1 Identify positions of objects and people in
space, such as in/on/under, up/down, and
inside/outside.

2.1 Identify positions of objects and people in
space, including in/on/under, up/down,
inside/outside, beside/between, and in
front/behind.

Teachers can support children’s development of the geometry foundations with the following:

• Refer to shapes and encourage the use of shape names in everyday interactions

• Engage preschool children in conversations about shapes, including both
o Two-dimensional shapes (such as circles, squares, and triangles)
o Three-dimensional shapes (such as spheres, cubes, and cones)

• Provide materials that encourage preschool children to explore and manipulate shapes
in space

• Include books, games, and other learning materials with shape-related themes in the
preschool environment

• Provide preschool children with playful opportunities to explore and represent shapes in
a variety of ways

• Present preschool children with many different examples of a type of shape

• Provide materials and equipment to promote spatial sense

• Support preschool children’s spatial sense in everyday interactions

• Provide preschool children with planned experiences to promote the understanding of
spatial sense, including

o Songs and games
o Books
o Construction opportunities22

22 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
The California Preschool Learning Foundations, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with

permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Figure 9.12: Building with pattern blocks such as these, promotes geometry.23

Vignette
The teacher had noticed that several children in her group had shown a
strong interest in castles. They built castles in the block area, in the
sandbox, and even looked for castles in fairy tale books when visiting the
library. The teacher suggested that the group build a big castle outside.
They started by gathering the materials. The children brought from home
different sized boxes and figures or characters to be included in the castle.
The teacher also offered big cylinders, cones, building blocks, construction
boards, and other materials. The children made different suggestions: “Put
all the big boxes here and the small ones on top of them.” ”I put it above
this for the roof.” “We can use these for the tower.”

The teacher described their ideas using names of shapes and spatial terms.
“So you want to put the small square blocks on top of the big rectangle
blocks.” “Are you suggesting using the cylinders to build the tower?” The
children enjoyed building the structure, using different shapes and
materials, and were proud of it.

During circle time, the teacher invited children to describe the castle and
how it was built. “Look at the castle you built. Can you tell me what it looks
like?” Children were encouraged to use spatial words and the names of
shapes in their talk. The activity evolved into a long-term project. The
children kept adding more pieces to the structure and added different
elements to decorate the castle.24

Supporting Mathematical Reasoning
Mathematical reasoning is a key process in learning and developing mathematical knowledge in
all areas of mathematics, including number and operations, classification, patterning,
measurement, and geometry. It involves the ability to think and reason logically, to apply

23 Image by Jimmie is licensed by CC-BY-2.0
24 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

manipulatives are free!

Linda Hobar (author of Mystery of History) talking about learning styles & dateless planner at my #memphis #homeschool group.

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mathematical knowledge in different problem-solving situations, and to come up with different
solutions. Mathematical reasoning is natural to most young children as they explore the
environment and make sense of the world around them.

At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.0 Children use mathematical thinking to
solve problems that arise in their
everyday environment.

1.0 Children expand the use of mathematical
thinking to solve problems that arise in
their everyday environment.

1.1 Begin to apply simple mathematical
strategies to solve problems in their
environment.

1.1 Identify and apply a variety of
mathematical strategies to solve
problems in their environment.

Figure 9.13: This boy uses mathematical reasoning when he constructs his train tracks.25

Teachers can support children’s development of the mathematical reasoning foundations with
the following:

• Identify and create opportunities for mathematical reasoning through both spontaneous
interactions and planned experiences

• Pose meaningful questions that promote investigation and inquiry and challenge
children to think through a problem and come up with a solution

• Support preschool children in reasoning mathematically by providing clues,
encouragement, and modeling, as needed26

25 Image by Nicholas Wang is licensed by CC-BY-2.0
26 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
The California Preschool Learning Foundations, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used with

permission

5. WTF?!

After a long drive, arrive at LEGOLAND for the LEGO Idea Conference. #911gt3 #lego via Instagram https://ift.tt/2HS1bAa

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Vignette
The children cleaned up the play yard before going back inside. The
teacher, Ms. Denise, had noticed that not all the shovels were picked up
from the sandbox. Ms. Denise asked for help saying, “We need all five
shovels back in the box so our toys aren’t lost. I see here only three. We
need more shovels in the box. How many more shovels do we need?” The
teacher had noticed that Ling Wa, one of the older preschool children in the
group, was counting her fingers, trying to find out how many shovels were
missing.

Ling Wa suddenly said, “Ms. Denise, we need two more.”

Ms. Denise went further, asking, “Do you think we need two more
shovels?” How did you figure that out?”

Engaging Families
Teachers can use the following strategies to help families to develop their children’s
mathematical understanding:

• Communicate to families
o the broader aspects of developing number sense; for example, using counting in

real-life situations, comparing numbers and discussing which is more or less,
making estimations (e.g., How many grapes are in this bowl?), and solving simple
addition and subtraction problems.

o what classification and patterning are about and how they contribute to
children’s understanding of mathematics.

o the importance of early measuring experiences and types of measurement
experiences they can do with children.

o that mathematical reasoning is being able to think mathematically and explore
different ways of solving problems

• Remind parents that daily use of numbers (which are everywhere!) can become learning
experiences for children.

• Provide number-related games and books that children can take home or that families
can make or purchase.

• Encourage parents to
o involve children in everyday measurement experiences
o refer to shapes in the environment when talking with children
o use spatial words in everyday interactions with children
o recognize math in everyday events and interactions and turn them into learning

experiences27

27 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Figure 9.14: Cooking and baking are excellent opportunities to explore math with children.28

Conclusion
Young children have a natural interest, curiosity, and competence to explore and construct
mathematical concepts. Mathematics is a way of thinking and organizing the world around us.
It is a natural part of day-to-day activities and events. Mathematics in preschool is learned
through children’s play and exploration as in the blocks area or the sandbox, through everyday
routines such as setting the table and cleaning up, and through participation in teacher-
initiated activities. Some teacher-initiated activities are designed with a focus on math, and
others may focus on art, movement, literacy, or science but present opportunities for math
learning.

When teachers recognize the potential for exposure to math in different situations, they can
turn everyday occurrences into exciting and effective mathematics-learning experiences.
Children are excited to explore the size or volume of objects, to discover and create patterns, to
manipulate and build with shapes, to sort and classify objects, and to try to figure out “how
many.” Teachers get to experience with children the day-to-day excitement of learning and
discovering math. This process is joyful for the children and for the teacher, who guides and
challenges them in building mathematical concepts, skills, and language 29

Pause to Reflect
Many adults (including parents and teachers) shy away from math because
they “aren’t good at it.” How do you feel about math? How comfortable are
you “teaching” math? Has the way this chapter presented math affected that
at all? If so, how?

28 Image by FNS Midwest is in the public domain.
29 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

BXP156188

20220422_121629

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Chapter 10: Science
Objectives:
By the end of the chapter, you should be able to:

• Explain how children’s natural curiosity and exploration builds the foundation for
science curriculum.

• Justify the importance of active, hands on science experiences.

• Describe the foundations in science that high quality early childhood education
programs support

• Discuss how the environment supports children’s continual investigation of the natural
world

• Identify ways teachers can support children’s scientific inquiry and investigation

• Summarize ways to engage families in science curriculum

Introduction
Children have a sense of wonder and natural curiosity about objects and events in their
environment. Just like scientists, they seek information and actively explore and investigate the
world around them, try things out to see what happens, and confirm or adjust their
expectations.

Science is a natural and developmentally appropriate focus for young children. Preschool
science is about active learning, not memorizing scientific facts or watching the teacher
perform science demonstrations. The purpose of preschool science is to nurture children’s
habits of inquiry, critical thinking, creativity, innovative problem solving, open mindedness, and
the motivation to learn. Preschool science guides children’s natural curiosity into opportunities
to observe, explore, and inquire about basic phenomena and materials in their world.

From infancy, children gain knowledge and develop concepts about living things and physical
objects. Preschool science provides children with focused experiences that allow them to learn
ways to explore and extend their knowledge. Children begin to adopt scientific ideas and to
acquire the basic skills and language of scientific inquiry (ways to explore and develop
knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas). Making observations, posing questions,
planning investigations, using tools to gather information, making predictions, recording
information, and communicating findings and explanations all combine in an evolving process
of developing science understanding and creating a disposition to choose to learn science in the
future.

Science can be conducted in any preschool setting. All preschools, regardless of the level of
resources and access to nature, can use their existing resources to create a program with
meaningful science learning experiences. Pushing cars down an incline, building with blocks,
manipulating tubes at the water table, or mixing clay with water are everyday play activities
that engage children in experimenting with objects and materials. Collecting leaves, searching

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for insects in the yard, sorting and classifying fruits and vegetables, and sprouting seeds in pots
engage children with living things. Experiences of child-initiated play are important as they
provide children with opportunities to construct understanding and integrate knowledge. With
teachers’ intentional planning, guidance, and support, children’s play and interactions with
objects can become rich experiences of scientific inquiry and facilitate children’s knowledge and
understanding of objects and events in the world.

Preschool teachers play a pivotal role in expanding children’s understanding of science
concepts and developing children’s attitudes, skills, and the language of scientific inquiry. The
teachers can focus children’s attention on particular science concepts, those that are
developmentally appropriate, interesting, and engaging for both children and teachers. They
can create engaging inquiry experiences, encouraging close observations of objects and events.

Children may draw the connection to their own growth and the growth of other animals and
begin to develop a broader understanding of living things. Such experiences of scientific inquiry
not only support children’s development of scientific knowledge, but provide a natural vehicle
for developing children’s social skills, and their development in mathematics, language, literacy,
and other domains.

10.1: A teacher used background knowledge to help the children create this bilingual butterfly life cycle

documentation.1

Preschool teachers do not need to have extensive knowledge about science in order to teach it
well, but they should be willing to research and gain general knowledge of the concepts and
principles they explore with children. The kind and amount of information or knowledge they
need to know is readily available through basic research. Acquiring some background
knowledge about the topic helps teachers in planning inquiry experiences and challenging and
supporting children through their explorations.

Teachers do not need to have answers to all the questions children will raise. Rather than
providing children with answers, teachers can use children’s questions as a springboard for
further investigations. They may say, “I don’t know. Let’s find out together.” It is essential that

1 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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teachers become “scientists” together with children, model a questioning mind for children and
think out loud, expressing interest and enthusiasm. Teachers’ thoughtful guidance and support
through inquiry experiences builds a foundation for children’s understanding of basic science
concepts, fosters a positive approach to learning, and develops learning skills and attitudes
necessary for later success in science and in other subjects.2

Guiding Principles for Supporting Science
The following principles guide teachers in establishing a preschool science program that fosters
children’s curiosity and develops their skills and habits to explore and learn about their world.
These principles are consistent with a constructivist approach to learning, where children
actively construct knowledge through physical and mental interactions with objects and people
in their environment. The principles are drawn from current research-based models and
approaches to early childhood science and are consistent with the National Association for the
Education of Young Children (NAEYC) guidelines on developmentally appropriate practice.

• The preschool environment supports children’s curiosity and encourages inquiry and
experimentation

• The teacher
o acts as a researcher, joining children in exploring their world
o asks open-ended questions to encourage children to think and talk
o introduces children to new vocabulary, including scientific terms such as

observe, explore, predict, and measure
o demonstrates appropriate use of scientific tools
o invites children to reason and draw conclusions
o encourages children to share their observations and communicate their thoughts
o models respect for nature

• Content of inquiry is developmentally appropriate and builds on children’s prior
experiences

• Scientific inquiry experiences are interesting and engaging for children and teachers

• Children explore scientific concepts directly through active, hands-on, minds-on playful
experiences

• Children explore scientific concepts in depth through multiple, related learning
experiences over time

• Children construct knowledge through social interactions with peers and adults

• Children use language and other forms of communication to express their thoughts,
describe observations, and document their work

• Teachers support children who are English learners in understanding and
communicating scientific knowledge and skill

• Science is embedded in children’s daily activities and play and provides a natural vehicle
for integrating mathematics, literacy, and other content areas

• Individual differences are recognized, and all children are included and supported

2 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

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• The preschool environment, home, and community are connected through science3

Environmental Factors in Supporting Science
The indoor and outdoor environments provide the context for children’s physical and social
explorations and construction of scientific concepts. The following are strategies for helping
teachers set up a physical environment that is rich, stimulating, and conducive to children’s
construction of knowledge

• Be thoughtful about what objects and materials to include in the environment

• Provide a variety of natural materials to observe and investigate

• Include objects and materials that allow for creativity and open-ended investigation

• Include living things in the preschool environment

• Include scientific tools for observation, measurement, and documentation

• Make scientific tools available throughout the preschool environment

• Consider adaptations in scientific tools and materials for children with special needs

• Use technology to support children’s scientific experiences

• Present documentation of science-related experiences in the preschool environment

• Include children’s books with science-related content

• Use the outdoors for natural explorations and investigations

• Organize the space in ways that promote children’s explorations
o Allow space for observations and for objects, materials, tools, and resources

related to science
o Allow for flexibility in the use of physical space and furniture to accommodate

the changing needs of each activity
o In order to promote self-direction and free explorations, tools and materials

need to be accessible and consistently available to children
o Social interactions are necessary for conceptual growth and the development of

communication skills

• Always be aware of children’s safety

• Foster children’s curiosity and questioning

• Guide children in exploring their questions

• Be an active observer

• Talk with children and engage them in conversations during their investigations

• Provide children with time.

• Know when to intervene and when to stand back

• Model the use of scientific vocabulary4

Table 10.1: Scientific Vocabulary5

3The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
4 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
5 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Words that can be used to describe scientific activities:

Observe, observation
Predict, prediction

Test
Similar, different

Compare, contrast
Count

Measure
Investigate

Explore

Experiment

Discover

Record

Explain

Hypothesis

Table 10.2: Suggested Scientific Tools6

Types of Tools Names of Tools
Observation Tools
Tools to extend close observations

• Magnifying glasses, hand lenses

• Binoculars

• Tweezers

• Microscope Trays (Collectors’ trays)

Measurement Tools
Tools for measuring length, height,
weight, volume, and temperature

• Tape measures, strings, unit blocks

• Rulers Scales (e.g., balance scale, bathroom scale)

• Measuring cups

• Measuring spoons

• Thermometer

Recording Tools
Tools for recording and
documenting information

• Pencils, markers, crayons

• Science notebooks/journals, charts

• Papers, posters

• Camera, computer

• Felt board, magnet board

• Materials to create 3-D models

Table 10.3: Suggested Open Ended Materials7

6 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
7 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Types of Materials Names of Materials
Materials for
Building and
Construction
Open-ended
materials can be
used in multiple ways
and therefore allow
for investigation,
creativity, and
problem solving

Sample Materials:

• Blocks of various shapes, sizes, and materials (e.g., wood, foam,

• cardboard)

• Boxes

• Cardboard, planks, ramps

• Carpentry tools

• Gutters, hollow tubes

• Logs

• Nuts and bolts

• Screws

• Sticks

• Straws

• Wheels, wheeled objects

• Other construction materials

Collections of
Objects and
Reclaimed Materials
For exploration of
diverse materials and
use in sorting,
classifying, and
ordering activities

Sample Materials:

• Bottles

• Boxes of various sizes

• Buttons

• Collection of balls of different sizes

• Collection of different types of animals (for sorting and pretend

• play)

• Collection of household tools made from metal, wood, plastic

• Collection of musical instruments

• Corks

• Fabrics (e.g., a collection of gloves made of wool, rubber, leather)

• Glass nuggets

• Metal lids

• Plastic lids

• Screws

• Shakers, maracas, castanets

• Styrofoam pieces

• Wind chimes

• Woodchips

A Variety of
Substances/
Materials

• Cooking utensils

• Corn starch

• Dough

• Eggshells

• Flour

• Liquids

• Salt

• Sugar

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Types of Materials Names of Materials
Natural Materials:
Earth Materials
Natural materials
found on earth

• Clay

• Crystals

• Minerals

• Rocks

• Sand

• Seashells

• Soil

• Tools to dig and explore soil (e.g., trowels, containers, magnifiers,

• trays)

• Tools to explore water (e.g., water table, clear plastic tubes,

• connectors, funnels, containers)

• Water

Natural Materials:
Plant Materials
Materials derived
from plants and
animals

• Bark

• Cotton

• Feather

• Fruits

• Fur

• Leaves

• Seeds, seed pods (e.g., pinecones)

• Tree logs

• Twigs

• Vegetables

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Research Highlight
Children bring to science many ideas about how things work. These
intuitive understandings or naïve theories that children have constructed
often conflict with what is known to be scientifically correct. Children hold
preconceptions and misconceptions about different topics of science
including forces, changes of matter, light, sound, and earth phenomena. For
example, children believe that water disappears when it evaporates or that
rain occurs when clouds are shaken. It is important to know how these
conceptions differ from the scientific explanation and why children
construct these ideas. Children’s misconceptions are intuitively
reasonable, from the child’s perspective, and are used by children to
explain the “why” behind physical events. Some of children’s ideas may be
cultural beliefs that have been introduced at home. The teacher’s role is to
guide children through numerous opportunities to discover and re-create
concepts, without overtly correcting their misconceptions. Remember,
science is about experimentation, and the goal is to support children’s
scientific thinking, not to merely provide the correct answer.8

Sources:

C. E. Landry and G. E. Forman, “Research on Early Science Education, in The Early
Childhood Curriculum: Current Findings in Theory and Practice, 3rd ed., ed. C. Seefeldt
(New York: Teachers College Press, 1999).

N. L. Gallenstein, Creative Construction of Mathematics and Science Concepts in Early
Childhood (Olney, MD: Association for Childhood Education International, 2003)

Introducing the Foundations
The preschool learning foundations for science are organized into four broad categories or
strands:

• Scientific Inquiry

• Physical Sciences

• Life Sciences

• Earth Sciences9

Supporting Scientific Inquiry
Young children’s experience of science is an interplay between content knowledge (what
children learn about) and inquiry skills (the skills and processes they apply to explore and
develop knowledge and understanding of scientific ideas). Children build knowledge and

8 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
9 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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understanding of concepts through active participation in the process of scientific inquiry. Like
scientists, children have a natural desire to inquire, but they need guidance in developing the
skills of scientific inquiry.

• Observation and investigation skills involve ways to observe, compare, measure,
classify, predict, and to check and investigate objects and events.

• Documentation and communication skills are employed to record information and to
communicate findings and explanations with others.

Skills of scientific inquiry provide children with the tools for investigating and learning about
science topics. Such experiences build habits of questioning, critical thinking, innovative
problem solving, communication, collaboration, and decision making.

Scientific inquiry skills are integral to children’s ongoing play and explorations and are not
taught in isolation. Children develop their abilities to make observations, ask questions, and
gather information, as part of meaningful exploration and investigation experiences. Teachers
can establish an environment with a culture of inquiry and facilitate children’s use of scientific
skills and language through everyday explorations and planned experiences of scientific inquiry.

At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.1 Demonstrate curiosity and raise simple
questions about objects and events in
their environment.

1.1 Demonstrate curiosity and an increased
ability to raise questions about objects
and events in their environment.

1.2 Observe1 objects and events in the
environment and describe them.

1.2 Observe objects and events in the
environment and describe them in
greater detail.

1.3 Begin to identify and use, with adult
support, some observation and
measurement tools.

1.3 Identify and use a greater variety of
observation and measurement tools. May
spontaneously use an appropriate tool,
though may still need adult support.

1.4 Compare and contrast objects and events
and begin to describe similarities and
differences.

1.4 Compare and contrast objects and events
and describe similarities and differences
in greater detail.

1.5 Make predictions and check them, with
adult support, through concrete
experiences.

1.5 Demonstrate an increased ability to make
predictions and check them (e.g., may
make more complex predictions, offer
ways to test predictions, and discuss why
predictions were correct or incorrect.

1.6 Make inferences and form generalizations
based on evidence.

1.6 Demonstrate an increased ability to make
inferences and form generalizations
based on evidence.

1. Other related scientific processes, such as classifying, ordering, and measuring, are addressed in the
foundations for mathematics.

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Figure 10.2: Image by Ian Joslin is licensed by CC-BY-4.0

2.0 Documentation and Communication
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.1 Record observations or findings in various
ways, with adult assistance, including
pictures, words, (dictated to adults),
charts, journals, models, and photos.

2.1 Record information more regularly and in
greater detail in various ways, with adult
assistance, including pictures, words
(dictated to adults), charts, journals,
models, photos, or by tallying and
graphing information.

2.2 Share findings and explanations which
may be correct or incorrect, with or
without adult prompting.

2.2 Share findings and explanations, which
may be correct or incorrect, more
spontaneously and with greater detail.

https://koolkoalaj.com/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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Figure 10.3: Image by Ian Joslin is licensed by CC-BY-4.0

Teachers can support children’s development of the scientific inquiry foundations with the
following:

• Facilitate children’s observation skills by using the term “observe” and introduce the
process with a familiar item

• Talk with children and ask questions to guide their observations

• Invite children to observe objects and phenomena related to the current focus of inquiry

• Promote the use of scientific tools to extend children’s observations and investigations
of objects

• Introduce children to scientific tools and their function and support their appropriate
use

• Encourage children to make predictions first and then check their predictions

• Remind children that predictions do not have to be right

• Record children’s predictions

• Facilitate children’s ability to make inferences and draw conclusions (when inferring and
drawing conclusions, children observe what happened and make an assumption about
the cause)

• Use everyday observations to model inferring

• Encourage children to explain the reasoning behind their inferences

https://koolkoalaj.com/

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• Encourage children to record observations and document investigations and findings

• Promote the use of different forms to record and document information

• Consider adaptations for children with special needs

• Encourage children to describe their representations while you write their words

• Encourage different means of communication including home language, sign language,
and communication devices

• Invite children to record collaboratively, using charts, graphs, or models

• Ask open-ended questions to
o Encourage children to share their observations
o Facilitate problem-solving and investigations
o Elicit predictions and explanations

• Engage children in collaborative discussions10

10 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission;
The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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217 | I n t r o d u c t i o n t o C u r r i c u l u m f o r E a r l y C h i l d h o o d E d u c a t i o n

Vignettes
While exploring the play yard, children became fascinated with pill bugs
(usually called roly polies by children). In the yard, they would look for pill
bugs and enjoy watching them curl into balls. One day, Ms. Lopez noticed
that a group of children collected pill bugs in a bucket. She invited the
children to put the “roly polies” on a tray and observe them closely at the
outdoor investigation table. Ms. Lopez said, “Let’s use our tools and look
really closely at the pill bugs. What do you notice about their body?” Ms.
Lopez assisted Jennifer in holding the magnifier above the pill bug: “Wow, it
looks so big,” Jennifer said. Jose observes the pill bug with a magnifier and
gets excited: “I can see its head.” Ryan asked, “When is it going to open up
again? I want to see how many legs it has.”

Ms. Brown presented children with a big cube of ice. She asked the children
to touch or hold it and tell her what they notice about it: “What does it feel
like? What does it look like?” Children shared their observations: “It is
cold.” “It is slippery.” “It is very smooth.” “It is wet.” “It is white.” “It is
square.” Ms. Brown asked the children, “What do you know about ice?”
Some children shared their ideas: “We keep it in the freezer,” “It’s very,
very cold.” “If you put it in water, it disappears.” She invited children to
draw their observations of the ice cube in their notebooks. The next day,
Ms. Brown told the children that together they are going to explore what
will happen to ice when it is left outside of the freezer. She has asked
children: “What do you think will happen to this ice cube if we leave it in
this bowl? What is your prediction?” “Will it stay the same?” “What will be
different?” Children made predictions, and she wrote them on a chart (e.g.,
“It will not be so cold anymore.” “It will turn into water”), “After lunch,
we’ll check our ice cube and find out what happened.”

The children in Ms. Moreno’s group are taking turns bringing home the
picture book they created as a group. Today, it is Emilia’s turn to take home
this book. This picture book was created to document the growth of their
plant. Emilia points to the photos in the book (taken by Ms. Moreno to
document the process) and to children’s drawings. She tells the story out
loud to her grandmother, who is picking her up, “First we had to buy seeds
(points to a photo of the seeds packet on the first page), then we put the
soil, and then we put the seeds inside the dirt . . .” Emilia continues with
more details while looking at the pictures in the book: how they put the pot
in the sun, watered the plant, and measured its growth. “Here it was one
inch, and here it was bigger, and here it was very tall, and it has many
leaves.” At home, Emilia will share it with her family, and together they will
retell the story in her home language.11

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Pause to Reflect
How would you facilitate children’s thinking skills through everyday
observations and interactions?

Supporting Physical Sciences
Young children’s inquiry in physical science involves the active exploration of nonliving objects
and materials and of physical events in their everyday environment. When children build with
blocks; play with different balls; push or slide objects of different kinds; play with water, sand,
clay, and other objects in the preschool environment; they explore materials in different ways
and begin to form ideas about the physical properties. They manipulate objects, act on them,
and observe what happens. They may try a certain strategy over and over to see if the same
result happens again. Through such exploratory interactions with objects and solid and nonsolid
materials, children can learn about cause-and-effect relationships, the physical properties of
objects and materials (e.g., size, shape, rigidity, texture), and about changes and
transformations of objects and materials. For example, when building with various kinds of
blocks, children may learn about the size and shape of the blocks and about the characteristics
of the materials used to make the blocks (e.g., wood, foam, plastic). They may discover that the
big cardboard blocks should be used at the bottom of a tower and the small unit blocks on top
in order to create a strong and stable tower. When playing at the water table, they experience
how water flows down and takes the shape of the container.

Figure 10.4: What containers could be added to this water table to expand the children’s exploration?12

With teachers’ guidance, children’s everyday play can become rich, hands-on inquiry
experiences of the key concepts in physical sciences. Teachers can provide children with

11 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
12 Image by Staff Sgt. Oshawn Jefferson is in the public domain.

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materials to broaden their investigation. They encourage children to try out their ideas, even if
the teacher knows the child’s strategy will not create the desired result. Teachers challenge
children’s thinking by asking questions that focus attention on key science concepts being
investigated: “What can you do to make the bridge higher?” “How can we make mud?” “Why
did the ball roll down in this direction?” Interactions of this kind provide children with
opportunities to extend their experimentations with objects, to notice patterns of cause-and-
effect, to reason and think more deeply about the phenomena they observe, and to use
language to describe, explain, and reflect on their work.

Key Concepts in Physical Sciences
In exploring objects and materials, children develop understanding of key
concepts about the physical world.

• They learn about the size, shape, weight, texture and other
properties of objects and materials.

• They learn about the form and function of objects and that the form
of an object supports its function.

• They continue to learn about cause and effect—that certain actions
lead to certain reactions.

• They learn about changes in objects and materials. For instance,
how mixing, heating, or cutting will produce changes in materials
and that some changes are reversible and some are irreversible.

• They begin to understand that objects not in motion are in a state of
balance.

They learn more about force and motion (inanimate objects are set in
motion; pushing and pulling put objects in motion; objects can move in
different ways).

1.0 Properties and Characteristics of Nonliving Objects and Materials
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.1 Observe, investigate, and identify the
characteristics and physical properties of
objects and of solid and nonsolid
materials (size, weight, shape, color,
texture, and sound).

1.1 Demonstrate increased ability to observe,
investigate, and describe in greater detail
the characteristics and physical properties
of objects and of solid and nonsolid
materials (size, weight, shape, color,
texture, and sound).

2.0 Changes in Nonliving Objects and Materials
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.1 Demonstrate awareness that objects and
materials can change; explore and
describe changes in objects and materials

2.1 Demonstrate increased awareness that
objects and materials can change in
various ways. Explore and describe in
greater detail changes in objects and

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At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

(rearrangement of parts; change in color,
shape, texture, temperature).

materials (rearrangement of parts;
change in color, shape, texture,
temperature).

2.2 Observe and describe the motion of
objects (in terms of speed, direction, the
ways things move), and explore the effect
of own actions (e.g., pushing, pulling,
rolling, dropping) on making objects
move.

2.2 Demonstrate an increased ability to
observe and describe in greater detail the
motion of objects (in terms of speed,
direction, the ways things move), and to
explore the effect of own actions on the
motions of objects, including changes in
speed and direction.

Teachers can support children’s development of the physical sciences foundations with the
following:

• Provide children with opportunities to explore a variety of objects and materials in the
daily environment.

• Prepare yourself and be purposeful about the scientific concepts children will
investigate while engaged with objects and materials.

• Engage children in projects that allow them to explore, experiment, and invent with
objects and materials for an extended period of time.

• Experiment with materials and objects before offering them to children.

• Invite children to observe and describe the characteristics and physical properties of the
objects and materials they investigate.

• Plan opportunities for children to sort and classify objects and materials and reflect on
similarities and differences.

• Provide children with opportunities to build and experiment with simple machines.
Simple machines refer to six mechanical devices that make it easier to move or lift
something: levers, a wheel on an axle, a pulley, an inclined plane, a wedge, and a screw.

• Provide children with opportunities to investigate the form and function of different
tools and machines.

• Avoid presenting children with activities of “magical” science (such as chemical “snow”
and exploding volcanoes) that are done for entertainment purposes and with the
children as observers (not participants).

• Select activities or projects in which children can vary their actions on objects and
observe the immediate reactions to their actions.

• Use cooking activities as opportunities to reason about transformations in materials.

• Invite children to set up an experiment and collect and analyze data.

• Focus children’s attention on the effect of one aspect (variable) at a time.

• Lead children to make predictions about what they expect to happen.

• Ask questions to raise children’s awareness of how they produced an effect.

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• Encourage children to record and document investigations with objects and materials.13

Figure 10.3: There is science at play when making tamales.14

13 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission;
The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
14 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

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Vignettes
Ms. Yen introduced children to a variety of solid materials, including
feathers, wood chips, pennies, foam pieces, marbles, and eggshells. After
the materials were introduced, she left them for children’s free exploration
in the discovery center. The center also included tools such as magnifiers,
trays, cups, and a balance scale to expand their observations of the
materials, and the children were familiar with how to use them. Children
enjoyed exploring these materials, especially finding out how they are
similar or different from each other. One question they investigated was,
“Which materials are rigid and which are soft?” Children tried pressing,
poking, twisting, tearing, and breaking the different materials and shared
their conclusions with their classmates as they worked: “The pennies are
hard.” “The feathers are very soft. You can bend them, and they do not
break.” “The eggshell breaks when you press on it, and these (points to
foam pieces) are soft, and you can break them like this (the child
demonstrates how they break easily).” “The wood chips are very hard, too.”
With the teacher’s assistance, some children recorded their findings on the
chart, by gluing a sample of each material under “Rigid” or “Soft.”

During the last cooking activity Ms. Moreno noticed that the children were
fascinated when they mixed the flour with water. The children’s reactions
gave Ms. Moreno an idea for extending the group’s explorations with dry
materials and engaging them in exploring mixtures. In small-group time,
Ms. Moreno introduced the children to different dry materials, such as salt,
flour, cornstarch, and sugar, and invited them to explore them. She then
suggested that they mix some of these materials with water. The teacher
asked the children questions to invite them to make predictions: “What do
you think will happen if we add salt to water . . .” As the children watched
the salt crystals disappear, they discovered that when salt is mixed with
water, it cannot be seen anymore. The teacher immediately asked
questions that encouraged the children to check their predictions. Ms.
Moreno asked the children, “What happened when you stirred the salt in
water?” Children came up with different answers: “It disappears.” “It is
inside the water, but you cannot see it anymore.” Ms. Moreno invited the
children to taste plain water and the water stirred with salt, and tell the
difference. When the children communicated that they tasted the salt and
that it was still in the water, the teacher introduced the word dissolve to
the children and explained that the salt dissolved in water to make salt
water. The children tried out different materials and discovered that some
dissolve in water and others, such as flour or sand, do not. The next day,
the children tried mixing other materials such as glue, lemonade powder,
tea leaves, and play dough to find out what happens to each of these
materials when mixed with water.

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The children were playing at the water table and taking turns tossing an
object into the water, to find out which objects sink and which objects
float. Ms. Schultz held a plastic cup, and asked, “What do you predict will
happen to this cup when you put it in the water? Will it sink or float?” David
said, “It will float like the other cup,” referring to the Styrofoam cup they
tested earlier. Dana said, “It will sink because it is more hard than the white
cup.” Gaby said, “Maybe if we put it in like this (facing up), it will not sink.”
Ms. Schultz asked, “Why do you think so?” Gaby said, “Because the water
will not go inside.” She put the cup in the water, facing up, and the children
observed the cup floating. “You see! It is floating.” David said, “Now, let’s
put it in like this (facing down).” Ms. Shultz said, “That’s a great idea. Let’s
put the cup in the water facing down and see what happens. What is your
prediction? Will the cup sink or float?”

The children predicted that the plastic cup will float again. Ms. Shultz asked,
“Why do you think it will float?” David answered, “Because it was floating
before.” She put the cup in the water, facing down, and everyone, including
Ms. Schultz, was surprised when they saw the cup sinking in the water. The
children were fascinated with what they discovered. They kept putting the
cup in the water, one time facing up and one time facing down, watching it
turn from a “floater” to a “sinker.”15

Pause to Reflect
How can different interest areas in the preschool environment (e.g., the block
area, the water table, the sensory table, and the playground) be used to
enhance children’s explorations of objects and materials?

Supporting Life Sciences
Life sciences for young children are about nurturing children’s curiosity and fascination with the
natural world and building their understanding and appreciation of living things. Preschool
children have various opportunities to engage with living things in their preschool environment.
When playing in the yard, they may come across small animals or bugs or notice changes in the
trees. They may help take care of the class pet or plants in the room. They participate in
different planned activities related to living things, such as going on a neighborhood walk to
collect different leaves, search for bugs or other small animals in the yard, sort and classify
fruits and vegetables, explore various seeds, plant bulbs, sprout seeds, or grow a garden. Such

15 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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experiences in the preschool environment can provide the context for rich experiences of
scientific inquiry about properties and characteristics of living things.

The goal is to provide children with opportunities which allow them to closely observe living
things, including human beings, and to encourage them to question, explore and investigate
physical characteristics, behaviors, habitats, and needs. Through ongoing opportunities to
observe and discuss what they have seen, children develop their ideas about living things, how
they are the same, and how they differ from one another. They start to sort and classify and
look for patterns. They begin to recognize commonalities such as the physical structure and
basic needs of different living things, but also the diversity and variation among different
organisms.

Figure 10.4: Classrooms can get a butterfly kit to experience the life cycle of butterflies16

The teacher has an important role in guiding children through experiences of exploring and
observing animals and plants around them, whether outdoors, as they exist in nature, or
indoors in an environment that is as natural as possible. They deepen children’s understanding
of living things, including features of their own body parts and processes, by encouraging
children to observe closely, raise questions, investigate more about a topic, describe and
represent their observations, and by creating opportunities for discussion and reflection. At the
same time, they model wonder and excitement of the natural world and an attitude of respect
for living things and their habitats.

16 Image by Stamford Museum & Nature Center is licensed by CC-BY-3.0

https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Preschool_at_SM%26NC

Homepage

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/deed.en

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Key Concepts in Life Sciences
In studying animals, plants, and humans, children develop an understanding
of key concepts related to living things such as:

• All living things have basic needs that must be met for them to grow
and survive.

• The body parts of living things are useful for them in meeting their
needs.

• The physical characteristics of living things reflect how they move
and behave.

• Living things have their habitats in different environments.

• All living things grow over time and go through changes related to
the life cycle.

There is variation and diversity in living things

1.0 Properties and Characteristics of Living Things

At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.1 Identify characteristics of a variety of
animals and plants, including appearance
(inside and outside) and behavior, and
begin to categorize them.

1.1 Identify characteristics of a greater
variety of animals and plants and
demonstrate an increased ability to
categorize them.

1.2 Begin to indicate knowledge of body parts
and process (e.g., eating, sleeping,
breathing, walking) in humans and other
animals.

1.2 Indicate greater knowledge of body parts
and processes (e.g., eating, sleeping,
breathing, walking) in humans and other
animals.

1.3 Identify the habitats of people and
familiar animals and plants in the
environment and begin to realize that
living things have habitats in different
environments.

1.3 Recognize that living things have habitats
in different environments suited to their
unique needs.

1.4 Indicate knowledge of the difference
between animate objects (animals,
people) and inanimate objects. For
example, expect animate objects to
initiate movement and to have different
insides than inanimate objects.

1.4 Indicate knowledge of the difference
between animate and inanimate objects,
providing greater detail, and recognizing
that only animals and plants undergo
biological processes such as growth,
illness, healing, and dying.

2.0 Changes in Living Things
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.1 Observe and explore growth and changes
in humans, animals, and plants and
demonstrate an understanding that living

2.1 Observe and explore growth in humans,
animals, and plants and demonstrate an
increased understanding that living things
change as they grow and go through

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At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

things change over time in size and in
other capacities as they grow.

transformations related to the life cycle
(for example, from a caterpillar to
butterfly).

2.2 Recognize that animals and plants require
care and begin to associate feeding and
watering with the growth of humans,
animals, and plants.

2.2 Develop a greater understanding of the
basic needs of humans, animals, and
plants (e.g., food, water, sunshine,
shelter).

Figure 10.5: Children can help plant, maintain, and harvest from a garden.17

Teachers can support children’s development of the life sciences foundations with the
following:

• Focus children’s explorations on key concepts of living things

• Take children on outdoor explorations of plants and animals.

• Model curiosity and interest in nature

• Remind children to be respectful of nature

• Engage children in conversations about what they notice and point their attention to
important aspects of living things

• Document children’s outdoor explorations

• Provide children with tools for explorations of living things

• Include plants and animals indoors

• Engage children in close observations of living things (animals, plants, and fruits and
vegetables)

• Invite children to share in-home experiences with living things

• Use books to enrich and extend children’s study of living things

17 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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• Provide children with opportunities to care for plants and animals

• Provide children with opportunities to observe and monitor plants’ growth and
development

• Engage children in reflective conversations in small or large groups

• Involve families in children’s planting and gardening experiences

• Provide children with opportunities to observe changes and transformations in animals
passing through stages of the life cycle

• Provide children with opportunities to observe changes and transformations in animals
passing through stages of the life cycle

• Discuss the death of living things from the scientific perspective of death, and explain to
them that all living things die (families should be informed of the discussions to be
prepared to answer questions).

• Invite children to investigate their own growth18

18 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission;
The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Vignettes
While playing outdoors, Gregory pointed up to the oak tree and shouted,
“Look, a squirrel up in the tree.” Joanna whispered, “Shhh . . . You will scare
the squirrel away.” They stood there silently, watching the squirrel. Soon
more children joined them. Ms. Leon, watched them observing the squirrel
and asked, “What do you think the squirrel is doing?” (Pause) “What do you
think he is looking for?” She listened carefully to the children’s ideas and
questions while observing the squirrel: “It is climbing up.” “He is looking at
us.” “I think he is looking for something to eat.” Joanna asked Ms. Leon, “Is
that where he lives?” Ms. Leon turned the question right back to her and
asked, “What do you think?” Ms. Leon expected this question to come up
because recently they were talking about the habitats of different animals
and commented that some animals live in trees. Later, during group time,
Ms. Leon invited children to share with the group their observations of the
squirrel. She brought up her question again: “What do you think the
squirrel was looking for in the tree?” Some children said that squirrels were
looking for food. Ms. Leon asked, “What kind of food do you think squirrels
may find in the tree?” Joanna suggested, “Maybe they eat leaves.” Miguel
said, “Maybe the squirrel was looking for seeds.” Ms. Leon answered, “Oh,
so you think that squirrels may eat leaves, nuts, and seeds. Let’s get our
small binoculars and journals and observe the squirrels to find out what
squirrels are doing in the tree and what they like to eat.

The teacher cut open the avocado, and Danny got really excited. “I knew
there was going to be a big seed inside.” Ms. Wilson replied, “You did
predict that there was going to be a big seed inside.” She invited children to
observe the inside of the avocado. Rena said, “It has this thing inside.” Sara
pointed to the empty half and said, “This is where it was.” The teacher
replied, “It is the avocado seed.” She took out the seed and handed it to
Rena. “Oh, it is slippery.” Ms. Wilson put it on a tray and said, “It does feel
very slimy.” She invited children to observe the seed. “What does it look
like? What does it feel like?” After she gave children time to observe the
avocado seed, she pointed to the other fruits in the basket and said, “I
wonder if these fruits are also going to have seeds inside. What do you
think?” Rena said, “Maybe the orange will not have very big seeds.” Danny
said, “The avocado has a big seed inside, not the orange.” Ms. Wilson
asked, “What do you think is inside the orange?” The teacher invited the
children to predict what kind of seeds are inside an orange, a mango, a
butternut squash, a papaya, and a plum and wrote down their predictions.
She then invited the children to cut open the fruits and check what was
inside19

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Pause to Reflect
How can you find out what ideas, interests, cultural beliefs, or fears the
children in your group bring to their study of living things?

Supporting Earth Sciences
When children play with dirt, jump in puddles, collect rocks, observe the rain, or feel the heat of
the sun, they have direct contact with aspects of the earth. Daily interactions and direct contact
with objects and earth events provide children with the context to observe and explore
properties of earth materials and to identify patterns of change in the world around them (for
example, patterns of day and night, and changes in temperature). With teachers’ guidance,
children’s everyday interactions and direct contact with objects and earth events can become
rich, inquiry based experiences of earth sciences.

Figure 10.6: Exploring outdoors helps connect children with nature.20

Teachers can provide children with opportunities to explore the physical properties of earth
materials and to observe, record, and track changes in the weather and how it affects the living
world. Exploratory interactions with earth materials and ongoing observations of earth
phenomena enhance children’s connection to nature and raise their awareness of the
importance of caring for and respecting the natural world. The box below summarizes key
concepts in earth sciences. The following section provides practical strategies to engage
children in rich, focused explorations of earth materials and phenomena.

19 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
20 Image by the Preschool at Charles Wright Academy is licensed by CC-BY-3.0

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

https://vimeo.com/charleswrightacademy

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0/

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Key Concepts in Earth Sciences
In studying earth materials and phenomena, children become aware of key
characteristics of earth:

• Earth materials (soil, sand, rocks, air, water) are part of the natural
environment.

• Earth materials have different properties.

• There are patterns of change in earth phenomena (day/night;
seasons). • Natural objects in the sky (sun, moon) are not always in
the same place.

• Temperature and weather changes can be tracked over time.

• Weather and seasonal changes affect the environment.

People should respect and care for the environment.

1.0 Properties and Characteristics of Earth Materials and Objects
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.1 Investigate characteristics (size, weight,
shape, color, texture) of earth materials
such as sand, rocks, soil, water, and air.

1.1 Demonstrate increased ability to
investigate and compare characteristics
(size, weight, shape, color, texture) of
earth materials such as sand, rocks, soil,
water, and air.

2.0 Changes in the Earth
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.1 Observe and describe natural objects in
the sky (sun, moon, stars, clouds) and
how they appear to move and change.

2.1 Demonstrate an increased ability to
observe and describe natural objects in
the sky and to notice patterns of
movement and apparent changes in the
sun and the moon.

2.2 Notice and describe changes in weather. 2.2 Demonstrate an increased ability to
observe, describe, and discuss changes in
weather.

2.3 Begin to notice the effects of weather and
seasonal changes on their own lives and
on plants and animals.

2.3 Demonstrate an increased ability to
notice and describe the effects of
weather and seasonal changes on their
own lives and on plants and animals.

2.4 Develop awareness of the importance of
caring for and respecting the environment
and participate in activities related to its
care.

2.4 Demonstrate an increased awareness and
the ability to discuss in simple terms how
to care for the environment, and
participate in activities related to its care.

Teachers can support children’s development of the earth science foundations with the
following:

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• Take children on a search for earth materials in nature

• Invite children to observe, compare and classify earth materials

• Invite children to explore and experiment with earth materials

• Use opportunities to explore earth materials in the context of studying living things or
when exploring other solid and nonsolid materials

• Invite children to share in-home experiences with earth materials

• Engage children in observing and describing the sun and the moon and other natural
objects in the sky

• Provide children with opportunities to observe, record, and discuss the weather
o Develop an awareness of the daily weather
o Invite children to record and discuss changes in the weather
o Invite children to observe and discuss the effects of weather and seasonal

changes on their life and the environment around them
o Engage families in children’s explorations of weather and seasonal change

• Model and discuss respect for the environment

• Engage children in caring for and protecting the environment through everyday routines
in the preschool environment

• Collect and use recycled materials21

21 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission;
The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Vignettes
Ms. Tina observes the children playing at the sandbox. Ted fills up the
bucket with water and pours it on the sand. Olivia and Ted watch as the
water is absorbed by the sand. Next they begin to pile the sand into a
mound. Olivia says, “It’s like a mountain. Let’s make it bigger.” They add
more sand and compact it together. Their mountain is beginning to take
shape and gets bigger and bigger. Olivia says, “I am going to get water.” She
gets a small bucket and gently pours it on top of the mountain. She notices
how the water creates a depression in the sand and then flows down. Ted
says, “Like a river.” He gets more water in the bucket and pours it again in
the same place. The depressed part gets bigger. Ms. Tina gets closer and
asks, “What happens when the water is flowing down your mountain?” Ted
describes, “The water makes a hole in the mountain. Olivia says, “It takes
the sand down.” Ms. Tina said, “A little bit of water at the beginning helped
to hold the mountain together, but pouring a large amount of water causes
the sand to slip and slide away. It can also happen in nature, when water
breaks down the land.”

Today, Rena’s father came to school to share with the group some of his
kites and to build a kite with the children. First, he invited the children to
observe him flying one of his kites in the air, and then the children took
turns flying the kite together with him. After they came inside, Rena’s
father asked the children, “So what do you think makes the kite fly up?”
Children came up with different answers. “The wind touches the kite all
around, and it goes up in the sky. It pushes the kite up, up, up, up in the
sky.” Another child said, “The air goes through the holes of the kite, and it
moves the kite to the sky.” Rena’s dad invited children to notice the shape
of the kite, and together they discovered that the kites he brought have a
similar shape, “like a diamond.” He also asked them why they think the kite
needs to be light and not heavy, and one of the children said, “Because it
needs to fly up.” Rena’s dad told them, “A long time ago, kites were
invented in China. People used bamboo sticks and silk to make kites.” He
then invited children to build a kite. “Now we are going to build our own
kite. What do you think we need to build a kite?

Every month the children observe the oak tree outdoors and keep records
of how it changes from month to month. Ms. B. encourages children to
make drawings of the tree, and together with the children, she takes
photos of it once a month. While observing the tree, Ms. B invites them to
share their observations: “What changes do you see?” “Why do you think
the tree changed like that?” Through such discussions, Ms. B helps children
to begin to draw the connection between the changes they observe in the

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tree and the changes in the weather and seasons. In the fall, children
collected fallen oak acorns and leaves. They were fascinated with its deeply
lobed leaves, and some of them made drawings of the oak leaves in their
journals. They also observed the acorns and talked about them as well as
other trees around the yard that have dry fruit similar to the acorn. Ms. B
creates a class book with the observational drawings, children’s words, and
photographs documenting the changes the children observe each month.
By the end of the school year, the book will include their documentation of
the tree in order of the seasons: fall, winter, spring, and summer.22

Engaging Families
Teachers can make the following suggestions to families to facilitate their support of history
and social science

• Use science learning as an opportunity to involve families by inviting them to the
program and by sending home suggestions for activities that they can do with their
children.

• Communicate to families their important role in supporting children’s curiosity and the
development of scientific knowledge.

• Share with family members your approach to science and how you support children’s
development of inquiry skills.

• Invite family members to come and talk with the teacher and children about their
beliefs and connections to nature

• Share the importance of active hands-on explorations of objects and materials

• Inform families about children’s explorations and experimentations with objects and
materials.

• Involve family members as volunteers and rich resources in the preschool environment.

• Provide families with enrichment and follow-up activities they can do with children at
home.

• Ask families about children’s previous experiences, cultural beliefs, and theories about
living things.

• Share with families children’s experiences with science in the classroom.

• Remind family members of the many opportunities to engage children in life science
explorations outside the preschool environment.

• Provide family members with tips to support children’s awareness and understanding of
their natural environment.23

22 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 1 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
23 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkkvol1

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Conclusion
Young children have a sense of wonder and a natural curiosity about objects and events in their
world. Through exploratory play and experimentation with objects and materials, they discover
how to make their car go downhill faster or how to control the movement and flow of water.
They are excited to find out what’s inside a pumpkin, how trees change over the year, how the
rain feels and smells, and why pill bugs curl into a ball. The preschool environment nurtures
children’s innate or natural dispositions to observe and seek information and guides their
curiosity into opportunities to observe, explore, and inquire about objects and phenomena in
their environment. Teachers provide children with a purposefully planned, play-based,
supportive environment that expands their explorations. Children’s explorations and guided
investigations deepen children’s understanding of concepts in science and develop their
attitudes, skills, and language of scientific inquiry.

Figure 10.7: Capturing documentation of the worm this child found while exploring outside.24

While investigating concepts from physical, life, and earth sciences, teachers encourage
children to ask questions, to observe and investigate, to predict and experiment with objects
and materials, to draw conclusions, to document their work, and to share their observations
and ideas with others. Such experiences not only develop children’s scientific inquiry skills, but
also provide the context for learning and developing their language (building vocabulary in
English and in their home language), literacy, mathematics, and social skills. Science also offers
a special avenue to include families in the curriculum and bridge the home and preschool
cultures. Preschool science is inclusive and prepares children for the scientific skills and
knowledge they encounter later in school. It fosters a joy of discovery, a positive approach to

24 Image by Seattle Parks is licensed by CC-BY-2.0

Nature Kids Preschool

PXL_20220712_011102791.PORTRAIT

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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learning, and the development of skills and attitudes necessary for many areas of learning
throughout life.25

Pause to Reflect
What aspects of the natural world are you curious about? How might that
affect how you plan curriculum for science?

25 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

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Chapter 11: Creative Arts
Objectives:
By the end of the chapter, you should be able to:

• Explain how young children naturally express themselves through the arts

• Advocate for the arts being included in early childhood education

• Describe each of the four disciplines/strands of the creative arts

• Summarize the foundations in the arts that high quality early childhood programs
support

• List materials that educators can include in their classrooms to support the arts

• Identify ways for educators to support the arts through their curriculum planning

• Discuss ways to engage families in curriculum for the arts

Introduction
The creative arts are as natural to young children’s lives as language and play are. The arts build
skills such as problem solving and critical thinking; they bring parallel opportunities for the
development of language/communication, mathematics, and the development of social and
interpersonal skills. The following activities are often referred to as children’s play: scribbling
with a crayon, pretending to be a pirate or a bird, humming bits of a tune, banging on a drum,
or swaying to music. But these behaviors in fact show elements of artistic expression and
creation that support continuous development of artistic skills. They also show the hallmarks of
children’s abilities to express themselves through symbols and aesthetic images.1

The creative arts domain is presented in four familiar disciplines:

1 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used with
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Table 11.1: Creative Arts Disciplines

Examples of Art Types of Art

Figure 11.12

Visual Art: The visual arts include the practice of drawing,
painting, sculpting, and assembling collages in two or three
dimensions. Preschool visual art is process-based and open-
ended, allowing children to explore by using a variety of
materials. The product is not the focus, though the children
will likely view their creation as a masterpiece!

Figure 11.23

Music: Preschoolers love to listen to music as well as sing
along and move with music. Music learning in preschool is a
time to make new discoveries. Preschoolers can engage in
music making, performing rhythms, musical sounds and
passages with a variety of instruments, or simply sing along to
a favorite tune.

Figure 11.34

Drama: For preschoolers, this domain involves both
spontaneous dramatic play and teacher-structured drama,
each of which inspires the other. Preschoolers are naturally
inclined to engage in solitary, parallel, and group play, and
draw on these experiences when acting out situations and
using props (with teacher guidance). Similarly, engaging in
drama feeds children’s imagination and inspires dramatic
play. A goal in dramatic play and drama for preschoolers is
unleashing the child’s imagination. Thus, the focus is on
children’s creative engagement in drama rather than on
actual performance or “the theater.”

2 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission
3 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission
4 Image by Ermalfaro is licensed by CC BY-4.0

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Examples of Art Types of Art

Figure 11.45

Dance: The dance domain for preschoolers is interested in the
creative and often expressive use of movement. Movement is
explored in all its range (e.g., small and large, fast or slow,
hopping or marching) and for various purposes, such as
learning math or language skills, or for the joy of moving.
Dance can be a nonverbal tool for expressing ideas, telling
stories, or communicating emotions. It is often rhythmic and
accompanied by music. Requiring thinking, social interaction,
and physical exercise, dance is a motivating way for
preschoolers to engage in learning.

The specific foundations, which are the knowledge, skills, and behaviors that preschool children
typically develop in a quality preschool environment as they relate to visual art, music, drama,
and dance are included later in the chapter as each strand is explored.6

Supporting Children’s Learning
Much of children’s development in the creative arts during the preschool years proceeds
naturally and needs only fertile soil, along with time, to grow. Children initiate many behaviors
and routines when they simply go about their play. They practice many skills along the way, and
supportive physical and social–emotional development occurs as children progress from ages
three to five. At the same time, their drawings become more mature and expressive, their
pretend characters and settings become more complex and social, their musical expression
skills grow with their muscular coordination and abilities to discern beat, tone, and melody, and
the movements they coordinate with music or simply orchestrate in silence gain in surety and
expressive complexity.

A primary responsibility of the preschool teacher is to let such natural developments occur.
Child-initiated artistic activity is valuable not only because it is so enmeshed with a host of
developments for children, but also because children cherish ownership of much of what they
do. Children follow their hearts and minds to what interests them and to areas where they
experience increasing mastery. They draw as they will and may not be interested in exactly
what thing, animal, or person the creation represents. They may hold firm to their idea of how
to draw a tree, behave like a bear, or sing like a bird; it often becomes important for teachers
and other adults to avoid critiquing such expressions (except where the child may solicit
advice). Teachers would do well to let the child experiment with, and perhaps revise, her

5 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission
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expressions as the need occurs or as maturing views of the world and its possible
representations take hold.

Figure 11.5 Participating and having fun with the arts should be the focus7

Along with child-initiated art, a complementary perspective needs reinforcement. This
perspective recognizes the ways that teachers can and should support young learners in their
development. An element of this scaffolding is creating conditions in the preschool program in
which interesting and important connections between the arts and other developments can
take place. Capitalizing on language and communication opportunities is another example;
placing children in settings where cooperation is important and where cooperative dispositions
and skills may grow is yet another. Some art activities can help children become aware of and
reflect on differences among people, become exposed to diverse art forms from different
cultures, and create a common platform of learning for children between home and school.
These considerations will set the stage for children’s growth and interest in the arts.8

Guiding Principles
The following guiding principles relate the importance of teachings knowing their children and
providing instructional activities that tap into the children’s prior knowledge and experiences.
Exploration in the arts is important and creative expression is more authentic when not
dictated by adult expectations. Adults need to scaffold this process of exploration providing
structure to activities, mediating potential problems, and inspiring and encouraging children’s
progress. In this manner, adults can make the arts rewarding to all children, including those
with special needs.

7 Image by Kathy Desy is in the public domain.
8 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used with
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11.6 To bring the arts to children with disabilities, you may need to make accommodations, such as this tray on a

wheelchair.9

Beyond helping to build artistic skills, reflection and modification are important to the creative
process. These opportunities in the arts also build skills such as problem solving and critical
thinking; the arts bring parallel opportunities for the development of language/communication,
mathematics, and the development of social and interpersonal skills. In the same vein, the arts
have applications to learning in many disciplines and to aspects of social–emotional
development. Observant teachers can capitalize on the arts to foster development of the self,
identity, and emotional outlet.

Figure 11.7: Using tools with playdough is an opportunity to problem solve and explore cause-and effect. 10

9 Image by Sgt. Teri Hansen is in the public domain
10 Image by U.S. Airforce is in the public domain

https://www.army.mil/article/41302/volunteers_from_1st_ad_provide_wheelchairs_to_disabled_iraqi_children

https://www.airforcemedicine.af.mil/MTF/Travis/News-Events/Article/151874/teddy-child-watch-extends-hours/

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The arts can be pursued even with meager budgets and free materials. Children benefit from
high-quality learning experiences and high-quality materials— both as vehicles to encourage
exploration and as symbols that demonstrate adult caring for children’s welfare.

• The arts are inclusive of and can be enjoyed by all children.

• The arts are a language that is common to all and embrace understanding between
children of different linguistic, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds, and between
children of differing abilities.

• The arts promote dispositions for learning and regular experiences in the arts during the
preschool years, cultivates life-long engagement in arts-related activities.

• Children make their own meaning. Original, imaginative expression is a natural
occurrence when children engage in the arts that is scaffolded by adults in an
appropriate environment.

• Children are capable of creating original art in all its forms.

• Children learn about human connections, beauty, and appreciation of the arts.

• The child’s work is play and experiences in the arts should be offered in play-oriented
approaches.

• Children are active learners who thrive when challenged appropriately. An effective
curriculum includes a broad range of methods, experiences, and definitions of success
for all children, teachers, and preschool settings.

• Arts experiences for preschoolers are more about process than product. Being engaged
is what is important, not the end result or product.

• The arts reinforce the integrated nature of learning. Because children learn holistically,
the arts should be presented in a way that is integrated with other domains of learning.

• Cultural competence is approached through art. The arts can help children reflect on
their own cultures and origins as well as those of others.

• The arts are motivating and engaging for learners. The arts are a means to explore, take
risks, communicate, and define personal perspectives and preferences regardless of
culture, developmental status, or ability.

• Since children have a propensity for imitation, more than anything else, a teacher who is
excited about the arts can potentially inspire children of any culture, language, or ability
to become excited about art making.

• The arts provide a unique means for families to interact. They have songs, stories,
games, and many other talents to share.11

Environments and Materials
Most materials necessary to support preschoolers’ learning in the creative arts are inexpensive
and easy to obtain and can often be shared across art domains. In fact, by rotating props,
books, masks, and the like, teachers reinvent them in novel ways.

11 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

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There are some basic needs in each art discipline to create exciting and enriching learning
experiences. Further materials will be summarized as each discipline is discussed later in the
chapter.

• Dance and movement require only space in a room and benefit further from music and
costumes of modest scope and cost.

• Many things handy in a preschool environment can serve as props for dramatic play
(spontaneous engagement in pretend play) and drama (guided experiences with
instruction on acting out a drama), where imagination can turn almost anything into
something else.

• Visual arts largely involve drawing, painting, and creating two- and three-dimensional
works of art. These activities commonly make use of natural materials in addition to
typical art supplies, such as, crayons, pencils, finger paints, watercolor paints, moldable
dough, construction paper, and sufficient drawing or painting paper to provide the
inspiration for children’s creations. Children need flat places to draw and paint—
tabletops, the floor, or outdoor surfaces, such as fences.

• It is important that music not be limited to prerecorded songs. Music is an active
process. Music may be a little more demanding of specialized materials. A variety of
rhythm instruments, such as wooden blocks, bongo drums, or hollow, hardwood boxes,
can be used by children; little instruction is necessary. When these materials are not
available, clapping hands and stomping feet can keep rhythm. Other musical
instruments that may extend this collection include recorder-like wind instruments,
shakers, stringed plucking devices, and so on.

• Adaptive materials may be necessary to ensure that activities are accessible for all
children with disabilities or other special needs to participate in art activities with a
feeling of enjoyment and accomplishment.

• Materials that may serve as props for pretend play, or costumes that reflect the cultural
backgrounds of the children in the preschool program, are good to have on hand.

• Any and all art materials can be used to foster the creative process. Having a wide range
of loose parts available gives children many opportunities to explore their creative
tendencies.

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Figure 11.8: Children enjoy playing basic musical instruments.12

Physical environments that support learning in the creative arts begin with sufficient,
appropriate space. The few basic materials described above, and space for the use of materials
and movement of the children, are all that is required of the environment. For example,
costumes, prop-like objects, and art supplies, along with a designated workspace accessible to
children, can help encourage learning while creating an aesthetically pleasing physical
environment.

Scheduled time for arts activities, with an organized flow of necessary preparation and cleaning
up (or possibly winding down of excited children), will also help facilitate learning. Teachers
quickly learn—often through trial and error—the importance of allowing sufficient time for an
art experience. The arts can also be woven into other areas of the curriculum throughout the
day.

An effective environment for teaching and learning in the creative arts for the preschool child
considers:

• The suitability, accessibility, safety, amount, and variety of materials.

• The aesthetics (beauty) of the early childhood environment.

• Sufficient open space for movement, dance, and theater play.

• Support for children’s drawing skills.

• Indoor and outdoor environments for creating art.

• Art that is displayed at the eye level of the children. This includes their own, examples of
visual arts, and photographs of those engaged in the arts.

• A well-constructed environment for social and collaborative learning.13

12 Image by Airman 1st Class Ellora is in the public domain
13 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission;
Source of text in blue: Clint Springer

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Research Highlight: Is It Art?
What is the difference between “art” and a mere scribble? Preschool
parents may be as interested in this question as the puzzled adult viewing
modern, abstract art at the local gallery. One sense of art stressed in this
curriculum framework is that the creative arts aim at the joys of free
expression and the pleasures of seeing and creating images. Art instruction
at the preschool level is also concerned with basic, first steps that can lead
to more advanced artistic skills.

Differing views prevail concerning the child artist. One approach seeks
artistic significance in a child’s work—perhaps a genius or a prodigy is
emerging. A contrasting view dismisses the child artist by labeling his
artwork “haphazard” and its occasional glimpses of clever expression and
beauty as “accidental.”

Over the years, the work of Nelson Goodman and Howard Gardner at
Harvard University’s Project Zero has helped to demystify children’s art.
Those scholars view art through the lens of cognition rather than through a
value-driven critique of aesthetics. Art is a cognitive activity, requiring
thinking, problem solving, communication, and intent. And learning in art is
frequently tied to learning in language as well as culture.

For Goodman, the classical question What is art? is transposed into a less-
familiar question: When is art? As Goodman suggests, art “occurs” when its
symbols are functioning aesthetically. The aesthetic functions of symbols
include expressiveness (conveying meaning or feeling), susceptibility to
multiple readings, and repleteness (full or abundant rendering). These ideas
de-emphasize judgments of beauty or merit; Goodman’s artistic creator is
the individual with sufficient understanding of the properties and functions
of certain symbol systems to allow her to create works that function in an
aesthetically effective manner.

And what of preschool-age children? Rhoda Kellogg’s documentation and
classification of hundreds of thousands of children’s drawings from 30
countries testify to children’s ability to use symbols at an early age, often
depicting qualities of the artist as defined by Goodman. Children’s art is
frequently expressive, conveying emotion, feeling, action, and story.
Children’s art may be more or less replete—with abundant renderings of
objects or symbols at times, with vague, sketchy treatments at other times.
Young children are not very likely to plan and create works with multiple
readings—this ability belongs to more mature developmental stages and
can emerge in adolescence.

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Appearing commonly in drawings of children, especially those of two- or
three-year-olds, is the mandala, a term used to designate symbolic
representations that include a circular motif typically incorporating a
crosslike figure.5 For the child, the mandala is a well-balanced, pleasing
form that lies en route to genuine representation. The contrasting,
superimposed elements of the circle and cross are precursors to the figure’s
metamorphoses to rounded figures with legs, arms, and facial details.

According to Gardner, the conditions suggested by Goodman, though
helpful in thinking through the puzzles of children’s art, nevertheless leave
the debate about art created by children in a state of relative limbo. The
preschool teacher’s role is to introduce children to a range of constructive
symbolic media and provide them with the faith that the child’s own vision
and ability to give form to vision are worthy. The preschool teacher can
view children’s art without an eye or plea for realism; rather, the gaze
might borrow from Paul Klee, who, when discovering his childhood
drawings, described them in a 1902 letter to his fiancée as the most
significant ones he had yet made.14

Sources

H. Gardner, Art, Mind, and Brain: A Cognitive Approach to Creativity. New York: Basic
Books, 1982, 60.

H. Gardner, Artful Scribbles: The Significance of Children’s Drawings. New York: Basic
Books, 1980, 38. 6. Ibid., 53.

J. H. Davis, 2005, Framing Education as Art: The Octopus Has a Good Day. New York:
Teachers College Press, 70.

As cited in L. Camhi, “When Picasso and Klee Were Very Young: The Art of Childhood,”
New York Times, June 18, 2006.
http://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/18/arts/design/18camhi. html?pagewanted=1&_r=1
(accessed September 10, 2009).

Let’s take a closer look at each of the strands/disciplines of the Creative Arts.

Supporting the Visual Arts
Preschool children often have a natural fascination with the process of creating visual art.
Making marks, squishing clay, and using a brush to apply color are activities that attract most
young children. In groups where children speak multiple languages and may not share common
words, visual art can create connections and a way of communicating. Art can become a way
for people to connect across cultures to their common humanity; an appreciation for it may

14 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

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begin in preschool. Inviting families into the environment to share works of art from the home
is an opportunity to build a bridge to the home.

Young children are naturally creative. The visual art framework is designed to encourage
creativity; open-ended projects emphasize the process of working with visual materials. In
other words, the curriculum is not focused on encouraging a child to produce, for example, a
specific painting, but rather to practice using a brush on paper without a set outcome.

Figure 11.9: This child painting at the easel.15

Children are both consumers and creators of visual arts, which is reflected in the foundations:

Visual Art

1.0 Notice, Respond, and Engage
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.1 Notice and communicate about objects or
forms that appear in art.

1.1 Communicate about elements appearing
in art (such as line, texture, or
perspective), and describe how objects
are positioned in the artwork.

1.2 Create marks with crayons, paints, and
chalk and then identify them; mold and
build with dough and clay and then
identify them.

1.2 Begin to plan art and show increasing
care and persistence in completing it.

1.3 Enjoy and engage with displays of visual
art, inside or outside the classroom. Begin

1.3 Enjoy and engage with displays of visual
art. May expand critical assessment of

15 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

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At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

to express preferences for some art
activities or materials.

visual art to include preferences for types
of artwork or art activities.

1.4 Choose own art for display in the
classroom or for inclusion in a portfolio or
book and briefly explain choice.

1.4 Choose own art for display in the
classroom or for inclusion in a portfolio or
book and explain her or his ideas in some
detail.

2.0 Develop Skills in Visual Art
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.1 Make straight and curved marks and lines;
begin to draw rough circle shapes.

2.1 Draw single circle and add lines to create
representations of people and things.

2.2 Begin to create paintings or drawings that
suggest people, animals, and objects.

2.2 Begin to create representative paintings
or drawings that approximate or depict
people, animals, and objects.

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Developmental Sequence of Drawing
When provided with tools and a supportive environment, children from
ages three to five progress more rapidly in the visual arts than during any
other two-year period prior to adulthood. Creativity and imagination are at
their apex at age four-and-a-half years; most experienced preschool
teachers will attest to this. The arts are a natural outlet for the creative
thinking of a preschooler, and learning is rapid.

The progression of children’s drawing ability is the most documented in the
visual arts. When children are given a means and a place to make marks,
they begin with series of vertical lines and move on to mandalas (i.e.,
repeated circles). The mandalas soon sprout legs and arms, then faces, and
more detailed features such as hair, fingers, or eyes. Harvard University
Professor Howard Gardner refers to this process as “the birth of the potato
person.” This research has become so well-known that medical doctors will
now check on children’s intellectual progress by asking the child and parent
how detailed the child’s human-figure drawings are (rather than asking
about letters and numbers) at the four-year and five-year checkups.
Because children speak multiple languages and progress differently around
writing skills, the question about drawing is more relevant and telling for
this age group.

Figure 11.10: Early,

nonrepresentational
mark-making

Figure 11.12: A mandala

becomes an early
representational
drawing of a sun.

Figure 11.13: The
emergence of the

“potato person”: a
first effort at

representing a
person

Figure 11.14: A
more advanced
drawing: person
wearing “sparkly

shoes”

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The painting progress of children is not as well-documented as their
drawing progress. In general, children begin by simply experimenting with
brushstrokes and the process of applying paint to a surface. Children’s first
paintings are usually solid sections of a single color, two colors, or three
colors at the most. The brushstrokes begin to change directions, and shapes
emerge. Finally, children begin to attempt representational paintings. The
subject matter of such paintings varies depending on the child, the teacher,
and the environment.16

Teachers can support children’s development of the visual arts foundations with the following:

• Encourage engagement with art at all levels.

• Support exploration and discovery.

• Give children the time and space needed to explore creativity.

• Provide a comfortable environment in which children can practice art.

• Provide opportunities for children to reflect on their own work.

• Respect individual developmental, cultural, and linguistic differences, and encourage
children to respect them.

• Provide children simply with a means and place to make marks (e.g., a crayon and
paper), and they will begin with the same basic images.

• Encourage communication around shape and form to aid children’s drawing skills.

• Help children acquire painting skills through practice with the tools.

• Stimulate children’s interest in color and application of paint through other forms of
painting.

• Create opportunities for children to work with dough, clay, or wet sand.

• Provide only the malleable material, without tools, during children’s initial explorations
of sculpting so that children have a chance to explore through touch.

• Communicate to a group of linguistically and culturally diverse children through
sculpture techniques by using nonverbal methods.

• Introduce tools after observing that children have had many “hands-on” opportunities
to explore clay and dough sculpture.17

16 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
17 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
Source of foundations: The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of
Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

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Figure 11.15: Working with clay is a different experience than working with playdough.18

Table 11. 2: Suggested Materials for Visual Art19

Type of Materials Examples of Materials
Found or Recycled
Materials

Old magazines for cutting and assemblage, toilet paper and paper
towel rolls

Basic Tempera paints, construction paper, chunky crayons, tray
watercolors

Enhanced Tube watercolors and palette; watercolor paper

Natural Environment Sticks, rocks, and pinecones for sculpture; clay and natural materials
for pressing

Adaptive Materials Thicker handles on some materials; easel that can be adjusted to an
appropriate height

18 Image by Jennifer Paris is licensed by CC-BY-4.0
19 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Vignettes
Ms. Cheng is showing children how colors can be mixed to create other
colors. While pouring some yellow paint on the plate, she says “What is this
color?” “Yellow!” shout the children. Knowing that some children speak
other home languages, Ms. Lin asks “Milagros, how do you say yellow in
Spanish?” “Amarillo,” Milagros answers. “Samantha, how do you say yellow
in Mandarin?” “Huang!” Samantha answers. Ms. Cheng pours out some
blue paint and asks the same set of questions. As she moves on to mix the
two colors, they turn into green. This time, without prompting, some
children shout, “Green!” others say, “¡Verde!” and others say, “Lu!”

It is springtime. The children have returned from a walk outdoors with
handfuls of yellow flowers. The teacher places the flowers in a cup in the
middle of the painting area and asks the children the color of the flowers.
Then he asks, “What shapes do you see in the flower?” The children say,
“Circles!” “Lines!” “Squares!” The teacher says, “Really? Where?” The
children point at different parts of the flower. The teacher brings out
brushes and paint and asks the children if they would like to paint the
flowers.

Many of the children sit down and begin to work with the materials,
producing all kinds of images. When a child has too much paint on the
brush, the teacher assists in showing the child how to wipe paint from the
brush on the side of the paint container. As the children finish, the teacher
encourages the children to talk about their paintings and then places them
in the drying area. Some children finish quickly, and others become
absorbed and work for a very long time. Some want to try several times on
new paper. A few children attempt to represent the flowers in their
paintings, and others experiment with the movement of the brushes and
the mixing of color on the paper.20

Supporting Music
When children develop an awareness and knowledge of musical elements, children progress in
their understanding and ability to control the elements for personal musical expression.
Although early childhood music education is primarily about introducing the child to musical
sounds and holistic experiences that are of the highest quality, enriched learning occurs when
the child has an understanding of and ability to manipulate the music elements of rhythm,
melody, form, loudness/softness, tempo, timbre, articulation, and style.

20 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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The foundations for Music include responding to music, develop musical skills, and being able
to make music.

Music

1.0 Notice, Respond, and Engage
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.1 Sustain attention and begin to reflect
verbally about music; demonstrate
familiarity with words that describe
music.

1.1 Verbally reflect on music and describe
music by using an expanded vocabulary.

1.2 Recognize simple repeating melody and
rhythm patterns.

1.2 Demonstrate more complex repeating
melody and rhythm patterns.

1.3 Identify the sources of a limited variety of
musical sounds.

1.3 Identify the sources of a wider variety of
music and music-like sounds.

1.4 Use body movement freely to respond
loosely to beat—loud versus quiet
(dynamics)—and tempo.

1.4 Use body movement freely and more
accurately to respond to beat, dynamics,
and tempo of music.

2.0 Develop Skills in Music
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.1 Begin to discriminate between different
voices and certain instrumental and
environmental sounds. Follow words in a
song.

2.1 Become more able to discriminate
between different voices and various
instrumental and environmental sounds.
Follow words in a song.

2.2 Explore vocally; sing repetitive patterns
and parts of songs alone and with others.

2.2 Extend vocal exploration; sing repetitive
patterns and entire songs alone with
others in wider ranges of pitch.

3.0 Create, Invent, and Express Through Music
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

3.1 Explore vocal and instrumental skills and
use instruments to produce simple
rhythms and tones.

3.1 Continue to apply vocal and instrumental
skills and use instruments to produce
more complex rhythms, tones, melodies,
and songs.

3.2 Move or use body to demonstrate beat
and tempo, often spontaneously.

3.2 Move or use body to demonstrate beat,
tempo, and style of music, often
intentionally.

3.3 Improvise vocally and instrumentally. 3.3 Explore, improvise, and create brief
melodies with voice or instrument.

Teachers can support children’s development of the music foundations with the following:

• Find ways to expose children to music being conducted and performed.

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• Provide music areas where children can experience instruments or musical activities as
individuals or in a small group.

• Set up a “Science of Sound” area where children can explore and experiment with
building sounds.

• Provide a conductor’s listening and play area.

• Make instruments with the children.

• Incorporate chant games and songs related to sound production.

• Include a variety of songs that related to a particular topic area

• Use songs that have movements or gestures that accompany the words.

• Provide children with an opportunity to conduct the group by singing or playing
instruments.

• Dramatize poetry and nursery rhymes as a fun way to explore and develop vocal
inflection and pitch capabilities in the young singer.

• Invite young children to move through instrumental program music, or music that “tells
a story.”

• Figure 11.16: Music with actions are popular in early childhood.21

• Encourage children to invent accompaniments with musical instruments.

• Invite local professional musicians or family members to demonstrate and talk about
their instruments and the sounds made.

• Invite live musicians for the children to conduct; encourage the child conductor to stop
and start, go faster and slower, and give arm gestures for louder and softer sounds.

• Incorporate books related to music. Include storybooks on conductors and orchestras.

• Encourage children to create simple rhythm patterns.

• Extend learning about different ways to lead a music group.

21 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

254 | I n t r o d u c t i o n t o C u r r i c u l u m f o r E a r l y C h i l d h o o d E d u c a t i o n

• Incorporate freeze-and-move games as a fun, simple way to help children develop
control of the body in space and to learn and practice fundamental locomotor
movements.

• Provide opportunities for independent and group play through musical play kits, which
can be stored in a music area.

• Incorporate the use of Web sites of children’s music and other age-appropriate software
(if available), to engage children’s interest in sound

• Encourage children to be playful and spontaneous when singing—they often sing made-
up songs as they play alone or with other children.

• Minimize use of recorded music when the goal is singing.

• Have the children draw pictures of songs.22

Figure 11.17: This teacher is introducing the children to a guitar.23

22 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission;
The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
23 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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255 | I n t r o d u c t i o n t o C u r r i c u l u m f o r E a r l y C h i l d h o o d E d u c a t i o n

Table 11.3: Suggested Materials for Music24

Types of Materials Examples of Materials
Found or Recycled
Materials

Pots, pans, metal or plastic cans, spoons, chopstick-beaters with
cork stoppers for rhythm Glass jars filled with different levels of
water for a water xylophone Pieces of 12” dowel for rhythm sticks;
shakers made of plastic eggs filled with different materials

Basic Rhythm sets with shakers and simple drums Singable books; glove
puppets for nursery rhyme songs; song maps made of paper or
fabric; selection of CDs, CD player, and headset for personal listening

Enhanced Single-note resonator bells; child-sized xylophones; multiple-sized
hand drums; ethnic instruments; child-sized guitar or ukulele; small
electronic keyboard; recorder/flute; music software; music videos;
songbooks

Natural Environment Rhythm blocks made of small tree limbs; homemade wooden or
stone xylophones suspended on a garden hose; wind chimes made
of natural objects

Adaptive Materials Thicker handles on some materials; instruments in a fixed position
(such as a drum on a stand) For children with reduced hearing
ability, instruments that resonate and vibrate allow for touching or
holding.

24 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

256 | I n t r o d u c t i o n t o C u r r i c u l u m f o r E a r l y C h i l d h o o d E d u c a t i o n

Research Highlight
The following points about music and development in early childhood
come from Start the Music Strategies, a collaboration by MENC (the
National Association for Music Education), the National Association for the
Education of Young Children, and the U.S. Department of Education. The
points were developed by reviewing the research and professional
literature.

• We know that music is among the first and most important modes
of communication experienced by infants.

• As young children grow and develop, music continues as a basic
medium not only of communication, but also of cultural expression
and self-expression.

• As preschool children not only listen to music, but also learn to
make music by singing and playing instruments together (and
responding to music in a variety of ways), they create important
contexts for the early learning of vital life skills such as cooperation,
collaboration, and group effort. Music in an educational setting also
begins to teach young children to make judgments about what
constitutes “good” music, helping them develop the rudiments of
an aesthetic sense.

• Music contributes to “school readiness,” a foundational education
aim of the American people for all our children.

• When children develop musical skill and knowledge they are
developing basic cognitive, social, and motor skills necessary for
success throughout the educational process, and in life itself.25

Source:

Start the Music Strategies. Reston, VA: National Association for Music Education, n.d.

Vignette
It is raining outside. Miriam and Pablo, both age three, begin clicking and
tapping their fingers on the window glass to imitate the rain hitting the
window. Pretty soon, all the children are making different kinds of rain
sounds on the window. After a few minutes the rain comes to a stop, and
the children are invited to circle time.26

25 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission from page 84
26 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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257 | I n t r o d u c t i o n t o C u r r i c u l u m f o r E a r l y C h i l d h o o d E d u c a t i o n

Supporting Drama
Drama is a valuable part of the preschool curriculum. Typically, children ages three to five first
experience drama by participating in dramatic play at home and in the early childhood
environment. Dramatic play is the foundation for the development of drama. This play typically
progresses from the time a child is 36 months old, when he or she engages almost exclusively in
solitary play and in watching others play; to the equal time engaged in solitary, parallel, and
group play at 48 months; and to primarily group play with some solitary and parallel play at 60
months.

Because of circumstances beyond their control, some children may arrive at school with limited
exposure to these areas. Regardless of prior exposure, however, all children bring experiences
that can enrich drama, and all children are capable of enjoying and participating in drama.
Preschool-age children enjoy participating in various types of dramatic play and drama, from
pretending to cook a meal in the dramatic play area to acting out part or all of a favorite story
with their teacher and peers.

Figure 11.18: What might these children have been acting out?27

During preschool, drama should be about the process of creating and exploring, rather than the
end product, such as a rehearsed play or other formal performance.

27 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

258 | I n t r o d u c t i o n t o C u r r i c u l u m f o r E a r l y C h i l d h o o d E d u c a t i o n

Drama

1.0 Notice, Respond, and Engage
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.1 Demonstrate an understanding of simple
drama vocabulary.

1.1 Demonstrate a broader understanding of
drama vocabulary.

1.2 Identify preferences and interests related
to participating in drama.

1.2 Explain preferences and interests related
to participating in drama.

1.3 Demonstrate knowledge of simple plot of
a participatory drama.

1.3 Demonstrate knowledge of extended plot
and conflict of a participatory drama.

2.0 Develop Skills to Create, Invent, and Express Through Drama
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.1 Demonstrate basic role-play skills with
imagination and creativity.

2.1 Demonstrate extended role-play skills
with increased imagination and creativity.

2.2 Add props and costumes to enhance
dramatization of familiar stories and
fantasy play with peers.

2.2 Create and use an increasing variety of
props, costumes and scenery to enhance
dramatization of familiar stories and
fantasy play with peers.

Teachers can support children’s development of the drama foundations with the following:

• Observe dramatic play and role playing.

• Step in or model when needed.

• Provide adaptations to support the participation of children with disabilities or other
special needs. This may include preteaching, using pictures, sign language, and other
multisensory enrichment, modified equipment/props, etc.

• Use a drama-based vocabulary. For example, blocking, actors, stage, scenery, voice,
props, etc.

• Encourage children to use drama based vocabulary

• Encourage and model the expression of interests and preferences.

• Encourage and allow initiative.

• Model and note appropriate ways of using drama materials.

• Move in and out role as appropriate (decide when to participate and when to facilitate).

• Use costumes, props, and scenery to inspire dramatic play and drama.

• Facilitate children’s engagement in drama by first discussing expectations.

• Scaffold and encourage children during and after participating in drama to build their
understanding and use of plot.28

28 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
Source of foundations: The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of
Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

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Figure 11.19: Props for drama can be handmade (by adults and/or children).29

Table 11.4: Suggested Materials for Drama30

Types of Materials Examples of Materials
Found or Recycled
Materials

Scarves, sashes, and fabric remnants varying in size, color, design,
and texture for a costume area; include strips of furry fabric to be
used as animal tails. Wooden spoons, paint sticks, paper towel and
wrapping paper tubes, yarn, and boxes can work as
nonrepresentational props where children create meaning.

Basic Large and small blocks; stuffed animals; dolls; wooden or plastic
fruits and vegetables

Enhanced Puppets; textual props such as menus and signs; large pieces of
blue, green, yellow, brown, and floral fabric to depict rivers, grass,
dirt (for “planting” vegetables), and flower gardens; headbands with
various types of animal ears sewn on

Natural Environment Wood, tree cookies, and other materials for building; pinecones,
feathers, smooth stones, and pebbles

Adaptive Materials Consider props that are easy to use and handle (e.g., oversized
objects and items without many complicated pieces). Adapt clothing
and fabric by removing buttons, enlarging openings, and so on for
ease of wearing.

29 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
30 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Research Highlight
It is important that children be given the opportunity to make decisions and
determine the course of action during dramatic play and drama. It helps
cultivate social–emotional skills such as taking initiative in one’s learning.
However, teachers should look for opportunities to participate often in
children’s play. The teacher’s participation adds an important dimension to
children’s play. Research suggests that young children derive greater
benefits from dramatic play when the teacher or other adult is involved—
that is, monitoring and assisting children in engaging and fruitful play,
rather than just observing passively.

Ann Podlozny looked at numerous studies that examined the role of
children’s participation in drama in their ability to understand stories. In the
17 studies that she examined, children listened to a story and either acted
it out or listened to the story a second time. Podlozny found that children
not only displayed greater story understanding and recall when acting out
the story rather than just hearing it, but that story understanding was
greatest when the teacher or other adult was in-role, working with the
children during the drama.

In another study, Robert Fink looked at how teacher involvement in role
play affects children’s abilities to understand that people and objects retain
original qualities when others are added (conservation), that the physical
world stays the same even if one’s view changes, and that people take on
multiple roles within a group (perspectivism). In Fink’s study, children were
assigned to one of three groups. The first participated in dramatic play with
teacher support, the second participated in dramatic play without teacher
support, and the third group did not participate in dramatic play. After four
weeks it was found that the group that participated in dramatic play with
teacher support not only outperformed both other groups on measures of
conservation and perspectivism, but they also showed higher levels of
imagination when observed during dramatic play.

There are numerous social and educational benefits for children when they
engage in dramatic play and drama, and evidence suggests that teacher
involvement may enhance these benefits. Although it is important and
valuable to allow children autonomy (independence) and the ability to
make decisions and choices while engaging in play, frequent observation
and guidance are important. See “Interactions and Strategies,”“Teachable
Moments,” and the vignettes in this section for suggestions and
descriptions of how adults can enhance children’s engagement in dramatic
play and drama.31

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Sources:

54. A. Podlozny, “Strengthening Verbal Skills Through the Use of Classroom Drama: A Clear
Link,” Journal of Aesthetic Education 34, nos. 3-4 (2000): 239–76. 55.

R. S. Fink, “Role of Imaginative Play in Cognitive Development,” Psychological Reports 39
(1976): 895–906. As summarized in Critical Links: Learning in the Arts and Student
Academic and Social Development. Edited by R. Deasy. Washington, DC: Arts Education
Partnership, 2002.

31 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Vignettes
A day after reading and discussing “The Three Billy Goats Gruff” during
story time, Mr. Longfeather watches as a group of four-year-old children in
his class pretend to be goats. The three children portraying the goats are
trying to get into the “castle” as Juan, who is acting as a troll, stands guard.
Mr. Longfeather is pleased to see that the children are using several objects
he placed at the dramatic play area as props and scenery. Juan is clearly
having a great time, and laughs as he uses a deep voice and makes funny
“troll” faces.

After dramatic play time is over and the class has gathered on the rug, Mr.
Longfeather listens as the children excitedly recount and describe what
they did during dramatic play. “Juan was a funny troll,” says Kim. Juan adds,
“And I used a walking stick.” The teacher responds, “That’s right, Juan.
When you were the troll, you were using the paint stick as a ‘prop.’ A ‘prop’
is a thing actors use while pretending. I heard your deep troll voice and saw
your scrunched troll face. I noticed that you were laughing as you made the
faces. Did you enjoy making the faces?” The children ask if they can keep
their “castle,” made from large blocks and fabric, in the dramatic play area.
Mr. Longfeather agrees.

Several children begin arranging the dramatic play area of their preschool
program to be a preschool itself. They excitedly call out their plans to play
the teacher, the assistant teacher, the parents, and even themselves. As
their teacher, Ms. Jackson, observes the activity, she notes that three
children are evident leaders of this enterprise: Peter, Emma, and Jamila, all
about four years old. The other children take an interest in this
development and look in on the preparations without participating much—
they occasionally toss in ideas or suggest the odd prop. Emma interrupts
the proceedings by pronouncing, “Come sit down on the rug, class. I’m the
teacher, and you are my children!” Peter and Jamila say nearly in unison,
“No, I’m the teacher!” Some of the remaining children express a preference
for who should be the teacher, including themselves.

As the project begins to fall to some grumbling and squabbling, Ms. Jackson
steps in and says, “This looks really great—you’re building the whole
classroom in just one corner of the room. I’ll bet you’d all like a chance to
be the teacher. So let’s figure out how that can work.” Jamila says, “How do
we tell who is the teacher?” Seizing a large plastic capital T from the
alphabet box, Emma says, “With this!” The teacher nods her head and says,
“That will be helpful because the word “teacher” starts with the “t” sound.
Peter adds, “The person with this yellow T will be teacher for a minute and
show the class something a teacher does. And we’ll take turns.” As the

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children finish organizing the dramatic play area, Ms. Jackson sits down
next to Lulu and Alejandro, who are just beginning to learn English, to help
them understand the plan and participate.32

Supporting Dance
Dance and movement are an inherent part of life and are as natural as breathing. Dance is an
elemental human experience and a means of expression. It begins before words are formed,
and it is innate in children before they use language to communicate. It is a means of self-
expression and can take on endless forms. Movement is a natural human response when
thoughts or emotions are too overwhelming or cannot be expressed in words.

Figure 11.20: Dancing with wings33

Dance

1.0 Notice, Respond, and Engage
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.1 Engage in dance movements. 1.1 Further engage and participate in dance
movements.

32 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
33 Image by Quinn Dombrowski is licensed by CC-BY-2.0

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

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Butterfly Paul

Sam explains SUCHO work to Paul

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

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At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.2 Begin to understand and use vocabulary
related to dance.

1.2 Connect dance terminology with
demonstrated steps.

1.3 Respond to instruction of one skill at a
time during movement, such as a jump or
fall.

1.3 Use understanding of different steps and
movements to create or form a dance.

1.4 Explore and use different steps and
movements to create or form a dance.

1.4 Use understanding of different steps and
movements to create or form a dance.

2.0 Develop Skills in Dance
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.1 Begin to be aware of own body in space. 2.1 Continue to develop awareness of body in
space.

2.2 Begin to be aware of other people in
dance or when moving in space.

2.2 Show advanced awareness and
coordination of movement with other
people in dance or when moving in space.

2.3 Begin to respond to tempo and timing
through movement.

2.3 Demonstrating some advanced skills in
responding to tempo and timing through
movement.

3.0 Create, Invent, and Express Through Dance
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

3.1 Begin to act out and dramatize through
music and movement patterns.

3.1 Extend understanding and skills for acting
out and dramatizing through music and
movement patterns.

3.2 Invent dance movements. 3.2 Invent and recreate dance movements.

3.3 Improvise simple dances that have a
beginning and an end.

3.3 Improvise more complex dances that
have a beginning, middle, and an end.

3.4 Communicate feelings spontaneously
through dance and begin to express
simple feelings intentionally through
dance when prompted by adults.

3.4 Communicate and express feelings
intentionally through dance.

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Table 11.5: Elements of Dance

There are many ways to describe each dance element. Teachers and children can add their
ideas to this chart.

Body Space Time Energy
Body parts: Head,
torso, shoulders,
hips, legs, feet

Body Actions:
Nonlocomotor
Stretch, bend, twist,
circle, rise, fall

Swing, sway, shake,
suspend, collapse
(qualities of
movement)

Locomotor
Walk, run, leap, hop,
jump, gallop, skip,
slide

Size: Big, little

Level: High, medium,
low

Place: On the spot
(personal space),
through the space
(general space)

Direction: forward,
backward, sideways,
turning

Focus: Direction of
gaze of facing

Pathway: Curved,
straight

Relationships: In
front of, behind,
over, under, beside

Beat: Underlying
pulse

Tempo: Fast, slow

Accent: Force

Duration: Long, short

Pattern: A
combination of these
elements of time
produces a rhythmic
pattern

Attack: Sharp,
smooth (qualities of
movement)

Weight: Heavy, light

Strength: Tight, loose

Flow: Free-flowing,
bound, balanced,
neutral

Teachers can support children’s development of the dance foundations with the following:

• Help children to become enthusiastic participants in learning dance.

• Warm up! Even though preschool bodies are much more resilient than adult bodies,
they should still be gradually prepared for any vigorous activities.

• Use play with games that require dance movements and cooperation.

• Be aware of cultural norms that may influence children’s participation.

• Create environments and routines conducive to movement experiences.

• Consider the space, music, costumes, and props you provide.

• Establish spatial boundaries to ensure children have personal space when engaging in
movement and dancing.

• Use children’s prior knowledge.

• Structure learning activities so children are active participants.

• Introduce the learning of a dance skill by using imagery.

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• Draw on children’s interests in dance making.

• Plan movement activities appropriate for various developmental stages and skill levels.

• Incorporate dances that can be performed without moving the entire body.

• Encourage variety in children’s movement.

• Teach rhythm using traditional movement games.

• Use the “echo” as a helpful rhythm exercise.

• Use dance to communicate feelings.

• Use movement to introduce and reinforce concepts from other domains.

• Provide opportunities for unplanned, spontaneous dancing34

Figure 11.21: These children are dancing at group time.35

Table 11.6: Suggested Materials for Dance36

Type of Materials Examples of Materials
Found or Recycled
Materials

Boxes, wheels, chairs, hula hoops, balloons, umbrellas, scarves, and
other found objects can be used for choreographic variety.
Costumes can be assembled from fabrics or donated by families or
the community.

34 Source of text in black: The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department
of Education is used with permission;
Source of text in blue: Clint Springer;
Source of foundations: The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of
Education is used with permission
35 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
36 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

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Type of Materials Examples of Materials
Basic Open rug space; outdoor environment with defined dance space

Enhanced Piano, drums, maracas, tambourines, claves, triangles, cymbals,
woodblocks, or music system A local dance troupe may donate
children’s costumes that are no longer used in productions.

Natural Environment Palm leaves, feathers, sand, water, and sticks can be used in
movement activities.

Adaptive Materials If a child has a prosthesis, he or she can decide whether to dance
with it on or off. If a child uses a wheelchair, props can be useful to
extend what the body can do; a few possibilities are balloons tied to
a stick, crepe paper streamers, and scarves.

Research Highlight
Research supports the inclusion of dance in a preschool curriculum for a
number of reasons, not the least of these being the social–emotional
benefits gained from dancing at an early age.

In The Feeling of What Happens, neuroscientist Antonio Damasio describes
the body as the theater for emotions and considers emotional responses to
be responsible for profound changes in the body’s (and the brain’s)
landscape. Damasio creates three distinct classifications for emotions based
on the source of the emotion and the physical response to the emotion:
primary, secondary, and background emotions. The primary emotions are
the familiar emotions recognizable in preschoolers and adults alike:
happiness, sadness, fear, anger, and surprise. Damasio describes secondary
emotions as social emotions, such as jealousy or envy when a child is eyeing
a friend’s toy or feelings of pride when accomplishing a difficult task. And of
particular interest in a discussion of dance are the background emotions—
much like moods. These refer to indications that a person feels down,
tense, cheerful, discouraged, or calm, and others.

Background emotions do not use the differentiated repertoire of explicit
facial expressions that easily define primary and social emotions; they are
also richly expressed in musculoskeletal changes, for instance, in subtle
body posture and overall shaping of body movement. Movement and
dance are natural vehicles for expression of these emotions.37

Source:

A. Damasio, The Feeling of What Happens: Body and Emotion in the Making of
Consciousness (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1999), 51–53.

37 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Vignettes
Sammy, a four-year-old in Ms. Huang’s class, pulls a top hat off the hat rack
and begins to perform controlled balances high on the balls of his feet. Two
other children become interested in this performance, and suddenly three
children are using hats as creative props to stretch high into the air, with
their arms, as they rise up on their toes forming a chorus line; Sammy
continues to play the lead, placing a hat on a foot and balancing on one leg
like a bird; the other children imitate. The movement progresses to a
balancing game, and the children occasionally tumble to the floor, giggling.

Ms. Huang observes the movement game for several minutes and notices
the children have taken to making the same shape of the lifted bird leg. She
recognizes the children’s imagination by commenting on their creative play
with the hat; she then suggests to Sammy that he attempt to bring his leg
behind him (in a pose resembling a ballet arabesque) while keeping the hat
balanced on his foot. The trio becomes more focused with their balances
and inventive with the shapes, moving the legs from the front to back and
even experimenting with lowering the torso while lifting the leg.

Mr. Soto leads the children in a lively singing and dancing performance of
Juanito (Little Johnny). The children shake and twist their bodies while
clapping their hands as they sing. “Juanito cuando baila, baila, baila, baila.
Juanito cuando baila, baila con el dedito, con el dedito, ito, ito. Asi baila
Juanito.” (When little Johnny dances, he dances, dances. When little Johnny
dances, he dances with his pinkie, with his pinkie, pinkie, pinkie. That’s how
little Johnny dances.)

In the first verse, they wiggle the pinkie back and forth; in the second, they
shake the foot and then wiggle the pinkie. Each time a new verse is sung, a
movement is added until the children’s bodies are in motion, from head to
toe!

Even Matthew, who is generally reluctant to dance, picks his knees high up
and waves his arms exuberantly. Mr. Soto changes the character of the
song to Mateo, and Matthew dances into the center of the circle.38

38 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Engaging Families
Teachers can make the following suggestions to families to facilitate their support of the
creative arts for their children:

• Try drawing, painting, and sculpture with the child at home.

• Embrace dramatic play at home. Provide props, costumes, space, and time.

• Show interest in their play and play with them.

• Turn on the music and move with their children.

• Incorporate dance and movement into everyday routines.

• Tap and clap to rhythm of songs and encourage children to do the same.

• Notice and talk about works of art seen and songs and music heard at home and in the
community.

• Notice and talk about shapes and colors in works of art and in the environment, sounds
heard, episodes of dramatic play

• Incorporate dramatic play into a variety of activities, such as reading and going on
outings or trips.

• Bring the child to an art museum or areas in the community with public displays of art,
community concerts, family-child music classes, community dance performances, and
movement programs.

• Be open-minded and encouraging about works of art that are sent home from the
preschool setting, children’s spontaneous musical performances, children’s dramatic
play

• Share art, songs, music, and dance traditions or movement games from their homes.

• Donate materials that can be used in a variety of art experiences.

• Come to watch or participate in an art show, children’s dramatic experiences, or a
parent-child dance event39

Figure11.12: These children are looking at this three-dimensional piece of artwork.40

39 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission (pg. 61, 85, 99, 115-116)
40 Image from pxhere is licensed by CC-BY-4.0

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

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https://pxhere.com/en/photo/1280812

https://pxhere.com/

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Conclusion
The arts take on different meanings and expressions for individuals and communities.
Therefore, this chapter recognizes that the arts will materialize and thrive in ways individual to
each child and to the early childhood setting. This curriculum framework serves as a starting
point and reference for teachers and child care providers to shape how the arts can be
orchestrated or simply unleashed, as well as integrated, with other early learning experiences.
Each arts strand (visual art, music, drama, and dance) is given attention; suggested teaching
strategies, interactions, and environmental supports are illustrated with vignettes. However,
within each strand there are numerous opportunities to weave two or more of the four art
forms into the learning environment. More importantly, there are opportunities to integrate
the arts in the other domains such as physical development, science, mathematics, and
language and literacy.

It is essential to keep in mind that teachers serve diverse groups of children. The interactions
between the home and school are mutual and mutually important. Diversity is an essential
quality of human existence, and the creative arts provide excellent opportunities to learn,
understand, and express diversity.41

41 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://owa.canyons.edu/owa/redir.aspx?C=EuzNAxEtPMF2_AbBn4sPbyIzA0NbSQyM_4bYXn_AcpObfjdvSSDXCA..&URL=https%3a%2f%2fwww.cde.ca.gov%2f

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Chapter 12: History & Social Science
Objectives:

• By the end of the chapter, you should be able to: Explain how history and social sciences
are appropriate to plan for in early childhood education programs.

• Describe the foundations in history and social science that high quality early childhood
education programs support

• Discuss how the environment supports children’s understanding and participation in
history and social science

• Identify ways educators can support children’s engagement in and understanding of
history and social science.

• Summarize ways to engage families in curriculum for history and social science.

Introduction
For many educators of young children, the terms history and social sciences conjure up images
of children studying past presidents, learning about other countries, and exploring related
topics during the primary school years. Yet, a look at young children’s emerging sense of
identity, their growing interest in the larger social world in which they live, and their developing
understanding of time and place shows that history and social sciences are relevant to them
also.

Figure 12.1: Early childhood education programs are Social Science in action.1

Young children are natural historians when they talk about their experiences and enjoy hearing
family stories of “long ago.” They are intuitive geographers when they recognize the route to
the grocery store and create a map of the preschool room. Children are simple ecologists when

1 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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they worry about a plant that is wilted or a bird’s egg on a nature walk. They learn about
democracy through their participation in shared decision making and taking turns on the
playground. Their interactions with other children acquaint them with the diversity in culture,
languages, backgrounds, and abilities in society. Young children are also everyday economists
as they begin to understand how money, bartering, and exchange work in the world around
them.

Preschoolers’ understanding of history and social sciences naturally derives from their
expanding knowledge of the world and their place in it. It also provides a foundation for the
study of history, culture, geography, economics, civics and citizenship, ecology, and the global
environment that begins in the primary grades and continues throughout life. Those topics are
important because they provide a basis for understanding the responsibilities of citizens in a
democratic society, the legacy of past generations who built society, the importance of caring
for the natural world, and the rich diversity of other people.

In preschool, they are introduced to these important issues through everyday activities such as
caring for a plant, remembering a recent trip to the zoo, deciding as a group on a name for the
class pet, creating a shoe store, engaging in imaginative play with adult roles, or sharing family
traditions from home. In other words, young children learn about history and social sciences
from personal experiences, as they are enlisted into a preschool curriculum, and also from their
experiences at home. 2

Guiding Principles for Supporting History and Social
Science
A thoughtfully designed early childhood program includes many activities that contribute to
children’s understanding of history and social sciences. Some activities are carefully planned by
a teacher to help children learn about weather patterns, bartering for goods and services,
responsibilities as a class member, adult occupations, and many other ideas and concepts.
Other activities emerge from the opportunities created by children’s spontaneous interests and
a teacher’s capacity to build these into teachable moments. Taken together, they reflect the
assumption that young children develop knowledge of history and the social sciences as they
are encouraged to enact their understanding in everyday interactions with other children and
adults. This knowledge helps young children understand themselves in a wonderfully expanding
world. Here are some guiding principles on how to help children gain this knowledge.

• Build a cooperative, inclusive preschool community by ensuring that the curriculum
maximizes children’s opportunities to work together in ways that require responsible
conduct, fairness, and respect for others.

• Create activities that will actively engage children’s social skills and understanding.

• Affirm children’s home cultures, experiences, and values.

2 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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• Build on preschool children’s natural interest in their social world, and in the similarities
and differences among the people in it.

• Model social behavior and attitudes with explanations.

• Actively teach and practice the essential skills of democratic participation.

• Encourage children to incorporate their knowledge of adult roles and occupations into
their dramatic play.

• Observe and converse with children during play in order to learn about their current
understanding of time and history.

• Help children deepen their own sense of place.

• Nurture children’s sense of wonder about nature.3

Figure 12.2: Part of good citizenship, even in preschool, is using your voice to vote.4

Environmental Factors in Supporting History and Social
Sciences
When planning an environment to support children’s learning in history and social science,
effective teachers consider the physical, curricular, and social elements. The physical
environment and daily routine set the stage for children’s inquiry and should include ample
time for children’s self-initiated work, different spaces for solitary play and for collaborative
play, and engaging materials that children are encouraged to use creatively. The curricular plan
needs to provide opportunities and adult support for both group learning and for informal
discovery and skill development. The key to a positive social environment is a teacher who
actively models curiosity, openness, and engagement and who is eager to explore the world
together with children. An environment that supports children’s learning in history and the
social sciences has the following characteristics:

• Extended projects that are centered on a topic in history or social science and emerge
from children’s interests and inquiries

3 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
4 Image by Airman 1st Class Kathleen D. Bryant is in the public domain

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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274 | I n t r o d u c t i o n t o C u r r i c u l u m f o r E a r l y C h i l d h o o d E d u c a t i o n

• Reflective of diversity; as opposed to a tourist approach, teachers and children
participate in authentic experiences with culture

• A balance between child choice and adult direction

• A variety of materials to support children’s inquiry-based learning and practice in the
skills of social science

• Materials that connect children to times and places

• Real experiences with nature and other environmental education materials

• Tools and practices for appreciating and caring for the earth and its resources

• Display of children’s work and experiences

• Dramatic play props and materials that represent firsthand experience with social roles
and occupations, as well as consumer actions

• High-quality children’s books with content related to self, family, and community

• Extension of learning into the local community to help children learn in the “here and
now” of the world around them

• Family involvement in program planning that is inclusive of community goals and values5

5 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Research Highlight – Antibias Curriculum Approach
High-quality early childhood programs support children in developing their
physical, cognitive, social, and emotional potential. The settings encourage
children to explore their own sense of self and to develop an awareness
and appreciation of others. Such experiences are foundational to becoming
positive and constructive members of society and the world.

Creating an inclusive community of learners—one in which all individuals
feel comfortable, confident, and competent— requires that educators take
an anti-bias approach to the planning, implementation, and evaluation of
their program. Educators who embrace an anti-bias curriculum approach
reflect on their own identity and experiences. They extend their knowledge
of different cultures and communities through conversation and discussion
with children, families, and colleagues. They also confront bias in the
preschool setting (e.g., “Girls can’t play here” or “His eyes are a funny
shape”) to send a message that all children should be respected and that
one’s words can hurt other people.

Instead of using a one-size-fits-all curriculum, anti-bias educators design
environments and activities that reflect the real experiences of children’s
lives. Educators routinely partner with families and community members to
further enhance the early childhood program. Throughout the day, the
adults in the preschool setting engage children in developmentally
appropriate conversations about similarities and differences, and promote
justice and fairness for all by helping children think critically about teasing,
bullying, and other hurtful behavior. Activities that promote anti-bias
education are integrated throughout the daily routine, thereby avoiding a
tourist approach. “The heart of anti-bias work is a vision of a world in which
all children are able to blossom, and each child’s particular abilities and gifts
are able to flourish.” For more information on the anti-bias approach, refer
to Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves, by Louise Derman-
Sparks and Julie Olsen Edwards.6

Source:

L. Derman-Sparks and J. O. Edwards, Anti-Bias Education for Young Children and Ourselves
(Washington, DC: National Association for the Education of Young Children, 2010), 2.

6 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Introducing to the Foundations
The preschool learning foundations for History and Social Science are organized into five broad
categories or strands:

• Self and Society: children’s growing ability to see themselves within the context of
society

• Becoming a Preschool Community Member (Civics): becoming responsible and
cooperative members of the preschool community

• Sense of Time (History): developing understanding of past and future events and their
association with the present

• Sense of Place (Geography and Ecology): developing knowledge of the physical settings
in which children live and how they compare with other locations

• Marketplace (Economics): developing understanding of economic concepts, including
the ideas of ownership, money exchanged for goods and services, value and cost, and
bartering7

Figure 12.3: This child explored aeronautics and space through a mobile exhibit.8

Supporting Self and Society
An early childhood education setting acquaints young children with people who have different
backgrounds, family practices, languages, cultural experiences, special needs, and abilities. In
their relationships with teachers and peers, preschoolers perceive how others are similar to
them and how they are different, and gradually they learn to regard these differences with
interest and respect rather than wariness or doubt. This is especially likely if early childhood
educators incorporate inclusive practices into the preschool environment. The relationships
that young children develop with others in the preschool provide opportunities for

7 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
8 Image by Airman 1st Class Valentina Lopez is in the public domain

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.jba.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1254774/nasa-launches-mobile-exhibit-at-jba-stem-day/

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understanding these differences in depth and in the context of the people whom the child
knows well. One of the most valuable features of a thoughtfully designed early childhood
program is helping young children to perceive the diversity of human characteristics as part of
the richness of living and working with other people.

Young children are beginning to perceive themselves within the broader context of society in
another way also. Their interest in adult social roles, occupations, and responsibilities motivates
pretend play, excitement about visits to places such as a fire station or grocery store, and
questions about work and its association with family roles and family income. Teachers can help
young children explore these interests as children try to understand the variety of adult roles

1.0 Culture and Diversity
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.1 Exhibit developing cultural, ethnic, and
racial identity and understand relevant
language and cultural practices. Display
curiosity about diversity in human
characteristics and practices, but prefer
those of their own group.

1.1 Manifest stronger cultural, ethnic, and
racial identity and greater familiarly with
relevant language, traditions, and other
practices. Show more interest in human
diversity, but strongly favor
characteristics of their own group.

2.0 Relationships
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.1 Interact comfortably with many peers and
adults; actively contribute to creating and
maintaining relationships with a few
significant adults and peers.

2.1 Understand the mutual responsibilities of
relationships; take initiative in developing
relationships that are mutual,
cooperative, and exclusive.

3.0 Social Roles and Occupations
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

3.1 Play familiar adult social roles and
occupations (such as parent, teacher, and
doctor) consistent with their developing
knowledge of these roles.

3.1 Exhibit more sophisticated understanding
of a broader variety of adult roles and
occupations, but uncertain how work
relates to income.

Teachers can support children’s development of the self and society foundations with the
following:

• Practice a reflective approach to build awareness of self and others by examining your
own attitudes and values

• Maintain a healthy curiosity about the experiences of others; ask authentic questions to
build understanding

• Partner with families in goal setting and program design; learn individual family values
and each family’s goals for their child’s care and education

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• Prepare an active learning environment that incorporates the full spectrum of the
human experience including diversity of cultures, ethnicities, gender, age, abilities,
socioeconomic class, and family structure

• Create an environment, both indoors and outdoors, that is inclusive, meaning every
child can fully participate and engage in the learning environment regardless of gender,
home language, or abilities

• Address children’s initial comments and inquiries about diversity with honest, direct
communication

• Have discussions about similarities and differences

• Sing songs and share stories in different languages

• Plan meaningful and authentic celebrations with support of the children and families

• Read and talk about books that:
o Accurately represent the lives and experiences of children
o Deal with the theme of friendship and relating to others
o Include images and stories of different workers

• Develop meaningful, nurturing relationships with the children in your program

• Prepare an early learning environment and daily routine that foster peer interaction

• Support children’s development of interaction strategies and relationship building skills
through:

o Modeling
o Explicit instruction during large-group times
o Coaching and providing prompts

• Offer sensitive guidance through challenges

• Facilitate positive social problem solving

• Provide children with play props for exploring occupations and work settings

• Get to know the workers in your community

• Convey respect for the roles of adults who work at home

• Highlight the roles that elders play in family life and in society

• Include the pursuit of further education among work options

• Invite family members to share their work experiences, including those that may diverge
from traditional gender roles

• Talk about future career goals

• Visit community stores, businesses, and service providers to observe workers in action9

9 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission;
The California Preschool Learning Foundations (Volume 1) by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoollf

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Vignette
“You always get to do the money,” complains Emma. Beck announces, “No,
Tommy, I’m the customer. I was here first.” Ella and Maya argue about the
pieces of a plastic hamburger: “You can’t have it again. It’s the only one . . .
” These and similar interactions between children have been typical in the
area ever since Ms. Berta added the ”Restaurant” prop box to it.

Now Ms. Berta is struggling to figure out how to foster more cooperation
among children playing in this dramatic play area. The restaurant theme is
very popular, but children’s play is currently dominated by arguments over
who gets to use which items from the restaurant prop box. Each child
seems to be trying, independently, to hoard the most items from the box.

Ms. Berta shares her dilemma with Ms. Galyna, the school’s mentor
teacher, who says she can come in for a quick visit during the next day’s
play time. She follows her visit with some suggestions that help Ms. Berta
rethink the area’s design for the following week

On Monday, the children entering the area are greeted by a large
restaurant sign. A waist-high shelf unit defines the front of the area. On top
of it sit two toy cash registers, supplied with ample paper bills, plastic coins,
receipt pads, and pencils. A clear plastic jar labeled “Tips” sits in between.
On a hook, hang clip-on badges: Cook, Cashier, Server, and Customer. There
are several of each. The shelves under the front counter hold stacks of
paper drink cups and trays. The cooking pans and utensils are clearly
displayed on the area’s stove and sink shelves, as are multiples of food
items and dishes in the refrigerator and cupboard. The eating table is set
for customers

Ms. Berta begins play time as a restaurant customer, placing her order,
asking questions of the employees, and helping the other players think
about what a cook, server, or cashier in a restaurant would do. She refers
them to each other with their ideas and questions, and soon they are
having restaurant conversations with her and with each other “in
character.”

Over the next two weeks, the group makes changes and additions to the
restaurant. At a class meeting, the group votes to make it a pizza
restaurant, and the teacher adds donated pizza rounds that children cover
with drawn-on toppings. With Ms. Berta’s help, interested children work in
pairs to write and post menus. Several small groups of children remain
intensely interested in the theme, and their play in the restaurant area
becomes more elaborate and content-rich. With active teacher support and
modeling, friends are able to constructively solve conflicts that occur.10

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Pause to Reflect
1. What are some of your own biases and “blind spots” about people whose

racial or cultural backgrounds are very different from yours?

2. In what ways could you partner with the families to support attitudes of
acceptance and inclusion?

Supporting Becoming A Preschool Community Member (Civics)
An early childhood program is a wonderful setting for learning how to get along with others and
for understanding and respecting differences between people. It is also an important setting for
learning about oneself as a responsible member of the group. In an early childhood education
setting, young children are enlisted into responsible citizenship for the first time outside of the
family, encouraged to think of themselves as sharing responsibility for keeping the room
orderly, cooperating with teachers and peers, knowing what to do during group routines (e.g.,
circle time), cleaning up after group activities, participating in group decisions, supporting and
complying with the rules of the learning community, and acting as citizens of the preschool.

Figure 12.4: Knowing expected behavior during a large-group time is an important skill.11

Many formal and informal activities of an early childhood education setting contribute to
developing the skills of preschool community membership. These include group decision
making that may occur during circle time (including voicing opinions, voting on a shared
decision, and accepting the judgment of the majority); resolving peer conflict and finding a fair
solution; understanding the viewpoints of another with whom one disagrees; respecting
differences in culture, race, or ethnicity; sharing stories about acting responsibly or helpfully

10 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
11 Image by Jackie is licensed under CC BY 2.0

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

Cool Kid

Charging up for Hallowmas

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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and the guidance that older children can provide younger children or children with less positive
experiences about being a preschool community citizen.

1.0 Skills for Democratic Participation
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.1 Identify as members of a group,
participate willingly in group activities,
and begin to understand and accept
responsibility as group members,
although assistance is required in
coordinating personal interests with
those of others.

1.1 Become involved as responsible
participants in group activities, with
growing understanding of the importance
of considering others’ opinions, group
decision making, and respect for majority
rules and the views of group members
who disagree with the majority.

2.0 Responsible Conduct
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.1 Strive to cooperate with group
expectations to maintain adult approval
and get along with others. Self-control is
inconsistent, however, especially when
children are frustrated or upset.

2.1 Exhibit responsible conduct more reliably
as children develop self-esteem (and
adult approval) from being responsible
group members. May also manage
others’ behavior to ensure that others
also fit in with group expectations.

3.0 Fairness and Respect for Other People
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

3.1 Respond to the feelings and needs or
others with simple forms of assistance,
sharing, and turn-taking. Understand the
importance of rules that protect fairness
and maintain order.

3.1 Pay attention to others’ feelings, more
likely to provide assistance, and try to
coordinate personal desires with those of
other children in mutually satisfactory
ways. Actively support rules that protect
fairness to others.

4.0 Conflict Resolution
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

4.1 Can use simple bargaining strategies and
seek adult assistance when in conflict
with other children or adults, although
frustration, distress, or aggression also
occurs.

4.1 More capable of negotiating,
compromising, and finding cooperative
means of resolving conflict with peers or
adults, although verbal aggression may
also result.

Teachers can support children’s development of the civics foundations with the following:

• Share control of the preschool environment with children

• Create community rules with children’s input and plan opportunities to continue
discussing them with small- and large-group meetings

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• Promote a sense of connection and community by using terms such as “we” and “our”
when speaking with children and adults

• Incorporate class meetings into the daily routine of older preschool children

• Support freedom of thought and speech in individual investigations, as well as in
planned group experiences

• Generate community rules and expectations to protect the rights of each individual and
to create a community of trust and security

• Engage children in community brainstorming and problem solving

• Make group decisions when appropriate

• Acknowledge emotions related to group brainstorming and decision making

• Model the skills and behavior you want children to exhibit

• Use guidance to redirect children to more appropriate actions and behavior by using
positive descriptions of what you expect children to do

• Help children remember and meet community generated rules and expectations by
providing both visual and auditory cues and prompts

• Reinforce the positive actions of children by using descriptive language, emphasizing the
positive impact of a child’s actions on others

• Facilitate problem solving

• Create an inclusive environment that values and encourages the participation of
children from all cultural and linguistic backgrounds as well as children with special
needs

Figure 12.5: Puppets allow children to role play social situations.12

• Set the tone for responsible conduct by creating a high-quality learning environment
and thoughtfully scheduled daily routine

• Assign tasks for community care, such as watering plants, feeding program pets, or
helping to prepare snacks, to help children practice responsibility

• Discuss the “whys” of fairness and respect

12 Image by Airman 1st Class Kevin West is in the public domain

https://www.jbcharleston.jb.mil/News/Photos/igphoto/2001659917/

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• Teach social skills, such as patience and generosity, by using social stories and role-play
experiences

• Intervene and address negative interactions immediately

• Prevent conflicts by limiting program transitions and minimizing waiting time

• Provide children with a calm presence in conflict situations

• Support children’s conflict resolution by
o using descriptive language to help children make sense of conflict
o prompting children with open-ended questions and statements
o facilitating, rather than dictating, the solution process

• Create and refer children to problem-solving kits with visual cues

• Use and discuss books that have storylines around relationships, community, and
conflict

• Use “persona dolls” or puppets and social stories to promote skill development and
perspective taking13

13 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission;
The California Preschool Learning Foundations (Volume 1) by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoollf

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Vignettes
The children gather for circle time, and after the group’s gathering song,
Ms. Anya begins dramatically. “Today I am going to tell you a story about
something that just happened in our room.

At the beginning of playtime today, two of our friends, Julia and Javier told
me their plan was to work with the medical kits in the house area. They
were going to use the stethoscopes, bandages, and all the other medical
tools to take care of the babies. I told them I would plan to visit later to see
if their patients were feeling better.

A few minutes later, Julia and Javier hurried over to tell me that all the
babies were missing. They had looked all over the clinic, and had found no
babies! Where do you think they looked?”

The children in the group call out their ideas about all the places the
children could have looked. Ms. Anya continues, “You are right. They
looked in all those places. No babies. So what did they do next?” Many
children around the circle who are now recalling the incident call out, “They
asked us to help!” “That’s right,” affirms Ms. Anya. “They know what good
problem solvers you are and how good you are at teamwork, so they asked
you. Pretty soon you gave them lots of helpful suggestions of places to look.
And did they find the babies?” “Yes!” the children call out. “And where
were the baby dolls, Julia and Javier?” “They were out on the porch!” the
children respond, laughing.

Ms. Anya concludes the story by repeating, “Yes, you are right. The dolls
were out on the porch drying after yesterday’s bath. Thank you all for
helping us solve the mystery of the missing baby dolls.”14

Pause to Reflect
What are some ways educators can be a good example for children to follow
as they learn skills for being members of a community?

Supporting Sense of Time (History)
One of our unique human characteristics is the ability to think of ourselves in relation to past
events and to anticipate the future. The ability to see oneself in time enables us to derive
lessons from past experiences, understand how we are affected by historical events, and plan

14 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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for the immediate future (such as preparing a meal) or the long-term (such as obtaining an
education). The ability to see oneself in time is also the basis for perceiving one’s own growth
and development, and the expectation of future changes in one’s life.

The preschool years are a period of major advances in young children’s understanding of past,
present, and future events and how they are interconnected. Yet their ability to understand
these interconnections is limited and fragile. Young preschoolers have a strong interest in past
events but perceive them as ‟islands in time” that are not well connected to other past events.
As they learn more about events of the past, and with the help of adults, children develop a
mental timeline in which these events can be placed and related to each other. This is a process
that begins during the preschool years and will continue throughout childhood and
adolescence.

A thoughtfully designed early childhood program includes many activities that help young
children develop a sense of the past and future. The activities may include conversations about
a child’s memorable experiences, discussions of a group activity that occurred yesterday,
stories about historical events, circle-time activities in anticipation of a field trip tomorrow, and
picture boards with the daily schedule in which special events can be distinguished from what
normally happens. In these and other ways, teachers help young children construct their own
mental timelines.

Figure 12.6: Children can share about things meaningful to them (from the past).15

1.0 Understanding Past Events
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.1 Recall past experiences easily and enjoy
hearing stories about the past, but
require adult help to determine when

1.1 Show improving ability to relate past
events to other past events and current

15 Image by woodleywonderworks is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Show and Tell

contrails over contrails

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

past events occurred in relation to each
other and to connect them with current
experience.

experiences, although adult assistance
continues to be important.

2.0 Anticipating and Planning Future Events
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.1 Anticipate events in familiar situations in
the near future, with adult assistance.

2.1 Distinguish when future events will
happen, plan for them, and make choices
(with adult assistance) that anticipate
future needs.

3.0 Personal History
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

3.1 Proudly display developing skills to attract
adult attention and share simple accounts
about recent experiences.

3.1 Compare current abilities with skills at a
younger age and share more detailed
autobiographical stories about recent
experiences.

4.0 Historical Changes in People and the World
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

4.1 Easily distinguish older family members
from younger ones (and other people)
and events in the recent past from those
that happened “long ago,” although do
not readily sequence historical events on
a timeline.

4.1 Develop an interest in family history (e.g.,
when family members were children) as
well as events of “long ago,” and begin to
understand when these events occurred
in relation to each other.

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Figure 12.7: Developmental Sequence: Sense of Time.16

Teachers can support children’s development of the history foundations with the following:

• Use predictable routines to facilitate children’s sense of time

• Incorporate time words into conversation, such as before, after, yesterday, first, next,
and later

• Create opportunities to talk with children about meaningful experiences and build
connections between current and past events and to anticipate future events

• Extend and expand on children’s narrative descriptions with language relating to time

• Share your memories of the children’s abilities over time

• Ask questions to increase children’s recollections of events

• Document and display children’s work at their eye level to encourage recall and
reflection

• Sing songs, recite poetry, and read books that involve sequencing

• Promote planning as children engage in child-initiated projects

• Acknowledge birthdays, with sensitivity to family preferences

• Provide activities that invite personal reflection

• Make use of children’s stories that explore growth and individual change

• Utilize familiar resources, such as parents, grandparents, family members, close friends
and community members, to share their own childhood experiences

• Read children’s stories about different places and times to expand children’s
perspective

• Expose children to the arts

16 Image by Anthony Flores is licensed under CC BY 4.0

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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• Observe changes in animals, plants, and the outdoors

• Record significant events on a large calendar to create a program history

• Provide children with hands-on experiences with concrete artifacts and historical
objects (e.g., toys, utensils, tools)17

17 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission;
The California Preschool Learning Foundations (Volume 1) by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoollf

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Vignettes
At outdoor play time, Mateo hurries over to a large tree limb lying at the
edge of the playground. “Look what happened!” he exclaims. “Yeah,”
agrees Luis, who had joined him, “the wind did it. It crashed down our big
tree, too, right into the street. Some guys are coming to saw it up.” Luis
pauses. “My grandma said that tree was really old.” Ms. Sofia, who has
followed them to the area, joins the conversation. “Your grandma told me
about that when she came with you this morning. It’s a big surprise when a
tree that was there just yesterday suddenly isn’t there anymore today,
especially when it had been growing there for a long, long time. Things like
that can happen fast. What do you think will be different when you get
home this afternoon?”

For today’s circle time, Ms. Robin has prepared a two-column chart with
the headings: “When I was a baby, I couldn’t . . .” and “Now I can . . .” She
reads the first phrase and asks the group to think of things they were not
able to do as babies. As children share their ideas, including, “I couldn’t
walk; I couldn’t ride a trike, I couldn’t eat apples . . .” she lists them in the
first column. When they finish, she reads all the ideas aloud to the group.

Ms. Robin then points to the phrase, “Now I can . . .” and again asks for
children’s ideas. After they finish sharing, she reads aloud the second list.
As she points to each list, she comments to the group enthusiastically,
“Look how many things you couldn’t do when you were a baby! Look how
many things you can do now! You’ve grown so much!”

Nico looks through the familiar homemade, photo-illustrated book titled
Teacher Jen’s Broken Ankle that is displayed on the reading area book rack.
“My papa fell and broke his arm when he was a little boy,” he tells Ms. Jen.
She asks him how it happened, and he tells her the story his papa has told
him. Ms. Jen wonders with Nico whether his papa had to wear a cast on his
arm while it was healing. Nico says he thinks so, because he remembers
that Papa was supposed to keep his arm dry for a long time. He then asks
Ms. Jen to show him again the ankle cast she wore while her leg was
healing. She keeps the two halves of her bright pink cast in the “Hospital”
prop box that teachers use in the dramatic play area when children’s play
signals interest in medical themes.18

18 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Pause to Reflect
How might you want to partner with families to make the preschool
environment reflective of their diverse family stories?

Supporting Sense of Place (Geography and Ecology)
Each person has a sense of the places to which they belong: home, workplace, school, and
other locations that are familiar and meaningful. Young children experience this sense of place
strongly because familiar locations are associated with important people who constitute the
child’s environment of relationships. Locations are important because of the people with whom
they are associated: home with family members, preschool with teachers and peers.
Preschoolers also experience a sense of place because of the sensory experiences associated
with each location: the familiar smells, sounds, and sometimes temperatures and tastes
combine with familiar scenes to create for young children a sense of belonging.

Developing a sense of place also derives from how young children interact with aspects of that
physical location. Preschool children relate with their environments as they work with
materials; rearrange tables, chairs, and other furniture; create maps to familiar locations; travel
regularly from one setting to another; and work in other ways with their environments. Young
children also interact with their environments as they learn to care for them. Young children’s
natural interest in living things engages their interest in caring for plants and animals, concern
for the effects of pollution and litter on the natural environment, and later, taking an active role
in putting away trash and recycling used items.

Figure 12.8: Gardening is an excellent opportunity to care about plants.19

These interests present many opportunities to the early childhood educator. Young children
can be engaged in activities that encourage their understanding of the environments in which

19 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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they live, whether they involve creating drawings and maps of familiar locations, talking about
how to care for the natural world, discussing the different environments in which people live
worldwide, or taking a trip to a marshland or a farm.

1.0 Navigating Familiar Locations
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.1 Identify the characteristics of familiar
locations such as home and school,
describe objects and activities associated
with each, recognize the routes between
them, and begin using simple directional
language (with various degrees of
accuracy).

1.1 Comprehend larger familiar locations,
such as the characteristics of their
community and region (including hills and
streams, weather, common activities) and
the distances between familiar locations
(such as between home and school), and
compare their home community with
those of others.

2.0 Caring for the Natural World
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.1 Show an interest in nature (including
animals, plants, and weather) especially
as children have direct experiences with
them. Begin to understand human
interactions with the environment (such
as pollution in a lake or stream) and the
importance of taking care of plants and
animals.

2.1 Show an interest in a wider range of
natural phenomena, including those not
directly experienced (such as snow for a
child living in Southern California), and
are more concerned about caring for the
natural world and the positive and
negative impacts of people on the natural
world (e.g., recycling, putting trash in
trash cans).

3.0 Understanding the Physical World Through Drawings and Maps
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

3.1 Can use drawings, globes, and maps to
refer to the physical world, although
often unclear on the use of map symbols.

3.1 Create their own drawings, maps, and
models; are more skilled at using globes,
maps, and map symbols; and use maps
for basic problem solving (such as locating
objects) with adult guidance.

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Figure 12.9: Stages of Spatial/Geographical Awareness.20

Teachers can support children’s development of the geography and ecology foundations with
the following:

• Supply open-ended materials in the indoor and outdoor early learning environment to
promote exploration of spatial relationships

• Set aside time for outdoor explorations each day

• Provide children with sensory experiences, especially those with sand and water

• Describe your own actions as you travel between locations

• Play games about how to get from here to there

• Engage children in conversation about how they travel to and from preschool each day

• Take walks through familiar locations and neighboring areas

• Talk about the here and now as well as encouraging later reflection

• Locate and explore local landmarks

• Promote children’s understanding of weather and its impact on their day-to-day
experiences

• Comment on weather patterns and invite children to share their observations

• Read aloud books and engage children in storytelling related to
o navigating familiar locations and daily routines
o investigating the earth and its attributes

• Integrate living things into the indoor learning environment

20 Image by Ian Joslin is licensed under CC BY 4.0

https://koolkoalaj.com/portfolio

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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• Observe life in its natural setting

• Compare and contrast living and nonliving things

• Model respect and care for the natural world

• Use descriptive language to talk about the earth and its features

• Teach young children easy ways to conserve the earth’s resources

• Grow a garden in the program’s outdoor space

• Eat fresh produce at snack time and obtain food directly from a local gardener, farmers
market, or food vendor when possible

• Engage children in conversations about maps, provide map-making materials,
incorporate maps into dramatic play, use maps when planning outings, and make a mpa
of the classroom/building and outdoor space

• Supply the learning environment with a variety of blocks and other open-ended
materials to support the symbolic representation of the world the children see and
experience each day

• Play board games that use trails and pathways

• View locations from different physical perspectives

• Prepare a treasure hunt21

Figure 12.10: These girls are drawing a map.22

21 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission;
The California Preschool Learning Foundations (Volume 1) by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
22 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoollf

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Vignettes
Michael sits down with his peers and Mr. Sean at the snack table. “There
was a huge dump truck going down my street today,” he tells everyone. Mr.
Sean asks him what was in the truck. “Rocks and big sidewalk pieces,”
replies Michael. “I know that,” adds Rio. “It’s by my house. Papa says
they’re digging up the street for water pipes.” Several other children nod
and agree that they know where that is and they have gone by it, too. Mr.
Sean tells the children that the construction site they are talking about is
just around the corner and down one block from their preschool. “Would
you like to take a walk together to watch them work?” he asks. “It sounds
like a big and exciting construction project is happening in our
neighborhood.”

“I like this place,” shares Maya as she looks around the small reading area.
“What do you like about it?” asks Ms. Nicole. “I like the green. It’s like un
bosque.” Yes, agrees Ms. Nicole. The green plants do make it seem like a
forest.”

This is the castle for the princess and her friends,” explains Grace to Tanya
as she describes her unit block structure. “Here’s the bedroom over here,
and the tower over there.”

Ms. Julia, sitting in the block area to observe children’s play, responds, “It
looks like a very long way from the bedroom to the tower. Do the princess
and her friends ever get lost in the castle?” “Well . . . sometimes they do,”
replies Grace. “I wonder if we could draw something to help them find their
way,” suggests Ms. Julia. “Like a map!” exclaims Tanya to Grace.

Ms. Julia offers to bring the clipboards, equipped with paper and pencils,
from the art area. She takes one and begins describing her drawing plan.
“First I’m going to draw a square for the bedroom in this corner . . . ” The
girls begin by imitating her technique and soon are exchanging ideas with
each other as they draw their versions of the castle. When they are
finished, Ms. Julia asks questions about the parts of their castle maps and
offers to label them. When the maps are finished, labeled, and signed, Ms.
Julia asks the girls’ permission to display them on the block area wall.23

23 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Pause to Reflect
What would be ways you would be comfortable bringing caring for the natural
world into your own classroom? What might some things to try beyond that?

Supporting Marketplace (Economics)
Young children’s interest in adult roles and occupations extends to the economy. Preschoolers
know that adults have jobs, and they observe that money is used to purchase items and
services, but the connections between work, money, and purchasing are unclear to them. This
does not stop them, however, from enacting these processes in their pretend play and showing
great interest in the economic transactions they observe (such as a trip to the bank with a
parent).

Moreover, young children are also active as consumers, seeking to persuade their families to
purchase toys or access to activities that they desire, sometimes hearing adult concerns about
cost or affordability in response. On occasion, they also learn about economic differences
between people and families, such as when a parent is unemployed or when families are living
in poverty. All of these activities convince them that the economy, while abstract to them, is
important.

A carefully designed early childhood education setting provides many opportunities for young
children to explore these ideas through play, conversation, and the creation of economic items
to buy, sell, or exchange.

Figure 12.11: A cash register is an excellent prompt for exploration of economics.24

24 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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1.0 Exchange
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.1 Understand ownership, limited supply,
what stores do, give-and-take, and
payment of money to sellers. Show
interest in money and its function, but
still figuring out the relative value of
coins.

1.1 Understand more complex economic
concepts (e.g., bartering; more money is
needed for things of greater value; if
more people want something, more will
be sold).

Teachers can support children’s development of the economics foundations with the following:

• Introduce economic concepts (e.g., production, exchange, consumption) through
children’s books

• Provide open-ended materials to support children’s spontaneous investigations of
business and the economy

• Offer dramatic play experiences that allow children to explore economic concepts

• Explore alongside children, expanding on their initiative

• Draw attention to trends of consumption in the preschool setting

• Discuss wants and needs with children and allow children to help make economic
decisions

• Explore all forms of exchange

• Visit local businesses

• Create an opportunity for children to make and sell their own product; discuss how the
money made will be spent25

25 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission;
The California Preschool Learning Foundations (Volume 1) by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoollf

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Vignettes
Ms. Jen settles into the reading chair to begin large group story time. She
holds a tall empty jar, a small cloth bag, and a book.

“Today I brought something with me to help me tell a story,” she begins.
Then she holds up the small drawstring bag and shakes it. “Money!” call out
the children. “Yes, it is money. My little bag is full of coins: nickels, dimes
and quarters,” she says, pulling out one of each. “This book is all about a
family who collects coins and saves them in a jar that looks a lot like this
one. It’s called A Chair for My Mother, and Vera B. Williams is the author.
She wrote the words. She is also the illustrator, which means she painted
the pictures.”

As Ms. Jen reads the book, she stops frequently to converse with children
about what is happening in the story. “The mother in this story works as a
server in a restaurant. That’s how she earns money to buy the things her
family needs.” After reading the page that describes the “tips” that Mother
brings home and puts into the jar, Ms. Jen asks the group if anyone they
know gets tips at work. After explaining the idea, she pours the coins from
her small bag into the tall jar she has brought as a story prop.

When she reads the pages about the family’s moving day, when all their
relatives and neighbors brought things they needed to replace the ones lost
in the fire, Ms. Jen talks about how people don’t always buy all the things
they have. Sometimes people receive gifts and things that others share with
them.

As each economic concept is introduced in the book, Ms. Jen pauses to
draw attention to it, while maintaining the flow of the story. At the end, she
holds up the jar of coins and asks the group how long they think it took for
Josephine’s family to collect enough coins to buy the chair. She responds to
their comments, listening as they share their own related ideas. She
concludes by telling them that the book will be in the reading area
tomorrow for them to enjoy again.26

Pause to Reflect
What resources are in your neighborhood that a preschool teacher could use
to introduce children to the community’s economic life?

26 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Engaging Families
Teachers can make the following suggestions to families to facilitate their support of history
and social science

• Encourage families to tell stories and sing songs to their child about their home culture

• Remind families that they are the child’s most influential models.

• Support families to help their child develop strong, warm relationships with adults and
children among their family and friends.

• Suggest ways that family members can talk with their child about the daily work they
do.

• Suggest that adults find household projects to work on with their child.

• Remind adults to notice and recognize times when their child is being cooperative and
responsible.

• Encourage adults to talk with their child about respect and fairness.

• Work with adult family members as they establish some simple, age-appropriate rules
to be followed at home and help children understand that there is a reason for each
rule.

• Share ways to establish some dependable family rituals and routines.

• Remind families to discuss family plans and events with children before they occur.

• Share with family adults the importance of recounting past shared events with their
children. Suggest that they use storytelling to help children remember the sequence and
details of both everyday and special experiences.

• Suggest that families find a special place for items that document children’s growth.

• Encourage adult family members to tell children stories about their family’s history.

• Suggest that they look for maps in places where their family goes.

• Suggest taking different routes when going to familiar places.

• Encourage families to talk about nature (i.e., weather, seasons, plants, animals, and so
on) with their child.

• Encourage families to have conversations about ways they can help the earth (reduce
waste, conserve natural resources, compost, etc.)

• Suggest that adult family members share with their child elements of the natural world
they especially enjoy.

• Encourage families to talk with their child about the connection between cost and
decisions to buy items and services.

• Assure families that it is fine to have conversations about “wants” and “needs.”

• Suggest that families show their child some alternative ways to acquire things the family
needs or wants, as well as ways to help meet the needs of others.

• Encourage families to begin to share with preschool children their own values about
money.

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• Prepare yourselves, as early care and education professionals, to play an active role in
supporting families facing personal economic crises. Educate yourselves about available
community services and, when possible, help families to obtain access to them.27

Figure 12.12: Caption: This three-year-old boy is helping with the dishes.28

Conclusion
The knowledge and skills in history and social science that preschoolers acquire in an early
education setting provide a foundation for their understanding of themselves and the world in
which they live. Adults benefit from the perspective of history (of society, families, and one’s
personal past). People are connected deeply to the physical settings and natural ecologies in
which they live. People learn about themselves and others by comparison with people who
differ in culture, language, ethnicity, traditions, and abilities. Human lives are shaped by the
economy and its influence on people’s roles as workers, consumers, and investors. Citizens
participate with others in the political process and in building their communities. As
preschoolers learn about these topics through instruction, enactment, and play, they are
introduced to issues that will remain important to them for years to come.29

27 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
28 Image by ThreeIfByBike is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0
29 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 3 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

Day 46: Old Enough for Chores

Meat Ocean

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/preschoolframeworkvol3

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Chapter 13: Physical Development
Objectives

• By the end of the chapter, you should be able to: Explain the importance of planning to
support children’s physical development

• Describe the foundations in physical development that high quality programming
support children in reaching

• Recognize sequences of physical development

• Advocate for active play

• Identify ways for educators to support physical development

• Summarize ways to engage families in curriculum for physical development

Introduction
Young children learn best by doing. Active physical play supports preschool children’s brain
development and is a primary means for them to explore and discover their world. Physical
activities enhance all aspects of development, including cognitive, emotional, social, as well as
physical.

• Cognitive growth occurs when children problem-solve how to negotiate an obstacle
course or how to build a fort.

• Emotional development is supporting when children’s confidence and willingness to try
new activities increases.

• Social development is supported through the interaction with other children and the
development of friendships through active play.

• Being active also has clear benefits for children’s health and fitness.

The preschool years are a prime time for children’s physical development. Preschool programs
have a key role in maximizing children’s developmental potential during this important time by
providing well-designed, regular, and frequent opportunities for physical play. Although many
of young children’s physical activities are exploratory and self-directed, children greatly benefit
from adult encouragement and guidance when learning new physical skills. Teachers tap into
children’s intrinsic motivation for movement by designing meaningful, culturally appropriate,
and accessible play activities in which all children feel challenged yet successful.

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Figure 13.1: These children learn to navigate obstacles by practicing it on this play structure.1

Teachers are important role models in the area of physical development. Children benefit
immensely when teachers engage in physical activities alongside children and share in the fun
of physical movement. Just as important, preschool programs collaborate with family and
community members to promote children’s physical development. Family support and
participation foster children’s active lifestyle habits. Promoting active lifestyles during the
preschool years will benefit children throughout their lives.2

Guiding Principles of Supporting Children’s Physical
Development
Teachers play a critical role in supporting children’s physical development because physical
skills need to be explicitly and deliberately taught. Physical play, both indoors and outdoors, is
not merely “free time”; it requires thoughtful planning and intentional interactions. The
following guidelines will help teachers support children’s physical development.

• Developmentally appropriate movement programs accommodate a variety of individual
differences among children.

• Children often learn best through maximum active participation. There should be a daily
quest to minimize sitting, waiting, and watching so children enjoy meaningful
participation in physical activities. Maximum purposeful participation at some level is a
challenging but attainable goal.

• The physical safety of children’s play environments should be of paramount importance
at all times (children should be able to take reasonable risks).

1 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission
2 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission (pg. 132)

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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• Family members working as partners with teachers are key to enriching the physical
development of children.

• Inclusion of children with special needs is beneficial to all and promotes greater
understanding of and respect for diversity.

• Children are multisensory learners with unique learning styles.

• To maximize teaching effectiveness, movement skill learning should first focus on
improving body coordination and increasing awareness of body movements. The
product, or quantitative aspect of movements (e.g., how far they jumped, or how fast
they ran), should not be the initial focus of learning.

• Children generally learn new movement skills more easily when they can focus on one
specific aspect of the skill at a time.

• Children benefit from ample opportunities to practice new physical skills.

• Children benefit from integrated learning activities across the curriculum.

• Frequency, intensity, type, and duration are the four key parameters to designing active
physical play to enhance children’s fitness and health. The four parameters may be
thought of as the FITT principles (Frequency, Intensity, Type, Time [duration]).

o “Frequency” refers to the regularity of engaging in physical activity; frequent
short periods of physical activity each day are preferred (children should not be
sedentary for more than 60 minutes at a time except when sleeping).

o “Intensity” refers to whether activities are sedentary, mild, moderate, or
vigorous; moderate to vigorous activities are preferred.

o “Type” deals with the specific kind of physical activity engaged in; for young
children, the types of activities usually take the form of active games, child-
initiated play, as well as rhythms and dance.

o “Time” (duration) refers to the amount of time in which the child is engaged in
physical activity; accumulating at least 60 minutes, and up to several hours, of
moderate to vigorous physical activity per day is recommended.

• Physical skills are more easily learned when clear instructions and appropriate feedback
are provided in children’s home language using familiar communication methods.

• Allow children to take risks. Risk taking allows children to challenge themselves, and to
assess their own skills and abilities.3

Environmental Factors in Supporting Children’s Physical
Development
The following recommendations apply to establishing the preschool environment as related to
the three Physical Development strands: Fundamental Movement Skills, Perceptual–Motor
Skills and Movement Concepts, and Active Physical Play

3 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission;
Content by Clint Springer is licensed under CC BY 4.0

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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• Teachers promote optimal physical development when they provide children with
positive encouragement and quality instruction (both indirect and direct). Teachers
“set the stage” and “create the climate” for movement skill learning.

• The immediate physical environment is a powerful influence on children’s physical
development. The physical environment, play materials, and play themes can all be
skillfully designed to promote active play. Both indoor and outdoor play
environments should encourage fun and enjoyable learning.

• Indoor and outdoor play environments should include a variety of appropriately
sized equipment that promotes both gross and fine motor development.

• Learning is most meaningful when the environment and materials reflect and
accommodate children’s individual interests, backgrounds, and present abilities.
Embrace the richness of diversity by learning about children’s culture, language,
customs, music, physical activities, and focus on the unique gifts that each child
brings to the learning environment.

• Take time to build safety into both the indoor and outdoor play environments.

• A safe environment reduces the need for adults to say no. It is important to establish
clear expectations. Limits should be set rather than rules (rules eliminate reasonable
risk) in order to ensure personal safety. Be particularly cognizant when working with
children who have disabilities that impact their impulse control and judgment. Also,
differences in cultural expectations for girls and those for boys, as well as language
differences, may impact the critical need for building safety into children’s regular
play environments.

• Playground equipment, such as climbing, hanging, and sliding structures, should be
checked regularly for safety hazards.

• Movement experiences should include exploration, discovery, and appreciation of
the natural environment. Nature provides rich, diverse sensory experiences—
sounds, smells, textures, and sights—that are beneficial for young children’s
sensorimotor development.

• Thoughtfully designed movement experiences, guided by adults, support children’s
physical development. Most children need more than just free play to acquire
movement skills. Children benefit from teacher-guided, structured physical
activities, particularly when they are learning new movement skills. Structured but
flexible play activities that emphasize active participation, exploration, and self-
discovery are ideal for practicing new, challenging physical skills.4

4 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission (pg. 136-137)

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Figure 13.2: Not only are these children allowed to go up the slide, their teacher has added a rope to help them.5

Additional strategies that will help children’s physical development:

• Provide opportunities that include diverse cultural themes.

• Challenge children’s abilities by asking questions.

• Encourage persistence during challenging tasks.

• Modify activities to increase participation by children with disabilities and special
needs.

• Observe and analyze children’s skills to facilitate planning for learning opportunities.

• Learn about children’s prior experiences and personal interests.

• Promote and be aware of the progressive development of skills.

• Plan meaningful, purposeful, and connected activities and games.

• Create culturally diverse scenarios for skills.

• Create meaningful scenarios that provide the opportunity for the integration of skills
with other curriculum concepts.

• Use both unstructured and structured strategies, as well as multisensory
experiences, in your teaching.

• Create developmental activities that provide a sense of success.

• Provide opportunities for repeated practice in a safe environment.

• Provide plenty of encouragement.

• Create activities that provide automatic feedback and a sense of accomplishment.

• Provide clear, specific feedback to facilitate children’s problem-solving process.

• Provide a variety of tools and media to promote participation.6

5 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission
6 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Pause to Reflect
How can family culture, language, and diversity be incorporated into
fundamental movement activities? How can ideas and materials from
children’s different cultures be included in fine motor activities and games?

Research Highlight: Must Young Children Sit Still in Order to Learn?
Researchers have stated that high activity levels, impulsivity, and short
attention span for sedentary activities are characteristics of typically
developing preschool-age children. Children naturally need to move in
order to learn. Being physically active boosts children’s attention span and
capitalizes on multisensory learning so that children are more likely to
retain academic concepts such as colors, shapes, and the alpha-bet. The
need for movement-based learning experiences may be particularly
important for children with special needs. Research has shown that for
children who have autism spectrum disorder and attention deficit
hyperactivity disorder, being seated on a movable surface (e.g., a therapy
ball) resulted in increased ability to stay on task and remain seated during
classroom learning activities. However, children seated on a static surface
such as a bench, chair, or floor were less able to remain on task. Experts
have suggested that adults’ efforts to entice young children to sit still, pay
attention, and be quiet during learning activities often run contrary to
children’s natural needs for physical movement.7

Sources:

J. A. Blackman, “Attention-Deficit/Hyper-activity Disorder in Preschoolers. Does It Exist and
Should We Treat It?” Pediatric Clinics of North America 46, no. 5 (1999): 1011–25.

T. Hunter, “Some Thoughts About Sitting Still,” Young Children 55, no. 3 (2000): 50.

T. Schilling, and others, “Promoting Language Development Through Movement,” Teaching
Elementary Physical Education 17, no. 6 (2006): 39–42.

D. L. Schilling and I. S. Schwartz, “Alternative Seating for Young Children with Autism
Spectrum Disorder: Effects on Classroom Behavior,” Journal of Autism and Developmental
Disorders 43, no. 4 (2004): 423–32.

D. L. Schilling and others, “Classroom Seating for Children with Attention Deficit
Hyperactivity Disorder: Therapy Ball Versus Chairs,” American Journal of Occupational
Therapy 57, no. 5 (2003): 534–41. 12. T. Hunter, “Some Thoughts About Sitting Still,”
Young Children 55, no. 3 (2000): 50.

7 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission (pg. 137)

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Introducing the Foundations
The preschool learning foundations for physical development are organized in terms of three
broad categories or strands:

• Fundamental Movement Skills

• Perceptual–Motor Skills and Movement Concepts

• Active Physical Play8

The first strand is Fundamental Movement Skills. Most preschool children can acquire
reasonable levels of competence in a wide range of movement activities, including balance,
locomotor skills, and manipulative skills (both gross motor and fine motor), when given
opportunities for instruction and practice in an enriched environment. The second strand is
Perceptual-Motor Skills and Movement Concepts. This strand focuses on the development of
body awareness, spatial awareness, and directional awareness. These skills are important for
interacting with others and for exploring the environment. The third strand is Active Physical
Play. Active physical play promotes children’s health and physical fitness by increasing their
levels of active participation, cardiovascular endurance, muscular strength, muscular
endurance, and flexibility.9

The specific foundations are included later in the chapter as each strand is explored. They
include what children should be able to do when in high quality early childhood program at
around 48 months and at around 60 months (which roughly corresponds to the end of the first
year and the end of second year of preschool).10

Supporting Fundamental Movement Skills
Fundamental movement skills are the foundations on which more complex movement skills are
built. Early childhood is a crucial and unique time for developing coordination of the basic
movement skills. During this period, daily movement experiences significantly influence
children’s patterns of movement and their future as happy, active movers. Children who
develop these fundamental movement skills tend to become confident movers and have the
building blocks for an active way of life.

Fundamental movement skills emerge following a developmental sequence from simple to
more complex body actions. Initially, when children attempt a movement pattern, they move
few body parts (e.g., when throwing, move only one arm while the rest of their body remains
still). As their movement skills develop, children begin incorporating other body parts (e.g.,
throwing with one arm while stepping with one foot). Research-based developmental

8 The California Preschool Learning Foundations (Volume 2) by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
9 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
10 The California Preschool Learning Foundations (Volume 2) by the California Department of Education is used
with permission (pg.108-110)

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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sequences represent common pathways of development and can guide instruction and
learning. However, each child’s development is unique and affected by many factors (e.g.,
genetics, culture, special needs, socioeconomic status, environment, and practice). Teachers
should expect variations in individual development.

Fundamental movement skills develop through meaningful interactions with the environment,
people, and objects; through both structured (e.g., teacher-guided) and unstructured (e.g.,
child-initiated play) practice of movement skills; through the integration of fundamental motor
skills into the preschool curriculum; and through the integration of fundamental movement
skills into the daily home life of children. Children’s movement activities should be designed
with consideration of the multiple cultures and diversity of the participants. In addition,
teachers need to be sensitive to children with disabilities and special needs and modify the
tasks, context, or environment, including appropriate assistive devices and instructional
strategies, to facilitate the development of fundamental skills for all children.

Fundamental movement skills include:

Balance

Figure 13.3: This young boy is practicing his balance.11

The ability to balance is fundamental to all body movements. All movement involves elements
of balance, and each movement has different balance requirements.

1.0 Balance
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.1 Maintain balance while holding still;
sometimes may need assistance.

1.1 Show increasing balance and control
when holding still.

11 Image by Virginia State Parks is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Taking leaps at JRSP

IMG_8459

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.2 Maintain balance while in motion when
moving from one position to another or
when changing directions, though balance
may not be completely stable.

1.2 Show increasing balance control while
moving in different directions and when
transitioning from one movement or
position to another.

Teachers can support children’s developing balance with the following:

✓ Design spaces and activities to develop balance following a developmental progression.
✓ Incorporate balance activities into the children’s world (such as acting out balancing

challenges).
✓ Provide opportunities for activities that include both active movements and still body

positions.
✓ Post pictures of balance positions and balance activities (can be of culturally

representative athletes, dancers, performers, including those with disabilities).
✓ Design the environment so children combine balance skills with fundamental movement

skills and movement concepts.
✓ Use visual aids, foot and handprints, and objects on the floor to promote balancing

skills.

Locomotor Skills
The movement skills that children use to move effectively and efficiently through space. These
skills allow children to travel, explore, and discover their environments. Preschool children use
locomotor skills in their daily activities to move from one area to another.

Figure 13.4: Running is a locomotor skill that is being refined during early childhood.12

12 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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2.0 Locomotor Skills
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.1 Walk with balance, not always stable,
oppositional arm movements still
developing, and relatively wide base of
support (space between feet).

2.1 Walk with balance, oppositional arm
movements, and relatively narrow base
of support (space between feet).

2.2 Run with short stride length and feet off
the ground for a short period of time.
May show inconsistent opposition of arms
and legs.

2.2 Run with a longer stride length and each
foot off the ground for a greater length of
time. Opposition of arms and legs is more
consistent.

2.3 Jump for height (up or down) and for
distance with beginning competence.

2.3 Jump for height (up or down) and for
distance with increasing competence.
Uses arm swing to aid forward jump.

2.4 Begin to demonstrate a variety of
locomotor skills, such as galloping, sliding,
hopping, and leaping.

2.4 Demonstrate increasing ability and body
coordination in a variety of locomotor
skills, such as galloping, sliding, hopping,
and leaping.

You can find example representations of the developmental sequences of fundamental
movement skills in Appendix D.

Teachers can support children’s developing locomotor skills with the following:

✓ Observe and analyze children’s locomotor skills to facilitate planning for learning
opportunities.

✓ Promote progressive development of leg strength.
✓ Promote and be aware of the progressive development of coordination of locomotor

skills.
✓ Encourage practice of locomotor movements in both indoor and outdoor environments.
✓ Use vivid visual information and visual aids that communicate to children in simple ways

how to move.
✓ Use music, songs, rhymes, and stories to provide rhythmic patterns.
✓ Plan meaningful, purposeful, and connected locomotor activities and games.
✓ Create picture cards representing different ways to move related to children’s cultural

background.
✓ Allow children to take risks in their physical play.

Manipulative Skills
Skills that allow children to use their arms, hands, legs, and feet to project an object away from
the body (e.g., throwing a beanbag) or to receive and absorb the force of an object coming to
the body (e.g., catching a balloon). Fundamental motor skills that involve large muscle groups
are called gross motor skills (e.g., kicking) and the ones that involve small muscle groups are
called fine motor skills (e.g., cutting).

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Figure 13.5: Practicing cutting with scissors is a fine

motor manipulative skill.13

Figure 13.6: Throwing this bean bag is gross motor

manipulative skill.14

Fine motor manipulative skills are usually those in which children manipulate objects with their
hands. Fine motor manipulative skills include cutting, painting, and buttoning.

Gross motor manipulative skills include tossing, rolling, throwing, catching, striking, kicking,
bouncing, and punting with objects.

3.0 Manipulative Skills
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

3.1 Begin to show gross motor manipulative
skills by using arms, hands, and feet, such
as rolling a ball underhand, tossing
underhand, bouncing, catching, striking,
throwing overhand, and kicking.

3.1 Show gross motor manipulative skills by
using arms, hands, and feet with
increased coordination, such as rolling a
ball underhand, tossing underhand,
bouncing, catching, striking, throwing
overhand, and kicking.

3.2 Begin to show fine motor manipulative
skills using hands and arms such as in-
hand manipulation, writing, cutting, and
dressing.

3.2 Show increasing fine motor manipulative
skills using hands and arms such as in-
hand manipulation, writing, cutting, and
dressing.

You can find example representations of the developmental sequences of manipulative skills in
Appendix D.

Teachers can support developing manipulative skills with the following:

✓ Observe developmental sequences of fundamental manipulative skills.
✓ Vary the focus of the manipulative skills (provide opportunities for both arms and legs to

move).

13 Image from video by Baan Dek is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
14 Image by Cpl. Charles Santamaria is in the public domain

https://vimeo.com/baandek

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/

https://www.29palms.marines.mil/News/Photos/igphoto/2000797710/

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✓ Provide a variety of equipment to accommodate individual differences in body size, skill
level, and the development of children’s physical and sensory systems.

✓ Create manipulative activities that provide automatic feedback and a sense of
accomplishment.15

15 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission;
Content by Clint Springer is licensed under CC BY 4.0;
The California Preschool Learning Foundations (Volume 2) by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Vignette
Children constructed birds and balls out of paper while playing indoors.
They colored the papers using markers of different colors. Children also
decorated their creations with colorful feathers and cut out shapes from
magazines. They attached these decorations to their birds and balls with
glue. When the decorations were dry, the teacher invited them to play with
their birds and balls outside. The teacher, Ms. Gupta, previously had
designed the outdoor play area by placing some colorful plastic hoops,
cones, and shapes on the floor with pictures of the community buildings
attached to them. She also drew a line two steps away from the pretend
buildings.

Outside, she said to the children, “Let’s make the birds fly toward those
buildings and see where they land.” The children became excited and began
using the throwing action to fly their birds. Some children were much closer
to the line, and others stood farther away. While throwing, they began
adjusting their proximity to the line. Ms. Gupta said, “How can you move
your bodies to make your bird fly up in the sky?” Jamila said, “I know, throw
like this [moving her arm up and down].” Lesley said, “We need to step and
send the bird up.” Ms. Gupta paused and observed them throwing for a
while. One child’s bird was going down fast, and she said, “Xuyen, do you
want your bird to go up?” Xuyen replied, “Yes.” Ms. Gupta asked, “How can
we do that?” Xuyen shrugged her shoulders as though to say, “I do not
know.”

Ms. Gupta then suggested, “How about if you throw it toward the sky?”
Xuyen moved her arm up over her head in the throwing action, and her bird
flew a little longer. She noticed and smiled, then ran to get it and tried
again. Ms. Gupta smiled and said, “You moved your arm up this time. That
is the way to make your bird go up: keep moving your arm up each time.”
Another child was picking up his bird, and Ms. Gupta said, “Yeng, on what
building did your bird land?” Yeng said, “The store.” and kept running back
to try again. Ms. Gupta said to another child, “Mary, did your bird land in
the hospital?” Mary replied, “No, that is the park.” Mary was right. Ms.
Gupta continued asking different children about the buildings.16

Supporting Perceptual-Motor Skills and Movement
Concepts
Perceptual-motor skills and movement concepts are essential to all facets of young children’s lives.
Perceptual-motor coordination is the process of receiving, interpreting, and using information from

16 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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all of the body’s senses. Perceptual-motor development requires children to integrate both sensory
and motor abilities to carry out physical activities. All voluntary movement involves an element of
perception, and perceptual-motor coordination plays an important role in children’s development
of movement skills.

Movement concepts are the cognitive component of movement. Preschool children gain
important knowledge about how the body can move in an almost endless variety of ways. For
example, they learn to move at different speeds and with different degrees of force, in various
pathways, around different types of obstacles, and in relation to other people. They are also
acquiring new vocabulary (e.g., zigzag, under, or behind) that describe their movement
experiences. Movement concepts enable children to problem-solve how the body should move
during certain activities and situations. Movement concepts provide critical foundations for
learning how to move in novel situations (e.g., when playing a new sport). To become proficient
movers, children need to acquire both the movement skills and the movement concepts
underlying those skills.

Children enter preschool with various experiences and abilities in perceptual-motor
coordination and understanding of movement concepts. Children’s growth in perceptual-motor
skills and movement concepts leads to increased success and confidence when exploring,
performing personal care, and playing cooperatively with others. Perceptual-motor skills and
movement concepts are also key building blocks for future learning in areas such as reading,
writing, and mathematics.

Perceptual-motor skills and understanding movement concepts includes body awareness,
spatial awareness, and directional awareness.17

Body Awareness
Children’s knowledge of their bodies becomes more accurate and specific. They develop a clear
understanding of how body parts interrelate (e.g., the shoulder connects to the arm, which
connects to the hand). Children are also learning to identify, describe, and differentiate an
increasing number of body parts. Furthermore, they can demonstrate different ways to move
specific body parts (e.g., the shoulder can move up and down, out to the side, or in a circular
motion). Body awareness is necessary for coordinating physical movements when new skills are
being learned, such as hopping or throwing. Accurate knowledge about body parts also
enhances children’s ability to care for their own bodies, such as during toileting, bathing, and
dressing.

17 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Figure 13.7: Caption: These children are acting out the song “Head, shoulders, knees, and toes.” Some children have

more developed body awareness.18

1.0 Body Awareness
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.1 Demonstrate knowledge of the names of
body parts.

1.1 Demonstrate knowledge of an increasing
number of body parts.

Teachers can support children’s developing body awareness with the following:

✓ Use multisensory teaching strategies to reinforce children’s learning.
✓ Use body-parts vocabulary in the child’s home language.
✓ Use alternative communication methods, as appropriate, to teach body-parts

vocabulary.
✓ Use body-parts vocabulary in the natural context of daily living activities and child-

initiated play.
✓ Introduce body-parts vocabulary during structured group games.
✓ Engage children in singing and movement activities to teach body parts.
✓ Encourage children to identify and describe body parts in books or in pictures of

themselves and family members.
✓ Provide opportunities for dress-up play.
✓ Provide opportunities for children to see external representations of their bodies.
✓ Provide constructional play for children to build or put together body parts.
✓ Ask children to describe their drawings of people.

Spatial Awareness
Children’s understanding of their location and the location of objects and people around them.
Preschool children are learning to judge how much space their bodies and other objects take up
and whether something is “close” or “far.” They are also developing vocabulary for describing

18 Image by Tech. Sgt. Mike Tateishi is in the public domain

https://www.kadena.af.mil/News/Photos/igphoto/2000306931/

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the position of two objects relative to one another, such as whether a ball is “in front of” or
“behind” them. Children gain awareness of their body dimensions and body position by
physically exploring their world and by maneuvering around different obstacles (both people
and objects) during play.

Figure 13.8: Jumping “over” the rope is helping this girl develop her spatial awareness.19

2.0 Spatial Awareness
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.1 Use own body as reference point when
locating or relating to other people or
objects in space.

2.1 Use own body, general space, and other
people’s space when locating or relating
to other people or objects in space.

Table 13.1: Developmental Sequence of Spatial Awareness

Age Spatial Awareness Ability
Around 3
years of age

Children bump into others who are close by during all types of activities.

Around 4
years of age

Children are able to participate in seated activities without bumping into
others.

Around 5
years of age

Children are able to participate in standing activities (primarily staying in
place) without bumping into others.

Around 5½
years of age

Children mostly maintain space around themselves without bumping into
others, with prompting during a locomotor activity in which children move in
the same direction

19 Image by Lance Cpl. Tabitha Bartley is in the public domain

https://www.marines.mil/Photos/igphoto/2000002293

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Age Spatial Awareness Ability
Around 6
years of age

Children maintain space around themselves without bumping into others
during a locomotor or movement activity in which children move in different
directions (e.g., chasing games or dancing

Teachers can support children’s developing spatial awareness with the following:

✓ Set up obstacle courses
✓ Provide opportunities for children to experience moving at different levels of body

positioning, ranging from high to low.
✓ Provide games for children to explore changing the size of their bodies.
✓ Play games that allow children to move around with objects balanced on different parts

of their body.
✓ Provide pushing and pulling games with peers.
✓ Play games that require two to three children to work together to transport a large,

lightweight object.
✓ Use dancing and musical games to promote the development of spatial awareness and

body control.
✓ Use positional-concepts vocabulary within the natural context of daily routines.
✓ Have children participate in cleanup routines by putting away toys.
✓ Engage children in helper roles by performing “heavy work” activities.
✓ Narrate or ask questions about children’s play using positional-concepts vocabulary in

English and the child’s home language.
✓ Engage children in songs and rhymes with body movements or spatial concepts.
✓ Reinforce spatial concepts when reading or looking at books.
✓ Use props or play objects to guide children in positioning their bodies.
✓ Use the child’s home language to introduce spatial-concepts vocabulary.
✓ Provide alternative ways for children with physical disabilities or other spe-cial needs to

learn spatial concepts.
✓ Provide additional cues and assistance as needed to ensure safety for children who have

spatial-awareness challenges.
✓ Allow opportunities for risk taking.

Directional Awareness
Children’s understanding of what it means and how it feels to move up, down, forward,
backward and finally sideways. Most preschool children begin to understand that their bodies
have two sides but cannot yet identify the left or right side of their body. Children are also
learning to identify the top, bottom, front, or back of objects, but they do not clearly
understand that objects have a left or right side. Preschool children also enjoy following
pathways on the floor or creating their own movement pathways, such as straight, curved, or
zigzag.

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Figure 13.9: You can see children’s inability to understand left from right when acting out the “Hokey Pokey.”20

3.0 Directional Awareness
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

3.1 Distinguish movements that are up and
down and to the side of the body (for
example, understands “use that side, now
the other side”).

3.1 Begin to understand and distinguish
between the sides of the body.

3.2 Move forward and backward or up and
down easily.

3.2 Can change directions quickly and
accurately.

3.3 Can place an object on top of or under
something with some accuracy.

3.3 Can plan an object or own body in front
of, to the side, or behind something else
with greater accuracy.

3.4 Use any two body parts together. 3.4 Demonstrate more precision and
efficiency during two-handed fine motor
activities.

Table 13.2: Developmental Sequence of Directional Awareness

Age Directional Awareness Ability
Between ages
2 and 3 years

Children can identify front/back and top/bottom on their own bodies.

Around age 4 Children are aware that their bodies have two distinct sides and are learning
to determine which side is left and which is right

By age 6 or 7 Children can accurately identify the left and right sides on their own body
parts.

Around age 8 Children become aware that objects also have a left and right side

20 Image by Tech. Sgt. Brian Jones is in the public domain

https://www.incirlik.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/302916/preschool-playgroup-parent-leaders-recognized/

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Age Directional Awareness Ability
Ages 10 years
and older

Children can give directions to another person, such as “Go down the hall
and turn left to get to the school office.”
They can accurately identify the left and right sides on another person, even
if the person is facing a different direction.

Teachers can support children’s developing directional awareness with the following:

✓ Provide opportunities for child-initiated play in areas with open space.
✓ Provide safe environments in which children can climb up and down.
✓ Encourage children to move in different directions and in different types of pathways

(e.g., straight, curved, or zigzag) during group movement games.
✓ Design activities for children to practice moving alongside or in a line with other people.
✓ Play games that require children to coordinate moving with others to manage a physical

object or prop.
✓ Provide opportunities for children to move and use their bodies with force.
✓ Provide opportunities for children to move and use their bodies lightly.
✓ Engage children in two-handed play activities.
✓ Position drawing activities vertically.
✓ Provide pretend-play activities to rein-force directional concepts.
✓ Use the child’s home language for introducing directional-concepts vocabulary.
✓ Adapt movement experiences as needed for children with physical disabilities.
✓ Allow opportunities for risk taking.21

21 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission (pg.178, 181, 186);
Content by Clint Springer is licensed under CC BY 4.0;
The California Preschool Learning Foundations (Volume 2) by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Vignette
Several children in Mr. Clay’s class are interested in trains, and during circle
time they read a book about trains. Later that day, a group of children go
through the obstacle course outdoors. Spencer asks, “I wonder if a train
could go through our tunnel.” Ming responds, “Yeah, the train in the book
went through mountain tunnels.” Mr. Clay suggests, “Well, maybe this
obstacle course is a railroad today?” The children all agree excitedly.

Children begin to go through the obstacle pretending to be trains and
saying “choo-choo” along the way. After awhile, Mr. Clay asks, “Do any of
you trains want to carry freight?” “I do!” volunteers Mei enthusiastically.
Mr. Clay retrieves a bucket of beanbags, which will be the trains’ freight.
The teacher asks Mei, “Mei the Train, where will you carry your freight?”
Mei replies, “here” while pointing to her shoulder. “On your shoulder?
Great idea!” responds Mr. Clay. As children continue with the activity, Mr.
Clay assists them in coming up with other variations, such as having
everyone line up in a row and stay close together as one long train. When
Ming gets to the cardboard tunnel, the teacher lifts up the cardboard box
to provide clearance for Ming and his wheelchair to fit through the tunnel.
Later, the teacher asks, “I wonder if it would be fun for the trains to go in
reverse?” “What’s reverse?” Spencer asks. Ming responds, “I know! Watch
this,” and demonstrates wheeling his wheelchair backwards.22

Pause to Reflect
Think of other movement activities children enjoy. How could each be
modified to include children with differing disabilities and special needs?

Supporting Activity Physical Play
Active play is essential to the optimal physical development and overall health of young
children. Physical activity embedded throughout the preschool day promotes children’s ability
to attend to, learn, and regulate their emotional responses. Active physical play not only
enhances the body’s physiological functions (i.e., physical fitness), it promotes optimal brain
chemistry for self-regulation and enhances learning readiness. As such, it should be fully
integrated into the regular preschool day.

22 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Figure 13.10: This young boy is engaged in

unstructured active play.23

Figure 13.11: Completing an obstacle course is

structured active play.24

Active physical play contributes markedly to enhancing children’s fundamental movement skills
in three principal areas: balance, locomotion, and both gross and fine motor manipulation. Both
typically developing children and those with special needs benefit. Furthermore, the
perceptual-motor components also discussed earlier are promoted through active physical
play. Activities that promote body awareness, spatial awareness, and directional awareness
engage the senses as children move through space. To derive the maximum health-related
benefits, children should engage in active play on most days of the week, in an environment
that promotes enjoyment, safety, and success. These benefits include increases in muscular
strength, muscular endurance, and joint flexibility as well as improved aerobic endurance and
body composition. Proper nutrition and adequate hydration also play important roles in young
children’s active physical play.

Young children can be easily engaged in movement and benefit immensely from an active way
of life. The habits of physical activity that children learn in the early years greatly increase the
chance that children will continue being physically active throughout childhood and beyond.
Most importantly, children must see active play as fun. Your regular participation with children
will do much to model the joy of moving. You can take almost any indoor or outdoor physical
activity, give it a name, and make it a game. Children are active learners. For most, physical
activity is fun. Your enthusiastic participation with children will go a long way to motivate them
for continued active play.
Active Physical Play includes:

• Active Participation

• Cardiovascular Endurance

• Muscular Strength, Muscular Endurance, and Flexibility

Active Participation
Young children need to be involved in moderate to vigorous physical activity almost daily, at
home and at school. Moderate to vigorous activity that is enjoyable, develop-mentally

23 Image by 5712495 on Pixabay
24 Image by Verda L. Parker is in the public domain

https://pixabay.com/photos/playground-child-kid-active-boy-2457320/

https://pixabay.com/users/5712495-5712495/

https://pixabay.com/

https://www.albany.marines.mil/Photos/igphoto/2000780744/

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appropriate, and adapted to the needs of each child increases children’s physical fitness levels.
When the large muscles of the body are fully engaged, young children learn more effectively
and also derive important health and physical fitness benefits. Active physical play contributes
measurably to all aspects of physical fitness. Physical fitness is defined as a set of physical
attributes related to a person’s ability to perform activities that require cardiovascular
endurance, muscular strength, muscular endurance, and joint flexibility.

Figure 13.12: Parachute play is a favorite of many children and a great way to get them actively participated.25

1.0 Active Participation
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.1 Initiate or engage in simple physical
activities for a short to moderate period
of time.

1.1 Initiate more complex physical activities
for a sustained period of time.

Teachers can support active participation with the following:

✓ Provide ample opportunities for children to engage daily in active play. It is widely
recommended that children accumulate at least 60 minutes and up to several hours of
unstructured physical activity on each day of the week.

✓ Create inviting activity environments in which children can be physically active.
✓ Help children identify appropriate places for different types of physical activity.
✓ Create an activity environment that is nurturing and supportive and allows likely

success.
✓ Encourage children to continue participation by providing opportunities for short but

frequent rest periods during vigorous activity.
✓ Ensure that physical activity is sustained by providing personally mean-ingful and

purposeful opportunities for children.
✓ Recognize and take into account any environmental constraints.
✓ Encourage physical exploration through play equipment and materials.
✓ Respect differences in children’s temperament and find creative ways to engage all

children in active physical play.

25 Image by Emily Mathews is licensed under CC BY 2.0

Corned beef sandwich on rye

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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Research Highlight: Does Increasing Children’s Physical Activity Really
Make a Difference?
A decisive “yes” was the answer to this important question which was cited
in a review of 850 research articles and published in the Journal of
Pediatrics. The evidence strongly supported that children of school age who
engage in relatively high levels of physical activity are less overweight than
inactive children, have better cardiovascular endurance, and higher levels
of muscular strength, endurance, and higher self-concepts. The authors
conclude that “Increasing the level of habitual moderate- to vigorous-
intensity physical activity in youth is a health promotion and disease-
prevention strategy. Sedentary youngsters should progress toward the
recommended level of physical activity gradually.”26

Sources:

W. B. Strong and others, “Evidence Based Physical Activity for School-Age Youth,” The
Journal of Pediatrics 146, no. 6 (2005): 732–37.

A. Ignico, C. Richart, and V. Wayda, “The Effects of a Physical Activity Program on
Children’s Activity Level, Health-Related Fitness, and Health,” Early Childhood Development
154 (1999): 31–39.

Cardiovascular Endurance
This involves exposing the body to an increased workload that raises the heart rate beyond its
normal range of beats per minute and sustains that elevated rate for several minutes.

Figure 13.13: Pedaling a trike with a passenger is a great activity to get the heart pumping.27

26 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission (pg. 198)
27 Image by Airman 1st Class Nathan Byrnes is in the public domain

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/1160050/dod-celebrates-month-of-the-military-child/

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2.0 Cardiovascular Endurance
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.1 Engage in frequent bursts of active play
that involves the heart, the lungs, and the
vascular system.

2.1 Engage in sustained active play of
increasing intensity that involves the
heart, the lungs, and the vascular system.

Teachers can support children’s development of cardiovascular endurance with the following:

✓ Design the physical setting of the play environment to encourage moderate or vigorous
physical activity.

✓ Engage children of all ability levels in activities that promote increased cardiovascular
endurance.

✓ Promote increased cardiovascular endurance through chasing and fleeing activities.
✓ Promote cardiovascular endurance through the use of riding toys that require sustained

pedaling or cranking.
✓ Use imagery as an effective tool in promoting moderate to vigorous physical activity.
✓ Provide positive encouragement for participation.
✓ Promote increased physical activity through story plays.
✓ Promote cardiovascular endurance through dance and rhythmic activities.

Muscular Strength, Muscular Endurance, and Flexibility
Active children naturally increase their muscular strength, muscular endurance, and joint
flexibility.

Muscular strength is the ability to perform one maximum effort, such as lifting a heavy weight
over-head, or picking up a heavy object off the ground.

Figure 13.14: Lifting these pumpkins onto the scale shows muscular strength.28

28 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Muscular endurance is the ability to perform work repeatedly. (It is not recommended that
children prior to puberty engage in maximum strength efforts through high-resistance
activities. Instead, it is recommended that children engage in low-resistance activities with
multiple repetitions.)

Flexibility is the ability of a joint to move through its full, intended range of motion.

3.0 Muscular Strength, Muscular Endurance, and Flexibility
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.1 Engage in active play activities that
enhance leg and arm strength, muscular
endurance, and flexibility.

2.1 Engage in increasing amounts of active
play activities that enhance leg and arm
strength, muscular endurance, and
flexibility.

Keep this important concept in mind when planning activities for children. Low-resistance
activities that are continually repetitive— such as swimming, riding a tricycle, or pushing one’s
wheelchair up a gradual incline or around the playground, walking distances, running, and
jumping—will promote both muscular endurance and
Teachers can support children’s developing muscular strength, muscular endurance, and
flexibility with the following:

✓ Encourage the development of muscular strength and endurance through building
activities that involve per-forming “work” repeatedly.

✓ Promote cardiovascular endurance through repeated muscular endurance activities.
✓ Promote muscular endurance and strength in the muscles of the upper body through

the use of playground equipment that encourages climbing, hanging, and swinging.
✓ Allow for supervised risk taking.
✓ Engage children in the setup of the play space and the return of materials to their

original space.
✓ Promote increased joint flexibility through animal walks, nursery rhymes, and story

plays.
✓ Encourage practice in fundamental movement skills and perceptual-motor activities that

contribute to children’s physical fitness.29

29 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission;
The California Preschool Learning Foundations (Volume 2) by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Vignette
When the weather permits, Ms. Jennifer takes her class outdoors to play in
the designated play space. She is intrigued by the many types of activities in
which her children choose to engage. She is quick to notice that several are
in almost perpetual motion, running to and fro with seemingly endless
energy and little purpose to their activity. Others tend to gravitate to the
sandbox and other fine motor activities. Still others are hesitant to explore
and reluctant to participate in any self-initiated free-play activities.

Knowing the importance of active physical play, Ms. Jennifer develops
strategies intended to maximize meaningful participation in a variety of
activities that promote active participation by all, cardiovascular endurance,
muscular strength, muscular endurance, and joint flexibility. These
strategies take into account children’s personal preferences, likes and
dislikes, and sense of success and accomplishment.

Over several months of engaging in active play with children and
encouraging them to try new things, she notices a decided change in
behavior. The children are now more fully engaged in play activities that are
purposeful, meaningful, safe, and fun. 30

Engaging Families
Teachers need to develop some patterns for continuous communication with parents and
caregivers. Families are an important force in children’s lives and in the physical activities
children engage in. Some people believe that fundamental movement skills are only used
outdoors. Although the outdoor environment offers a series of appealing possibilities, such as
open space and the chance to use all-out force, indoor spaces also offer an array of
opportunities for continued practice of the fundamental movement skills.

Here are some ideas for engaging families in supporting children’s physical development.

✓ Create a newsletter to be given to families periodically. Photos of their children,
pictures, and documents in the family’s home language about what their children are
learning about fundamental movement skills can be included. This may require
translation; however, the connection with the families is worth the effort. Provide some
stories and pictures of children in action

✓ Provide suggestions for activities that will support children’s continuous fundamental
motor skill development. Be specific about how. For instance, suggest families that
when they go to the park, they can ask their child to show a balance position or a
balance movement they learned at preschool, demonstrate a favorite way to move fast
or slow, or show how he or she plays with balls.

30 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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✓ Ask families about the kind of balance, locomotor, and manipulative activities they did
when they were young children. They can write them down or verbally communicate
with the teachers and their children. This information can be incorporated into future
activities and open a door of communication to discuss physical development in the past
and in the present.

✓ Talk about the importance of physical development for both boys and girls and how
gender issues may affect children. Girls already receive encouragement for manipulative
skills, as do boys for locomotor skills. These reflections and conversations can bring
opportunities to close this gap and explain to parents the importance of physical activity
in today’s society.

✓ Encourage families to ask their children about the movement skills the children are
learning at their preschool.

Figure 13.15: Hosting a play event for families is one way to get families involved in their children’s physical

development.31

✓ Inform families about the importance of having their children wear comfortable clothes

and shoes so they can move easily and freely during physical development activities.
✓ Ask children to show their families the movements they are learning at their preschool.
✓ Have a family “Show and Tell Day” where children show and tell families their favorite

fundamental movement skills.
✓ Ask children to identify the movement skills of the athletes in sport games family

members are watching and then demonstrate those skills. This is a way to engage family
members’ interest in their child’s fundamental movement skills development.

✓ Suggest ways for children to help around the home and at the same time practice their
fundamental movement skills. Examples include matching and rolling their socks and
tossing them from a short distance into the laundry basket or drawer. Helping to unpack
groceries and placing them on shelves provides children with an activity to develop
manipulative skills and strengthen their hands. Families can create a safe obstacle

31 Image by the Department of Defense is in the public domain

https://dod.defense.gov/News/Special-Reports/0417_militarychild/

https://dod.defense.gov/

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course in their homes where children can move under and over furniture by using
locomotor skills.

✓ Encourage families to provide time for children to perform independent daily living
activities, such as brushing teeth or getting dressed. Children need time to manipulate
objects such as toothpaste caps, zippers on their clothing, and lids of food containers.

✓ Encourage families to take their children outside to safe, open spaces and play areas
where they can use fundamental movement skills.

✓ Encourage children to use words or signs to identify or describe their body parts when
they are completing personal-care activities such as getting dressed or bathing.

✓ Provide opportunities for children to interact with adults and help around the home
with activities such as putting away their toys, putting away groceries, sorting laundry,
or bringing dirty dishes to the kitchen.

✓ When out in the community, such as at the park or grocery store, communicate with
children about objects in the environment. Encourage them to describe where trees,
buildings, cars, and other objects are located in relation to one another.

✓ When looking at books or pictures together, talk about how the characters are
positioned and how they are moving their bodies.

✓ When children are playing, ask them to describe what they are doing with their bodies.
✓ Create an “Activity Recall Chart” to be used in the classroom first, then at home. Have

children recall and categorize their activity into Sedentary, Moderate, and Vigorous.
✓ Have a “Family Dance Party.”
✓ Model healthy behavior.
✓ Take an adventure walk to school.
✓ Develop a list of “can do” family rules for active physical play.
✓ Take part in family rough-and-tumble play that respects the rights and wishes of all.
✓ Proper clothing for indoor and out-door family activities is a must.
✓ Make a FITT activity chart. Frequency (how often per week), Intensity (how hard one

plays), Type (of activity), and Time (length of activity). Have all family members decide
what they want to do. Mark off what they do throughout the week and review at the
end of the week.32

Pause to Reflect
What ways to encourage the practice of fundamental movement skills at
home would you most want to share with parents? How might you share
these ideas with them?

Conclusion
Until recently, the physical development of young children was often taken for granted. Family
members and caregivers had a tendency to assume that children, by virtue of being children,

32 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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got plenty of physical activity as a normal part of their daily routine. The results of over a
decade of research comparing the present, more sedentary generation of children to previous
generations clearly reveals an alarming trend toward increased obesity, diabetes, asthma, and
other health-impairing conditions.

Fortunately, a resurgence of interest in the vital importance of young children’s physical
development is taking place throughout California and the nation.

Those working with young children have recognized that developing fundamental movement
skills; learning perceptual-motor skills and movement concepts, and engaging in active physical
play are essential to the total balanced development of children. The development of
fundamental movement skills provides a basis for an active way of life. Attaining proficiency in a
myriad of fundamental balance, locomotor, and manipulative skills equips children for active
participation in physical activities for a lifetime.

Perceptual-motor skills and basic movement concepts are important to the many time and
space concepts that children acquire as they get ready for more formal types of instruction and
learning. Body-awareness, spatial-awareness, and directional-awareness concepts can be
taught and learned through both teacher-directed and self-directed play.

Figure 13.16: What types of physical development does playing at the water table support?33

However, children need encouragement, instruction, and sufficient opportunities for practice in
supportive environments to learn fundamental movement skills, perceptual-motor skills, and
movement concepts. Preschool programs and families play a critical role in maximizing
children’s development in these areas.

33 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Active physical play in preschool is a means by which children (and adults) can engage in
physical activities that promote healthy lifestyles and a genuine zest for life. Through active
participation in self-directed and adult-facilitated play, children acquire increased
cardiovascular endurance, muscular endurance, muscular strength, and flexibility. Young
children have not only movement skills and perceptual abilities; they also have the joy of
movement.

Learning to move and moving to learn are too important to be left to chance. Parents and
teachers have a precious opportunity to help set the stage for young children to enjoy physical
activity for a lifetime.34

34 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Chapter 14: Health and Safety
Objectives:
By the end of the chapter, you should be able to:

• Explain how good planning supports children’s health, safety, and nutrition.

• Describe the foundations in health, safety, and nutrition that high quality programming
supports children in reaching

• Discuss how educators should approach curriculum in health, safety, and nutrition

• Identify ways for educators to support health, safety, and nutrition

• Summarize ways to engage families in curriculum for health, safety, and nutrition

Introduction
One way to foster healthy lifestyles is to encourage the development of health-promoting
habits during early childhood. Preschool education about health can begin a lifelong process of
learning about oneself, relationships to others, and the world. Preschool children’s experiences
with their health and ways to improve it, both at home and in the early childhood setting,
enhance their desire and ability to make healthy decisions throughout their lives.

Figure 14.1: Positive experiences relating to dental health are valuable.1

The preschool health foundations describe the health knowledge, attitudes, habits, and
behaviors that set the groundwork for all preschool children to develop into healthy adults.
They explain what children should know about health, and what health habits and practices
should be part of their daily routines when they are provided with high-quality health education
in preschool. These skills and behaviors set young children on the path toward health and
healthy lifestyle choices. 2

1 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission
2 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Guiding Principles in Supporting Children’s Health, Safety,
and Nutrition
An integrated and comprehensive approach is most effective when preschool children are
taught about health. Health education does not stand alone in the preschool curriculum. It is
integrated with the other domains. Health is comprehensive. Health education involves ideas
directly relevant to the child, such as “How do I grow?” Preschool teachers work with children
who are naturally curious and eager to learn about their bodies and how each part works. A
developmentally appropriate curriculum promotes overall health (e.g., wellness, safety, oral
health, nutrition) and integrates topic areas. For example, a discussion about safety rules might
include nutrition and sanitation.

Figure 14.2: Children can explore their understanding of health through dramatic play.3

Teachers address ideas and concepts that children can grasp at their developmental level and
then progressively build on what children already know and understand. This approach applies
to all children, including children with various abilities, disabilities, or other special needs (such
as delays in language, cognition, or physical ability).

• Health knowledge is individualized.

• Preschool children and their families possess diverse backgrounds and cultural practices.

• Learning about health practices has a language component.

• Children’s personal health status (i.e., physical, mental, emotional) affects their ability to
learn and develop in all domains.

• The overall theme of health education for preschool is personal health.

• Children learn through their experiences, including play, routines and scripts, modeling,
and developing and sustaining relationships at preschool. This learning is supported
through adult scaffolding.

3 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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• Practicing scripts, or behavioral rules, can foster the development of certain health-
promoting behaviors or skills.

• The preschool program provides both indoor and outdoor environments that are safe
and appropriate, challenging, and inviting for all children.

• Teachers help children feel secure by assuring them that there are adults who will take
care of them (e.g., parents, family members, teachers, health care providers, special
needs assistants).4

Environmental Factors in Supporting Children’s Health,
Safety, & Nutrition
Children learn most effectively in a safe, inviting environment in which they can freely explore
and challenge themselves. Health and safety in the preschool program, both indoors and
outdoors, includes environment, supervision, and education. Environment is the first
component of safety; a safe environment allows children to explore, play, and learn without
unnecessary restriction. The environment should be set up and maintained to reduce the risk of
injury and disease transmission.

Proper supervision of children is essential, and the required adult-to-child ratios must be met at
all times, including periods when children play outdoors, are transported, and go on field trips.
The most effective supervision includes active involvement with children’s learning: teachers
move around the room with children, attend to children and their interactions, make eye
contact, encourage children verbally, and model appropriate voice and actions.

Education is multifaceted. Teachers promote children’s learning through discussion, modeling,
and daily routines through active participation. An accessible and supportive environment with
appropriate facilities and items allows children to practice and demonstrate progress in
learning.

The following recommendations apply to establishing the preschool environment that supports
children’s health, safety, and nutrition.

• Establish a physical learning environment designed for children’s initiative.

• Provide safe, inviting learning environments, and appropriate supervision of children.

• Maintain a clean, healthy, and sanitary environment. Incorporate cleaning and sanitizing
into the daily routine.

• Have supplies available and accessible to promote routine health practices.

• Provide stimulating and developmentally appropriate materials in interest areas for
children’s use during play.

• Provide furnishing and utensils appropriate for children’s size and abilities.

4 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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• Be creative and include a gardening space, either indoors or outdoors, where children
can plant seeds, tend the garden, and watch the plants grow.5

Figure 14.3: A classroom garden is an excellent way to involve children and provide good nutrition.6

Pause to Reflect
What are practices that teachers should engage in and ways to design the
environment that support the health, safety, and nutrition of all children
(including those from diverse backgrounds and those with special needs or
disabilities)?

5 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
6 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Research Highlight
Cleaning and disinfecting is essential. Studies have shown that some germs,
including influenza virus, can survive on surfaces for two to eight hours;
rotavirus can survive up to 10 days. Cleaning with soap and water removes
visible soil. After cleaning, disinfection (sanitizing) kills bacteria, viruses, and
fungi (i.e., “germs”). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
states that a bleach and water solution of one tablespoon household bleach
to one quart water is effective. Wet the surface with the solution and allow
to air dry. Mix fresh bleach solution each day to maintain effectiveness, and
store in a clearly labeled spray bottle out of children’s reach. Research
shows that other chemicals (e.g., ammonia, vinegar, baking soda, Borax)
are not effective against some bacteria.7

Source:

W. Rutala and D. Weber, Guidelines for Disinfection and Sterilization of Healthcare
Facilities, 2008.

Introducing the Foundations
The preschool learning foundations for safety, health, and nutrition are organized into three
broad categories, or strands:

• Health Habits

• Safety

• Nutrition

These describe the health knowledge, skills, and behaviors that preschool children typically
develop in a quality preschool environment. Through supportive communication and
participation in everyday routines and activities, children begin to develop behaviors such as
making food choices, engaging in physical activity, and maintaining personal safety and oral
health. These skills and behaviors set young children on the path toward health and healthy
lifestyle choices. The specific foundations are included later in the chapter as each strand is
explored.

They represent a vision of young children’s developmental process, not an expectation. Each
child enters preschool with a genetic background, developmental characteristics, an individual
level of knowledge and skills, and understanding of everyday routines. The differences are
based not only on the child’s age, but also on the child’s developmental level, prior experiences,
and special needs. It is the responsibility of adults to help each child to develop the knowledge,
skills, and behavior that promote healthy development.8

7 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
8 The California Preschool Learning Foundations (Volume 2) by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Supporting Health Habits
Teachers can help children establish positive health habits. This learning is progressive, and
preschool teaching often focuses on scripts and routines for prevention of disease and injury.
Later, as children grow and develop knowledge and skills, they begin to believe and understand
that they are responsible for their own health.

Figure 14.4: Learning to brush your teeth well is an important lifelong skill to protect dental health.9

Health Habits includes basic hygiene, oral health, knowledge of wellness, and sun safety.

1.0 Basic Hygiene
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.1 Demonstrate knowledge of some steps in
the handwashing routine.

1.1 Demonstrate knowledge of more steps in
the handwashing routine.

1.2 Practice health habits that prevent
infectious diseases and infestations (such
as lice) when appropriate, with adult
support, instruction, and modeling.

1.2 Begin to independently practice health
habits that prevent infectious disease and
infestations (such as lice) when
appropriate, with less adult support,
instruction, and modeling.

2.0 Oral Health
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.1 Demonstrate knowledge of some steps of
the routine for brushing teeth, with adult
supervision and instruction.

2.1 Demonstrate knowledge of more steps of
the routine for brushing and when
toothbrushing should be done, with less
adult supervision.

9 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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3.0 Knowledge of Wellness
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

3.1 Identify a few internal body parts (most
commonly the bones, brain, and heart)
but may not understand their basic
function.

3.1 Identify several different internal body
parts and demonstrate a basic, limited
knowledge of some functions.

3.2 Begin to understand that healthcare
providers try to keep people well and help
them when they are not well.

3.2 Demonstrate greater understanding that
health-care providers try to keep people
well and help them when they are not
well.

3.3 Communicate to an adult about not
feeling well, feeling uncomfortable, or
about a special health need, with varying
specificity and reliability.

3.3 Communicate to an adult about not
feeling well, feeling uncomfortable, or
about a special health need, with more
specificity and reliability.

4.0 Sun Safety
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

4.1 Begin to practice sun-safe actions, with
adult support and guidance.

4.1 Practice sun-safe actions with decreasing
adult support and guidance.

Teacher-guided activities on health habits may be used to introduce or focus attention on a
specific topic or concept. However, learning is primarily achieved through children’s daily
routines (e.g., washing hands at certain times, brushing teeth after meals) and verbal or
nonverbal scripts that illustrate the desired lifelong behavior (e.g., using tissue when blowing
the nose, coughing into elbows). Children demonstrate knowledge of body parts, disease
prevention, and wellness as they practice routines and develop descriptive scripts (e.g., “We
wash our hands, fingers, and wrists”; “I’m going to brush my teeth and tongue”); they begin to
understand more difficult concepts through scaffolding.
Teachers can support children’s development of the Health Habits foundations with the
following:

• Teach children how to wash their hands.

• Practice toothbrushing skills.

• Model basic hygiene and disease prevention actions throughout the day (including issue
tissue to blow nose, sneezing and coughing into their elbows, using napkins, brushing
teeth, using utensils to serve foods, etc.).

• Remind children about health practices throughout the day. Include strategically placed
visual reminders throughout the environment.

• Incorporate handwashing, toothbrushing, sun safety, and other health practices in the
daily routine.

• Use visuals aids to demonstrate invisible germs.

• Reinforce learning with stories and music.

• Observe individual children attentively. Learn what experiences, knowledge, skills, and
abilities each child has to determine where they are at in the learning process.

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• Build communication and vocabulary skills. Use children’s home languages. Tell them
stories and have them draw stories about health routines (such as visiting the dentist).
Introduce words that apply to different topics of safety (such as protect).

• Encourage pretend play, especially to work through their fears. Provide special interest
areas (doctor’s office, dentist office, eye doctor’s office, etc.) with props for role playing.

• Provide hats and look at how each might protect children from the sun. Encourage
children to dramatize protecting baby dolls from the sun.

• Encourage children to explore and accept differences. Children recognize physical
differences and the different health practices, meal setups and food choices, and safety
considerations.

• Use correct terminology for body parts in both English and children’s home languages.

Figure 14.5: Proper handwashing is one of the most effective ways of staying healthy.10

• Familiarize children with health helpers (lab technicians, nutritionists, dentists, eye
doctors) and include others that may be utilized by their families (chiropractors,
acupuncturists, midwives, etc.).

• Consider offering health screenings for children to develop familiarity with health
helpers.

• Integrate health promotion and sun safety with other topics and domains.

• Provide visual representations of health helpers (ensure that you show both male and
females, various ethnicities, and various ages of people).

• Enhance children’s knowledge and understanding through problem solving (whichealth
helper would provide assistance for different situations.

10 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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• Model and share information each day about practices (such as applying first aid for an
injury) that support health.

• Integrate sun safety with emergency preparedness and safety.

• Encourage decision making. Have children protect themselves from the sun.

• Promote sun safety everywhere, every day, all year long for each and every child.

• Ensure that children have access to appropriate sun safety items.11

11 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission;
The California Preschool Learning Foundations (Volume 2) by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Vignettes
The children are playing indoors when Miss Marie reminds them that it is
time to prepare for lunch. She begins to sing a handwashing song as
children leave their interest areas. Some of the children begin singing as
they wash their hands. The song follows the familiar “Row, Row, Row Your
Boat” tune, and the children enjoy singing it in both English and Spanish.

English:
Wash, wash, wash my hands
Make them nice and clean
Rub the bottoms and the tops
And fingers in between

Spanish:
Lava, Lava, Lava mis manos
Lavalas muy limpias
Lavalas de arriba y abajo y
Entre mis dedos de las manos

The children have learned that if they sing the song two times while
washing their hands, then their hands should be clean! Miss Marie sings
along with the children as she observes the handwashing process. She helps
Tonya, who has a hearing impairment, by clapping along with the song;
Tonya can look in the mirror above the sink to see when the song (clapping)
ends. The younger children sometimes need help in dispensing the soap
and turning the water on and off; the older children enjoy helping the
younger ones and like to model their handwashing skills.

Mr. Jeff is putting sunscreen on four preschoolers. “Mr. Jeff, why do we
have to put this sticky stuff on every day?” asks Mary. As he removes his
gloves and puts away the sunscreen bottle, he explains, “The sun is good
for us. It gives us light and warmth. But too much sun is not good for your
skin. We put on the sunscreen to protect our skin from too much sun.”
Javier says, “I don’t burn. I don’t need this.” Mr. Jeff replies, “Everyone
needs to be sun-safe.” Mr. Jeff encourages the children to run, jump, and
try new activities as they play outdoors.12

12 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Pause to Reflect
What do you remember from your own childhood about learning how to take
care of your health (handwashing, tooth brushing, first aid, sun safety, etc.)?
What roles did the adults in your life play in those experiences?

Supporting Safety
Preschool children deserve to live and play in safe environments. It is the adult’s responsibility
to keep children safe; children should not be expected to actively protect themselves. Preschool
safety education helps children develop safety awareness and the realization that they can
control some aspects of their safety through certain actions.

The earlier children learn about safety, the more naturally they will develop the attitudes and
respect that lead to lifelong patterns of safe behavior. Safety education involves teaching safe
actions while helping children understand possible consequences of unsafe behavior.

Figure 14.6: Children can be taught safety rules that give them an active role in keeping themselves safe.13

This section on safety addresses children’s ability to follow safety rules, emergency routines,
and transportation and pedestrian safety rules.

13 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Safety

1.0 Injury Prevention
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.1 Follow safety rules with adult support and
prompting.

1.1 Follow safety rules more independently
though may still need adult support and
prompting.

1.2 Begin to show ability to follow emergency
routines after instruction and practice (for
example, a fire drill or earthquake drill).

1.2 Demonstrate increased ability to follow
emergency routines after instruction and
practice.

1.3 Show beginning ability to follow
transportation and pedestrian safety rules
with adult instruction and supervision.

1.3 Show increased ability to follow
transportation and pedestrian safety
rules with adult support and supervision.

Teachers can support children’s development of the Safety foundations with the following:

• Incorporate safety activities into the daily routine.

• Involve children in creating rules. Limit the number of rules and keep them simple.

• Provide coaching and gentle reminders to help children follow safety rules. Use visuals
with pictures and simple words in English and home languages.

• Promote independence while developing other skills.

• Provide time for children to practice individual skills (rather than just telling them about
them).

• Introduce concepts and behaviors in simple steps. Build upon previous learning.

• Role-play safety helpers. Recognize that levels of trust with emergency and safety
workers will vary from child to child based on their experiences and the environment
they live in.

• Take field trips and bring in safety helpers (police officers, firefighters, crossing guards,
paramedics, and others).

• Define emergency and have children practice problem solving with different emergency
situations.

• Introduce safety signs. Help children learn to recognize important symbols (and their
corresponding printed words).

• Incorporate music with safety songs. Children can learn to state their name and address
with the help of a simple song.14

14 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission;
The California Preschool Learning Foundations (Volume 2) by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Figure 14:7: Explaining to children why it’s important to be buckled in helps them understand safety.15

Vignette
Ms. Linda is preparing her preschoolers for the first fire drill of the year. She
has read several books about fire safety to the children. The class enjoyed a
visit from Deloria’s mother, who is a firefighter. The children are excited
about their first fire drill, but they are not sure what to expect. Ms. Linda
plays a tape of the school fire alarm and explains that the real warning
alarm will be very loud. The fire alarm means everyone must leave the
building.

“Now we are going to practice listening and preparing to leave the
classroom,” says Ms. Linda. “It will be like playing Follow the Leader, and I
will be the leader.” The children are eager to try this new experience, and it
is difficult for them to listen quietly. Several of the children are learning
English so Ms. Linda uses words in the other languages of the children, as
well as English, to focus their attention and explain the steps. Prior to this
practice, Ms. Linda presented a list of key words and phrases to parents
who speak languages other than English and obtained the relevant
translations. She combines words and hand signals to direct the children.
Ms. Linda explains that she will assist Juan, who is in a wheelchair, during
the fire drill.

Ms. Linda demonstrates what to do when the alarm sounds (e.g., stand up,
stay quiet) before the children practice. They practice this routine each day
that week so they will be ready for the actual drill on Friday.16

15 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission
16 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Research Highlight
Unintentional injury is the leading cause of death of children ages fourteen
and under. Motor vehicle injuries are the leading cause of death among
children in the United States; each year more than 200,000 children are
treated in emergency departments for play-ground-related injuries;
children ages four years and younger are susceptible to residential fire
deaths and injuries; and children under age six years are more likely to
experience unintentional poisoning. The good news is that the number of
deaths caused by unintentional injuries to children has dropped in recent
years; from 1987 to 2004, there was a 43 percent decrease.

Death rates among California children ages one to four years declined
slightly from 2000 to 2005; however, the death rates for young children
remained significantly higher than the target established in Healthy People
2010.

Child injury prevention efforts continue throughout the United States. For
example, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have child restraint laws;
and 21 states, the District of Columbia, and over 140 localities have enacted
some form of mandatory child bicycle helmet legislation. In addition, all
national and regional code-making bodies have amended their plumbing-
code language to require anti-scald technology and a maximum water
heater temperature of 120 degrees Fahrenheit in all newly constructed
residential units.

The state of California has been a leader in advocating child safety. It has
enacted laws requiring the use of bike helmets, personal flotation devices,
and child safety seats; prohibiting adults from leaving children alone in
motor vehicles; and imposing criminal liability on adults who allow children
to have access to loaded firearms.17

Sources:

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, CDC, Injury Topics and Fact Sheets, 2010.
http://www.cdc.gov/ncipc/ factsheets/children.htm (accessed August 1, 2011.

Safe Kids USA, Trends in Unintentional Childhood Injury Deaths, 2007. http://
www.usa.safekids.org/content_docu-ments/2007_InjuryTrends (accessed March 3,
2010).

California Department of Public Health, Focus Area 16: Maternal, Infant, and Child Health,
Healthy People 2010 (Sacramento: California Department of Public Health, 2009).
Safe Kids USA, Research Reports.

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Safe Kids USA, Preventing Injuries: At Home, At Play, and On the Way, 2009.
http://www.safekids.org/in-your-area/safety-laws/find-safety-laws.html?legstate=CA
(accessed April 26, 2010).

Pause to Reflect
Some children find learning about safety to be frightening. What should you
keep in mind to help children deal with their fears surrounding staying safe?

Supporting Nutrition
Lifelong eating habits are shaped during a child’s early years. Teachers of young children have a
special opportunity to help children establish a healthy relationship with food and lay the
foundation for sound eating habits. Nutrition education and activities help set children on the
path to a healthful lifestyle. Providing nutritionally balanced meals and snacks and integrating
nutrition education and healthy eating habits in the home and early childhood environment can
help prevent health risks such as childhood obesity.

Nutrition education is integrated with the other domains of learning. Through food and cooking
activities, children also develop skills in math, science, art, language and literacy, social science,
health and self-care, and social skills. Nutrition education for preschoolers fosters children’s
awareness of different types of foods and promotes exploration and inquiry of food choices.
Lifelong habits with foods are developed during early childhood. Through nutrition education in
preschool, teachers encourage children to include a wide variety of foods that provide
adequate nutrients in their daily diet.

Figure 14.8: Providing nutrient dense foods, such as fruit and milk, for children is important.18

17 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
18 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Nutrition includes: nutrition knowledge, nutrition choices, and self-regulation of eating.
Through knowledge, children become aware of different foods and tastes, some of which are
familiar and others that are new. As they explore various foods and food preparations, they
develop likes and dislikes and begin to make choices based on preference. Both nutrition
choices and self-regulation of eating—that is, eating when hungry, chewing food thoroughly,
eating slowly, and stopping when full— involve decision-making skills.

Nutrition

1.0 Nutrition Knowledge
At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

1.1 Identify different kinds of foods. 1.1 Identify a larger variety of foods and may
know some of the related food groups.

2.0 Nutrition Choices

At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

2.1 Demonstrate a beginning understanding
that eating a variety of food helps the
body grow and be healthy, and choose
from a variety of foods at mealtimes.

2.1 Demonstrate greater understanding that
eating a variety of food helps the body
grow and be healthy, and choose from a
greater variety of foods at mealtimes.

2.2 Indicate food preferences that reflect
familial and cultural practices.

2.2 Indicate food preference based on
familial and cultural practices and on
some knowledge of healthy choices.

3.0 Self-Regulation of Eating

At around 48 months of age At around 60 months of age

3.1 Indicate awareness of own hunger and
fullness.

3.1 Indicate greater awareness of own
hunger and fullness.

Teachers can support children’s development of the Nutrition foundations with the following:

• Introduce many different foods. This can be done through books, meals and snacks, and
cooking activities. Include familiar and novel foods and foods from the various cultural
backgrounds of the children and their families.

• Recognize and accommodate differences in eating habits and food choices. Provide
explanations for differences (e.g., eating from communal dishes, feeding tubes, avoiding
certain foods, etc.) by having a family member or specialist come in to explain.

• Provide opportunities and encouragement in food exploration. Encourage children to
explore with all five senses.

• Integrate nutrition with the other areas of learning through cooking activities.

• Show children where food is produced. Expand nutrition education through field trips to
gardens, farms, orchards, local produce markets, kitchens, restaurants, grocery stores,

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etc. and bring in visiting experts (e.g., farmers, food co-op members, community
gardeners).

• Start a garden in which the children actively work. Allow them to plant, water, and care
for the garden.

• Help children experience gardening as they raise herbs, fruits, or vegetables.

• Establish special interest areas for children to engage in dramatic play (e.g., grocery
stores, restaurants, picnics, etc.).

• Encourage role playing by providing props including: place mats, tablecloths, table-
setting items, pretend food items, cooking utensils, menus, and other items that
represent the children’s families.

• Integrate nutrition education with basic hygiene education (e.g., washing hands before
and after preparing food) and other learning areas (e.g., singing songs and discussions).

• Model and coach children’s behaviors. Each what the children are being served.

• Encourage children to share information about family meals. Explore cultural diversity
and how children’s families eat at home.

Figure 14.9: Healthy food, served family style sets the stage for great nutrition.19

• Serve snacks and meals family style. Adults and children eat together, share the same
food, and talk with each other informally.

• Encourage tasting all foods, but don’t compel them to taste or eat certain foods.

• Serve foods prepared in many ways (e.g., raw, grilled, steamed, cut in shapes,
shredded,).

• Combine new foods with familiar ones.

• Be aware of individual food restrictions and help children make appropriate choices.

• Offer a variety of nutritious, appetizing foods in small portions.

• Encourage children to chew their food well and eat slowly.

19 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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• Teach children to recognize signs of hunger. Encourage children to decide how much to
eat and to stop when they feel full.

• Discuss how the body uses food.

• Reinforce learning throughout the day (not just at meal and snack times).20

20 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission;
Content by Clint Springer is licensed under CC BY 4.0
The California Preschool Learning Foundations (Volume 2) by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psfoundationsvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Vignettes
Ms. Tsikudo has invited Ava’s mother, Zhiying, to tell the class about
Taiwan. Zhiying was born and grew up in Taiwan. Zhiying has brought many
family photos, as well as photos of the beautiful scenery of Taiwan. After
showing the photos and taking questions from children, she shares with
children a large durian and a few star fruits, fruits that people in Taiwan like
to eat. Ms. Tsikudo helps to carry the durian on a plate and moves around
the class to ask children to touch it. “How does the skin feel?” “Bumpy!”
Children reply with excitement. Meanwhile, Zhiying has sliced the star fruits
and starts to pass them around. “What do the pieces look like?” she asks.
“Stars!” reply the children. Ms. Tsikudo picks up one slice of star fruit, puts
it into her mouth, and says “I have never had star fruit before. Yum! I like
the taste of this fruit. Who wants to try?” Some children raise their hands
to try the fruit.

“I don’t like that.” Every day at lunch for the past three weeks, Amy said the
same thing. She would eat the meat and fruit but would not taste any
vegetables or bread. Mr. Rios asked Mrs. Gardner, Amy’s grandmother,
“What does Amy like to eat at home?” Mrs. Gardner replied, “She has
never eaten very much at one time, and now all she wants is mashed
potatoes. She looks healthy, but I’m worried about her.”

Mr. Rios continued to observe Amy’s eating habits and encouraged her to
try other foods. As the children served their plates, he asked them about
the different colors and smells. Using small serving utensils, he encouraged
each child to take a small amount. If a child said he did not want it, Mr. Rios
assured him that he did not have to eat it but gently encouraged him to put
a tiny bit on his plate.

As Mr. Rios planned learning activities for the following weeks, he included
a cooking activity along with snack time two days each week. He involved
children’s families by asking them to send ideas or simple recipes for
favorite snack foods. Through these activities, the children were introduced
to different foods, some new and some familiar, and various methods of
food preparation (e.g., cooked versus raw, single food versus combined
foods).21

21 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Research Highlight
Fear of new foods is common in children. It may take many tries before a
child will taste a new food and up to 20 exposures before a child decides he
likes or truly dislikes a food. Food jags (when a child will eat only one food
item meal after meal) are also common. Food jags rarely last long enough
to cause harm. Children’s eating habits are a way for them to feel
independent. They reflect typical development in children.

Some children have disabilities or other issues that affect their decisions
about foods. Children with autism often have very limited food
preferences; some children may have sensory issues and avoid specific
textures or food items. Other children may not like it when different types
of foods touch each other on the plate or may wish to eat foods in a
particular order. Be aware of differences in children’s preferences and
eating habits, and consult with the child’s family and specialist to ensure
that needs are met.22

Sources:

Medline Plus, Food Jags, 2007. http:// www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/
article/002425.htm (accessed March 3, 2010).

E. Satter, The Picky Eater. https:// ellynsatter.com/showArticle.jsp?id=265&section=278
(accessed March 3, 2010).

American Academy of Pediatrics, Feeding Kids Right Isn’t Always Easy: Tips for Pre-venting
Food Hassles, 2008. http://www. healthychildren.org/English/healthy-
living/nutrition/pages/Hassle-Free-Meal- Time.aspx (accessed May 11, 2010).

University of Maryland Medical Center, Food Jags – Overview, 2007.
http://www.umm.edu/ency/article/002425.htm (accessed March 3, 2010).

Pause to Reflect
How are your own eating habits and nutritional practices? Why is it important
for you to reflect on this?

Engaging Families
Teachers can use the following strategies to help families to develop their children’s health
habits:

22 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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• Provide families with concise, accurate information about ways to promote and develop
good health habits in children. Information should be presented in English and home
languages.

• Share written and visual safety messages with families through newsletters, brochures,
and bulletin boards, web pages, and take home activities in English and home
languages. Emphasize safety issues that relate to your program and community.

• Provide individualized information as well as general health information to all families.
Provide safety information, especially those that involve higher risk in specific
communities (e.g., water safety, gun safety, or lead poisoning). Use daily contact,
workshops, and parent meetings to share information. Make sure workshops and
meetings are offered at a variety of times and provide child care.

• During family conferences, find out what messages family members would like
reinforced at school. Safety rules and supervision may differ at home.

• Post emergency plans on family bulletin boards and provide families a written copy of
the program’s emergency plans.

• Encourage families to plan and practice emergency drills for fires, earthquakes, floods,
violent encounters, or other emergency situations that might occur in their homes and
communities.

• As you introduce health routines (e.g., handwashing and toothbrushing), invite family
members to participate and model.

• Encourage families to contribute ideas or materials to interest areas that reflect diverse
health habits at home.

• Invite family members to help children learn about people who can help in emergency
situations (firefighters, paramedics, construction workers, electricians, meteorologists,
cleaning businesses, etc.)

• Be sensitive and respectful of different values or beliefs, as well as varying levels of
access to health products and services.

• Gather information on available and accessible health, safety, and nutrition resources in
the community, including those for children with special needs, and provide this
information to all families, translated into their home languages.

• Provide families with weekly or monthly menus in their home languages.

• Recognize families have the most information about their children’s food preference,
serving styles, and restrictions in eating habits.

• Offer workshops and information on nutritious and economical meals based on the
families’ cultural, ethnic, and personal food preferences.

• Encourage families to use available community resources for meal planning.

• Provide lists of foods or simple recipes for a variety of foods that are nutrient-dense, low
fat, sodium, and sugar, and look and taste great. Include foods that reflect cultural
preferences and are available locally.

• Encourage families to involve children in food preparation.

• Invite families to share their favorite family recipes.

• Invite families to visit the classroom and to sit with children during mealtimes and
participate in nutrition related activities.

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• Include families in planning the menu and meal-service routines.

• Provide information to all families on nutrition, child growth and development, nutrition
risk factors, and community resources.

• Encourage families to ask questions and provide information about their children’s
eating habits or nutritional concerns.23

Figure 14.10: Information can be shared with parents formally, like in this workshop, or more informally.24

Pause to Reflect
Hygiene and nutrition are very much influenced by culture. What do educators
need to remember when working with families whose culture relating to these
things might be very different than their own?

Conclusion
The early years of children’s lives are crucial to the development of behaviors that contribute to
good health, and early childhood teachers can significantly enhance opportunities for young
children to learn about health by providing appropriate experiences. Many adult chronic
diseases and conditions, such as obesity, diabetes, and heart disease, are related to lifestyle
choices about nutrition and fitness and often begin in childhood.

23 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission
24 Image is in the public domain

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.navy.mil/view_image.asp?id=48427

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Figure 14.11: Staying active is another way to promote health and wellness.25

A respectful and integrated approach that meshes home and preschool environments and
involves responsible adults can help children initiate a lifelong process of learning about
themselves, their relationships to others, and the world around them. Health education is an
essential part of the curriculum for young children. The topic of health is incorporated into daily
routines and the environment; it is also the focus of planned learning activities. Early child-hood
educators have the challenge of modeling a healthy lifestyle for the children they teach—one
that will benefit both themselves and the children.26

25 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission
26 The California Preschool Curriculum Framework, Volume 2 by the California Department of Education is used
with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/psframeworkvol2

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Introduction to Planning for Other Ages
Objectives:
By the end of this introduction, you should be able to:

• Predict differences between planning for infants and toddlers and planning for
preschoolers

• Predict differences between planning for school-age children and planning from
preschoolers

Brief Introduction to Planning for Infant and Toddlers:
The basis for curriculum for infants and toddler is caregiving routines. Therefore, curriculum for
infants and toddlers is individualized. Chapter 15 goes into great detail on what the cycle of
curriculum planning looks like during the early years, including:

• Overarching principles for curriculum planning

• Program features that support effective curriculum

• The learning process during infancy and toddlerhood

• Facilitating infant and toddler development

• The cycle of curriculum planning

• Infant and toddler foundations
o Social/emotional development
o Language development
o Cognitive development
o Perceptual and motor development

Figure 1: One-on-one interactions are the foundation of infant/toddler curriculum.1

1 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Brief Introduction to Planning for School-Age Children
Children in kindergarten through grade 8, may be cared for in out-of-school programs that have
a variety of philosophies and approaches. School-age care may provide academic support (or
even focus) and should include recreation (after the school day). Chapter 16 discusses a general
framework of creating high-quality curriculum for school-age care programs based on a model
from Australia. The chapter addresses:

• Introducing the framework

• Pedagogy (the professional practice of educators)

• Principles of children’s play and learning

• Putting the framework into practice
o Holistic approaches
o Collaboration with children
o Learning through play
o Intentionality
o Environments
o Cultural competence
o Continuity and Transitions
o Evaluation

• Five outcomes for children’s well-being, development, and learning

• The curriculum planning cycle

Figure 2: These children pose with a banner they made at their school-age care program.2

2 Image by Staff Sgt. Vesta Anderson is in the public domain

https://www.tyndall.af.mil/News/Article-Display/Article/316487/school-age-program-openings-available/

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Chapter 15: What Curriculum Looks Like
for Infants and Toddlers

Objectives:
By the end of the chapter, you should be able to:

• Distinguish how curriculum planning for infants and toddlers is unique from planning for
older children

• Describe typical infant and toddler development

• Explain how relationships are the basis for learning and development during infancy and
toddlerhood

• Discuss the overarching principles of planning curriculum for infants and toddlers

• Connect how infants and toddlers learn to specific ways caregivers and teachers can
facilitate that process

• Relate the role of observation in curriculum planning for infants and toddlers

• Summarize how to support the foundations in social-emotional development, language
development, cognitive development, and perception and motor development during
infancy and toddlerhood

Why Look at Infant and Toddler Curriculum?
A majority of this book is focused mostly on children aged 3 to 5 years. But, it is important to
note how curriculum for the youngest children is a bit different. While the content in this
chapter could, and often is, the focus on an entire class, this chapter will highlight some
important considerations when planning and implementing curriculum with infants and
toddlers.

What Infants and Toddlers are Like
During the infant/toddler years, all children depend on responsive, secure relationships to
develop and learn. Let’s explore what infants and toddlers are like in terms of their progression
through developmental milestones, so that we can connect it to what they need from adults.
Here are some representations of what children are like as infants and toddlers. You can find
other ages and more developmental milestones in Appendix C.3

3 Content by Jennifer Paris is licensed under CC BY 4.0

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

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Figure 15.1: What infants and toddlers are like at different ages.4

Introduction
A fundamental consideration in planning curriculum for individual children is being responsive
to the competencies, experiences, interests, and needs of each child. California’s infant/toddler
population includes children who are culturally diverse, linguistically diverse, diverse in ability,
and from diverse socioeconomic backgrounds. Partnering with families is an important strategy

4 Graphics by Ian Joslin and Anthony Flores (licensed under CC BY 4.0) use the following images: image by Raoul
and Hannah Snyman (licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0), image (in the public domain), images by the CDC (in the public
domain), image by Spc. Anna K. Perry (in the public domain), image by the CDC (in the public domain), image by
Marine Cpl. Jessica L. Martinez (in the public domain)

https://koolkoalaj.com/portfolio

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

Technically she turned 2 months old about a week ago but I didn't take a specific two month pic. #annekejoy #twomonths #chubbierbytheday #sheonlyleftthebooblongenouggforthisphotoshoot #norly #growthspurt

Handmade 100% pure beef / bison burgers for mother

Handmade 100% pure beef / bison burgers for mother

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

https://www.beaufort.marines.mil/Photos/igphoto/2000015153/

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/pdf/parents_pdfs/milestonemomentseng508

https://www.cdc.gov/

https://archive.defense.gov/news/newsarticle.aspx?id=54063

https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/actearly/pdf/parents_pdfs/milestonemomentseng508

https://www.cdc.gov/

https://www.marines.mil/Photos?igphoto=10467

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for being responsive to individual children and for making curriculum individually and culturally
relevant.5

Figure 15.2: This little girl is showing a toy to her caregivers while her dad sits close by. When families and

caregivers form partnerships, amazing things can happen for infants and toddlers.6

Overarching Principles of Planning Curriculum for Infants
and Toddlers
When planning curriculum for infants and toddlers we should keep the following principles in
mind:

• The family is at the core of a young child’s learning and development. Family
relationships have more influence on a child’s learning and development than any other
relationships he has. Family members know him better than anyone else.

• Infant/toddler learning and development is grounded in relationships. Relationships
provide infants and toddlers a secure emotional base from which they can explore and
learn. Much of the cognitive, language, social, and physical learning a child experiences
occurs while interacting with an adult. In fact, relationships with others are at the center
of young children’s lives.

• Emotions drive early learning and development. A child’s emotional state drives early
learning and greatly influences learning in other domains. The pleasure an infant
experiences when receiving a positive response from a nurturing adult or when making
a discovery motivates the child to continue engaging in positive interactions and
exploration. For infants and toddlers, learning always has an emotional component.
They are highly sensitive to the emotional cues of other people and are emotionally
expressive in every situation

5 The California Infant/Toddler Curriculum Framework by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
6 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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• Responsiveness to children’s self-initiated exploration fosters learning. Research shows
that responsive care and nurturance not only promotes the development of emotional
security in children, but learning and development in general.

• Individualized teaching and care benefits all children. Each child is unique.
Infant/toddler care teachers use their understanding of each child’s blend of
temperament, family and cultural experiences, language experiences, personal
strengths, interests, abilities, and dispositions to support the child’s learning and
development. Through recognizing and adapting to each child’s individual development,
teachers are able to offer learning experiences that are responsive, meaningful, and
developmentally attuned to each child. Providing interactions, experiences, and an
environment that meet the individual needs of children with disabilities or other special
needs can enrich the experiences of all children in the program. A classroom
environment in which all children are supported and feel welcome creates rich learning
experiences for everyone.

Figure 15.3: The way this infant is being worn by his mother gives us a glimpse into the culture of his family. It
would be important for his caregivers to learn more about the routines of this child to provide him culturally

responsive care.7

• Responsiveness to culture and language supports children’s learning. Responsive
infant/toddler programs create a climate of respect for each child’s culture and
language. Teachers and other program staff members partner and regularly
communicate with family members to get to know the cultural strengths each child
brings to the program. An essential part of being culturally and linguistically responsive
is to value and support each child’s use of home language, as “continued use and
development of the child’s home language will benefit the child as he or she acquires
English.” Equally important are nurturing interactions with children and their families in
which “teachers attempt, as much as possible, to learn about the history, beliefs, and
practices of the children and families they serve.” In addition to being responsive to the
cultural history, beliefs, values, ways of communicating, and practices of children and

7 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itguidelines

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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families, teachers create learning environments that include resources such as pictures,
displays, and books that are culturally rich and supportive of diversity, particularly the
cultures and languages of the children and families in their infant/toddler care setting.

• Intentional teaching and care enriches children’s learning experiences. Effective
curriculum planning occurs when teachers are mindful of children’s learning and are
intentional in their efforts to support it.

• Time for reflection and planning enhances teaching and care. In nurturing the
development of infants and toddlers, teachers engage in an ongoing process of
observation, documentation and assessment, reflection and planning, and
implementation of strategies in order to provide individualized and small-group learning
experiences. Curriculum planning requires time for teachers to reflect on children’s
learning and plan strategies that foster children’s progress in building knowledge and
mastering skills. Infant/toddler programs that support intentional teaching and care
allocate time in teachers’ schedules for both individual and team reflection and
planning.8

Figure 15.4: Intentional teaching and caregiving thrives when teachers have a chance to share and collaborate

around their observations, inquiries, celebrations, and challenges.9

Pause to Reflect
Which of the overarching principles did you connect with the most? Why? Are
there any that might be more challenging for you to embrace?

8 The California Infant/Toddler Curriculum Framework by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
9 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Program Features That Support Effective Infant/ Toddler
Curriculum
Program policies set the stage for infant/toddler learning and development. Program policies
that support effective infant/toddler curriculum planning and implementation include these
elements:

• Primary Care—assigning a primary infant care teacher to each child and family

• Small Groups—creating small groups of children and caregivers

• Continuity—maintaining consistent teacher assignments and groups over time

• Personalized Care—responding to individual needs, abilities, and schedules

• Cultural Continuity—maintaining cultural consistency between home and program
through dialogue and collaboration with families

• Inclusion of Children with Special Needs—providing appropriate accommodations and
support for children with disabilities or other special needs.10

Figure 15.5: How would you describe this interaction? Notice the smiles on the faces of the caregiver and parent.11

The Infant/Toddler Learning Process: The Starting Point
Research has shown that infants are ready to learn from birth; they are able to absorb
information from the sights, sounds, and scents around them, to store it, to sort it out, and to
use it. This information helps infants understand the world and the people around them.

Research has also shown that infants and toddlers are quite dependent on primary
relationships for their physical and emotional needs to be met. Aware of this need, teachers

10 The California Infant/Toddler Curriculum Framework by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
11 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itguidelines

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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plan their interactions with infants and toddlers to address both the vulnerability and the
competence of children. In doing so, teachers simultaneously attend to the children’s need for
close, consistent relationships with nurturing adults and to the children’s curiosity and
motivation to learn.12

Figure 15.6: One way to balance the need for close relationships and curiosity is to stay nearby during play. A
caregiver can provide a secure base that allows the children to explore and emotionally check in as needed.13

Infant and Toddler Development and Its Facilitation
Because everything is new to infants and toddlers, and their brains are developing rapidly,
infancy is a unique period of life that calls for unique responses from adults. The ways infants
and toddlers think, feel, and function differ somewhat from the ways children in the
developmental periods of preschool, middle childhood, and adolescence think, feel, and
function.

Four major aspects of infant/toddler development illuminate the kinds of “basic sensory, social,
and emotional experiences” that are “essential for optimizing the architecture of low-level
circuits” in the brain. The following four aspects of infant/toddler development call for a special
approach to planning and supporting their learning:

1. Infants follow their own learning agenda as is focused on fundamental competencies
that are developed at relatively similar times in their development, including:

• seek and form relationships with people who will nurture and protect them

• learn language for the first time in order to communicate

• construct knowledge of basic concepts such as the relationship between cause and
effect and how things move and fit in space

• master rudimentary small-muscle and large-muscle skills

12 The California Infant/Toddler Curriculum Framework by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
13 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itguidelines

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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So, adults must be there to support this with responsive relationships by interacting with
infants and toddlers in ways that best facilitate the children’s learning and development.

2. Infants learn holistically. This means they take in information continuously, naturally,
and fluidly. Although they often focus on one thing at a time, that focus can change
quickly. From their actions, interactions, and observations, they pick up all kinds of
information that they use to build knowledge and skills. A single interaction can lead to
learning about many things in many areas simultaneously.

Because infants and toddlers learn in a holistic way, they may not always focus on the content
area that an adult may wish to emphasize.

So, if adults structure interaction with the purpose of creating specific outcomes in a particular
content area—for example, language or shapes—they will often miss the child’s larger learning
experience. Thus, plans to help with infant learning are best created in ways that reflect the
child’s openness to all aspects of an experience.

For Example:

A teacher may think that crafting a special lesson on colors will result in specific
learning about color, but infants do not separate their lessons according to
distinct topics. For the infant or toddler, narrowing the focus to the adult’s
interest or goal does not match how the child engages in learning. The child’s
focus may switch to the part of the interaction that is personally more important,
such as the texture of the materials used to display color, the movement of the
wrist to transfer the color from brush to paper, the emotional tone used in the
interaction, or the social style the adult uses to introduce the activity. From the
perspective of the infant or toddler, the lesson (or lessons) learned may end up
having nothing to do with colors. Thus, adults can better facilitate learning by
attending to the many learning possibilities that exist for an infant or toddler in a
particular experience14

14 The California Infant/Toddler Curriculum Framework by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Figure 15.7: This child is deeply engaged in spreading around the shaving cream on this transparent easel. Notice
the bottles of colored liquid waiting to be explored. If the only focus of this activity was color, what experiences

might have been missed?15

3. During the first three years of life, much of a child’s life is organized around issues

related to security, exploration, and identity. While children attend to all three issues
throughout infancy, each of these issues generally takes center stage at different points
in development. As an issue becomes more or less prominent, developmental
transitions occur. The child’s behavior starts to change and reflects a new way of
organizing experiences.

15 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Figure 15.816

4. Infants are in the process of developing their first sense of self and this begins by how

others treat them. They receive important information from others.
So, adults must be really intentional in how they treat infants and toddlers.

For Example

They may resist eating food they do not like and judge someone who tries to
make them eat such food as mean or unfair. Even when infants resist eating
certain foods, they do not consciously judge the person trying to feed them.
Instead, they take in the ways they are treated as examples of how things are.
They come to expect: “This is the way people feed me”; “This is the way people
express emotions”; “These are things that cause people to get yelled at”; “These
are the ways to approach people”; and “This is how my curiosity is accepted.”

16 Graphic by Ian Joslin (licensed under CC BY 4.0) uses images by the California Department of Education (used
with permission)

https://koolkoalaj.com/portfolio

https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Thus, creating a warm, caring, personal relationship with the infant is more than
a nice thing to do; it significantly contributes to a child’s positive sense of self.17

The four aspects of infant development call for teaching and care that is individually adapted to
who infants and toddlers are and who they are becoming. Because infants move through
distinct developmental periods so rapidly, adults need to respect and be responsive to each
child’s learning agenda. Because early learning is holistic, plans to facilitate infants’ learning
should reflect consideration of all the domains of development that may be influenced by an
experience.18

Figure 15.9: What domains of development do you see here? While the caregiver might be reading a book, the

infants are engaged in physical, cognitive and language, and social and emotional development.19

Pause to Reflect
Based on what you just learned about the four major aspects of infant/toddler
development what are some key things to remember when thinking about the
kinds of “basic sensory, social, and emotional experiences” that infants and
toddlers need?

Curriculum Planning
Infants and toddlers have an amazing capacity to engage in learning and rapidly organize vast
amounts of new information. Clearly, an infant or toddler who is exploring how something
works or interacting with an adult or other children reveals an active mind that is discovering
and making sense of the surrounding world of people and things.

17 The California Infant/Toddler Curriculum Framework by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
18 The California Infant/Toddler Curriculum Framework by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
19 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Infants and toddlers experience the world and build knowledge holistically during simple
moments of play, exploration, and interaction with objects and with other people. They
constantly gather new information and make sense of it. Their minds actively take in sounds,
words, patterns of movement, and the actions and reactions of people, creatures, and objects.
They integrate new information into an increasingly complex system of knowledge. As infants
expand their encounters with objects and people, they try out emerging skills, discover new
actions, and experience feelings in new ways. In moments of play, they experiment, investigate,
and invent solutions, trying to figure out how things work.20

Figure 15.10: What happens when you hit the metal pot with a plastic spatula? This infant is enjoying the resulting

music.21

Contexts for Infant/Toddler Curriculum
In planning curriculum for the birth-to-age-three period, teachers must be aware of what
infants and toddlers do in play, both when they act on objects and when they interact with
adults and peers. In essence, play is the “work” of infants and toddlers. When teachers are
mindful of the ways in which each infant experiences a moment of play, that child’s learning
agenda reveals itself. In response, teachers are able to plan curriculum that aligns with the
infant’s inborn learning agenda. In developing curriculum for infants and toddlers, teachers plan
for three learning contexts:

1. The play environment as curriculum. Curriculum plans include the selection of play
materials that add interest and complexity to distinct areas where infants and toddlers
freely play.

2. Interactions and conversations as curriculum. Curriculum plans address ways of being
with infants and toddlers during interaction, including nonverbal interaction,

20 The California Infant/Toddler Curriculum Framework by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
21 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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conversations, cooperation, conflicts, and times when infants express strong feelings
such as delight, sadness, anger, or frustration.

3. Caregiving routines as curriculum. Curriculum plans include care routines, particularly
mealtimes, diaper changes, and naptimes. Intentional teaching invites infants and
toddlers to participate in care routines that deepen their relationship experiences and
open up possibilities for building emerging skills and concepts.22

Figure 15.11: This early childhood education classroom serves the children food family style and allows the children
to develop many skills through serving themselves. Look at his focus and concentration as he manipulates the tongs

to pick up the food.23

Observation as the Basis for Planning the Infant/Toddler Curriculum
Planning infant/toddler curriculum begins with teachers discovering, through careful listening
and observation, each child’s development. Observation is an essential teaching skill. When
teachers mindfully observe, they find out how individual children make discoveries and make
meaning within everyday moments of play and interactions.

Observing for the purpose of assessing individual children’s learning means carefully watching
and listening with thought and reflection. In doing so, teachers find evidence of individual
children’s meaning-making—how a child expresses or shows feelings, how a child responds to
others’ feelings, and how a child responds to the impact of his actions on the objects he
encounters or the people with whom he interacts.

When teachers observe infants’ play and interactions, they gather evidence that pertains to
individual children’s social– emotional, language, cognitive, and perceptual and motor
development. An observation can help teachers see, describe, and understand how an infant
organizes feelings, ideas, skills, and concepts.

22 The California Infant/Toddler Curriculum Framework by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
23 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Sometimes, teachers may choose to write down what they observe in a note. They may also
take a photo, or, with older toddlers, they may keep a sample of each child’s work. In doing so,
teachers collect observational data that provide clear, vivid evidence of children’s development.
Observing how children explore and play with newly introduced materials or ideas often makes
it possible for teachers to track children’s developmental progress.

As teachers observe children’s play, exploration, and interactions, they discover ways to
support children’s learning. Ideas for the next steps in curriculum planning emerge as teachers
reflect on how they might extend or expand children’s exploration, problem solving, thinking,
interactions, and language. Observation, reflection, and documentation in the moment
simultaneously launch an ongoing assessment of each child’s progress in learning as well as the
curriculum planning cycle.24

24 The California Infant/Toddler Curriculum Framework by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Observing While Participating

Figure 15.12: Having note-taking materials on hand can allow you to jot down some notes

quickly without even stepping away from the children.

One of the key challenges for infant care teachers is to be able to observe
and record their observations while providing early care and education.
Learning how to address this challenge takes time and a good support
system. Teachers can develop plans together for observing and recording
behavior in the context of daily routines and events. Some teachers take
turns; others have systems such as cameras and note cards placed around
the rooms and play yards so they can take quick notes or photos “on the
fly.” There are many ways to participate and observe at the same time.

Children become accustomed to the teacher’s taking notes and photos, and
it becomes incorporated into the daily routines. Observations from
teachers who are involved with children daily are really the most useful
because the teacher understands the child’s context; everything from how
the child slept the night before to his current interests. Infant care teachers
who observe regularly are better able to provide care and education that
connects with each child in the group.25

25 The Infant/Toddler Learning and Development Program Guidelines by the California Department of Education is
used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itguidelines

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Observation and Documentation and the PITC Responsive Process
In the Program for Infant/Toddler Care (PITC) approach to infant/toddler care, responsive
teachers are always observing children. “Watch,” or observation, is the first step of the PITC’s
three-step responsive process. Observation enables teachers to read infants’ cues and meet
their needs moment by moment. One of the central practices of the PITC is helping babies to
establish secure bases for exploration and learning. The moment-by-moment monitoring of
babies’ messages and the prompt, contingent responses that stem from observation strengthen
relationships between infants and their teachers and lead to the development of secure bases.

PITC’s “Watch, Ask, and Adapt” process works hand in hand with curriculum planning that
includes observation, documentation, and assessment. Infant/toddler care teachers observe in
order to be responsive and build relationships with infants. In this process, teachers also
observe and document, which helps them to deepen their understanding of children’s learning
and development and discover ways to support it.26

26 The California Infant/Toddler Curriculum Framework by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Figure 15.13: The Responsive Process.27

Pause to Reflect
Recall a time you observed/interacted with an infant or find a video that
features an infant. Think about how you could implement The Responsive
Process. How would you Watch, Ask, and Adapt?

27 Image by Ian Joslin is based on an image by the California Department of Education, used with permission

https://koolkoalaj.com/portfolio

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Implementation of a Plan
Each day, infant care teachers introduce or implement possibilities for expanding children’s
learning and development. Once the children in care have been observed, and their
experiences documented, teachers try out their plans by making changes in the environment,
introducing materials, relating to and interacting with the children in new ways, and
highlighting objects or concepts for selective focus. However, this implementation process
should not be seen as an end point in the curriculum planning process. Each child’s unique
thoughts, feelings, needs, and interests in reaction to the plan or a strategy should influence
the way implementation occurs. How each infant or toddler will respond to a teacher’s
suggestions is unpredictable. Once a possibility or suggestion is introduced, the teacher follows
along, observes what each child does, and is responsive to individual children’s ongoing
engagement in learning.

Once an interaction with a child or small group of children begins, teachers have to be ready to
adapt their plans and actions to the momentary and often changing needs and interests of each
child. Adaptation and change are critical parts of both children’s and teachers’ learning
processes and come into play constantly during the implementation process.

Figure 15.14: This teacher is going to need to be ready to follow the lead of the children as they create

their own experience from what she has planned for them.28

The activities, environments, and interaction opportunities that are introduced should reflect
respect for (1) the competencies that infants and toddlers bring to each interaction and (2) the
children’s need for relationship-based experiences.

To work well, implementation should adapt to the infant’s changing interests and needs during
each day. In this way, the curriculum will be responsive to what the infants bring to early
experiences and to what the children seek from those experiences.
Implementation should:

• orient the infant care teacher to the role of facilitator of learning;

• help the teacher read the cues of each infant in the small group;

28 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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• address the whole learning experience of the children, including the learning
environment and the program policies that contribute to the learning climate;

• spark each infant’s interest and encourage and support exploration;

• reflect consideration for developmental stages but also allow for individual variations in
temperament, approach, and pace;

• be broad enough in scope to enable the teacher to respond to all developmental
domains simultaneously.

The teacher’s interaction strategies are complemented by a supportive environment that
offers:

• a safe and interesting place for learning;

• a variety of materials that are appropriate for the individual needs and interests of
infants and toddlers in the group;

• organization of learning and care in small groups;

• adherence to policies that maximize each child’s sense of security in care and continuity
of relationship with the teachers;

• optimization of program connections with the child’s family.29

For Example

A teacher may have observed over several days that a small group of older
toddlers is becoming fascinated with pretend play. Among the reasons that the
teacher may be attuned to this interest is its connection to several infant/toddler
learning and development foundations, most notably, symbolic play. Through
reflection on observations and documentation of the children’s emerging
interests, the teacher may decide to place additional puppets in the environment.
The teacher may wonder whether the puppets would motivate the children to
continue to build their interest in pretend play. Rather than drawing attention to
the puppets, the teacher may simply decide to place the puppets in the dramatic
play area in the room. The teacher may also add to the outside play area some
new props related to gardening. Then, curious about what the children will do
with the new play materials, the teacher would wait to see what happens next.
Anything could happen; the children may not be interested in the new materials,
or they may begin to engage in lively pretend play that suggests new possibilities
to the teacher.30

29 The California Infant/Toddler Curriculum Framework by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
30 The California Infant/Toddler Curriculum Framework by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Figure 15.15: What materials do you notice that support dramatic play are featured in this space? What else might

teachers want to provide?31

Pause to Reflect
After taking the time to reflect on what you learned about the infant/toddler
(referencing the observation/interaction or video you used in the previous
Pause the Reflect feature), what might you want to implement with that
infant/toddler? If you were to offer that experience to other infants/toddlers,
how might you anticipate needing to modify the experience to meet their
needs?

Developmentally Appropriate Planning for Infants and
Toddlers: The Infant/Toddler Learning and Development
Foundations
We started the chapter by looking at what infants and toddlers are like. The foundations, which
describe competencies—knowledge and skills—that all young children typically learn with
appropriate support, provide guidance on how to plan what is developmentally appropriate for
infants and toddlers. They also present infant/toddler learning and development as an
integrated process that includes social–emotional development, language development,
cognitive development, and perceptual and motor development. The foundations give a
comprehensive view of what infants and toddlers learn through child-initiated exploration and
discovery, teacher-facilitated experiences, and planned environments, offering rich background
information for teachers to consider as they plan for children.

31 Image by Community Playthings is used with permission

https://www.communityplaythings.com/inspiration/room-inspirations

https://www.communityplaythings.com/

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Figure 15.16: The space under this loft was thoughtfully designed to provide children a cozy space to enjoy a good

book.32

The foundations identify key areas of learning and development. While moving in the direction
identified by each foundation, every child will progress along a unique path that reflects his or
her individuality and cultural and linguistic experiences. The foundations help teachers
understand children’s learning and can give focus to intentional teaching.33

Social–Emotional Development
Social–emotional development includes the child’s experience, expression, and management of
emotions and the ability to establish positive and rewarding relationships with others. It
encompasses both intra- and interpersonal processes.

Figure 15.17: Notice how this teacher is supporting the social-emotional development of both of these children as

they interact over the gate.34

32 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission
33 The California Infant/Toddler Curriculum Framework by the California Department of Education is used with
permission
34 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itguidelines

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Guiding principles of the social-emotional curriculum include:

• Learn from the family about the child’s social–emotional development

• Place relationships at the center of curriculum planning

• Read and respond to children’s emotional cues
• Attend to the environment’s impact on children’s social– emotional development
• Understand and respect individuality

The environment should:

• Be positive and allow children to explore freely, while often hearing “yes” and seldom
hearing “no”

• Provide materials that support relationships and the development of social
understanding

• Provide materials that relate to feelings and emotional expression

• Be arranged to support peer interactions and relationships

Caregivers should:

• Offer learning opportunities through caregiving routines

• Learn about temperament

• Pay attention to feelings and emotional responses

• Support and respect the child’s relationship with his or her family

• Support relationships and interactions among the children in the program

• Model responsive and respectful interactions and behavior

• Respect children’s interests

• Support children’s regulation of emotions

• Demonstrate acceptance for all of the feelings children express35

35 The California Infant/Toddler Curriculum Framework by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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Vignette
Anita is holding six-month-old Jed on her lap. Jed is the first child to arrive
in Anita’s family child care home each day. They have a few quiet minutes
together before the other children begin to arrive. Anita has noticed that
Jed often demonstrates excitement when watching the older children. He
kicks his legs and puffs his breath when he sees Carlo and his mother enter
the playroom. Miss Anita turns so that Jed can easily see Carlo and she says
softly to Jed, “Here is Carlo, coming to play. He made you laugh yesterday,
didn’t he?” Anita smiles and greets Carlo and his mother, and then she says,
“Carlo, Jed is so happy to see you. Do you see how he kicks his legs and
waves his arms? Would you like to say hello?” When Carlo approaches,
Anita says to Jed, “Here is Carlo, coming to say hello.” The boys gaze at
each other quietly for a moment. Anita is attentive and silent. Then Carlo
makes a silly face and dances, and Jed lets out a little giggle. Carlo’s mother,
who is several months pregnant, shares a smile with Anita.36

Summary of Infant/Toddler Foundations in Social/Emotional Development
The key concepts in the Social/Emotional domain that provide an overview of the infants and
toddlers social and emotional development are:

• Interactions with Adults: The developing ability to respond to and engage with adults

8 months 18 months 36 months

At around eight months of
age, children purposefully
engage in reciprocal
interactions and try to
influence the behavior of
others. Children may be both
interested in and cautious of
unfamiliar adults. (7 mos.;
Lame, Bornstein, and Teti
2002) (8 mos.; Meisels and
others 2003, 16)

At around 18 months of age,
children may participate in
routines and games that
involve complex back-and-
forth interaction and may
follow the gaze of the infant
care teacher to an object or
person. Children may also
check with a familiar infant
care teacher when uncertain
about something or
someone. (18 mos.; Meisels
and others, 2003, 33)

At around 36 months of age,
children interact with adults
to solve problems or
communicate about
experiences or ideas.
(California Department of
Education 2005, 6; Marvin
and Britner 1999, 60)

36 The California Infant/Toddler Curriculum Framework by the California Department of Education is used with
permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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• Relationships with Adults: The development of close relationships with certain adults
who provide consistent nurturance Interactions with Peers: The developing ability to
respond to and engage with other children

8 months 18 months 36 months

At around eight months of
age, children seek a special
relationship with one (or a
few) familiar adult(s) by
initiating interaction and
seeking proximity, especially
when distressed. (6-9 mos.;
Marvin and Britner 1999, 52)

At around 18 months of age,
children feel secure exploring
the environment in the
presence of important adults
with whom they have
developed a relationship over
an extended period of time.
When distressed, children
seek to be physically close to
these adults. (6-18 mos.;
Marvin and Britner 1999, 52;
Bowlby 1983)

At around 36 months of age,
when exploring the
environment, from time to
time children reconnect, in a
variety of ways, with the
adult(s) with whom they
have developed a special
relationship: through eye
contact; facial expressions;
shared feelings; or
conversations about feelings,
shared activities, or plans.
When distressed, children
may still seek to be physically
close to these adults. (By 36
mos.; Marvin and Britner
1999, 57)

• Interactions with peers: The developing ability to respond to and engage with other
children

8 months 18 months 36 months

At around eight months of
age, children show interest in
familiar and unfamiliar peers.
Children may stare at another
child, explore another child’s
face and body, and respond
to siblings and older peers. (8
mos.; Meisels and others
2003)

At around 18 months of age,
children engage in simple
back-and-forth interactions
with peers for short periods
of time. (Meisels and others
2003, 35)

At around 36 months of age,
children engage in simple
cooperative play with peers.
(36 mos.; Meisels and others
2003 70)

• Relationships with Peers: The development of relationships with certain peers through
interactions over time

8 months 18 months 36 months

At around eight months of
age, children show interest in
familiar and unfamiliar
children. (8 mos.; Meisels and
others 2003, 17)

At around 18 months of age,
children prefer to interact
with one or two familiar
children in the group and
usually engage in the same

At around 36 months of age,
children have developed
friendships with a small
number of children in the
group and engage in more

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8 months 18 months 36 months

kind of back-and-forth play
when interacting with those
children. (12-18 mos.;
Mueller and Lucas 1975)

complex play with those
friends than with other
peers.

• Identity of Self in Relation to Others: The developing concept that the child is an
individual operating within social relationships

8 months 18 months 36 months

At around eight months of
age, children show clear
awareness of being a
separate person and of being
connected with other people.
Children identify others as
both distinct from and
connected to themselves.
(Fogel 2001, 347)

At around 18 months of age,
children demonstrate
awareness of their
characteristics and express
themselves as distinct
persons with thoughts and
feelings. Children also
demonstrate expectations of
others’ behaviors, responses,
and characteristics on the
basis of previous experiences
with them.

At around 36 months of age,
children identify their
feelings, needs, and
interests, and identify
themselves and others as
members of one or more
groups by referring to
categories. (24-36 mos.;
Fogel 2001, 415; 18-30 mos.)

• Recognition of Ability: The developing understanding that the child can take action to
influence the environment

8 months 18 months 36 months

At around eight months of
age, children understand that
they are able to make things
happen.

At around 18 months of age,
children experiment with
different ways of making
things happen, persist in
trying to do things even when
faced with difficulty, and
show a sense of satisfaction
with what they can do.
(McCarty, Clifton, and Collard
1999).

At around 36 months of age,
children show an
understanding of their own
abilities when describing
themselves.

• Expression of Emotion: The developing ability to express a variety of feelings through
facial expressions, movements, gestures, sounds, or words

8 months 18 months 36 months

At around eight months of
age, children express a
variety of primary emotions
such as contentment,

At around 18 months of age,
children express emotions in
a clear and intentional way,
and begin to express some

At around 36 months of age,
children express complex,
self-conscious emotions such
as pride, embarrassment,

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8 months 18 months 36 months

distress, joy, sadness,
interest, surprise, disgust,
anger, and fear. (Lamb,
Bornstein, and Teti 2002,
341)

complex emotions, such as
pride.

shame, and guilt. Children
demonstrate awareness of
their feelings by using words
to describe feelings to others
or action them out in pretend
play. (Lewis and others 1989;
Lewis 2000b; Lagattuta and
Thompson 2007)

• Empathy: The developing ability to share in the emotional experiences of others
Emotion

8 months 18 months 36 months

At around eight months of
age, children demonstrate
awareness of others’ feelings
by reacting to their emotional
expressions.

At around 18 months of age,
children change their
behavior in response to the
feelings of others even
though their actions may not
always make the other
person feel better. Children
show an increased
understanding of the reason
for another’s distress and
may become distressed by
the other’s distress. (14 mos.;
Zahn-Waxler, Robinson, and
Emde 1992; Thompson 1987;
24 mos.; Zahn-Waxler and
Radke-Yarrow 1982, 1990)

At around 36 months of age,
children understand that
other people have feelings
that are different from their
own and can sometimes
respond to another’s distress
in a way that might make
that person feel better. (24-
36 mos.; Hoffman 1982; 18
mos.; Thompson 1987, 135)

• Regulation: The developing ability to manage emotional responses with assistance from
others and independently

8 months 18 months 36 months

At around eight months of
age, children use simple
behaviors to comfort
themselves and begin to
communicate the need for
help to alleviate discomfort
or distress.

At around 18 months of age,
children demonstrate a
variety of responses to
comfort themselves and
actively avoid or ignore
situations that cause
discomfort. Children can also
communicate needs and
wants through the use of a
few words and gestures.

At around 36 months of age,
children anticipate the need
for comfort and try to
prepare themselves for
changes in routine. Children
have many self-comforting
behaviors to choose from,
depending on the situation,
and can communicate

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8 months 18 months 36 months

(National Research Council
and Institute of Medicine
2000, 112; 15-18 mos.;
American Academy of
Pediatrics 2004, 270; Coplan
1990, 1)

specific needs and wants.
(Kopp 1989; CDE 2005)

• Impulse Control: The developing capacity to wait for needs to be met, to inhibit
potentially hurtful behavior, and to act according to social expectations, including safety
rules

8 months 18 months 36 months

At around eight months of
age, children act on impulses.
(Birth-9 mos.; Bronson 2000b,
64)

At around 18 months of age,
children respond positively to
choices and limits set by an
adult to help control their
behavior. (18 mos.; Meisels
and others 2003, 34; Kaler
and Kopp 1990)

At around 36 months of age,
children may sometimes
exercise voluntary control
over actions and emotional
expressions. (Bronson 2000b,
67)

• Social Understanding: The developing understanding of the responses, communication,
emotional expressions, and actions of other people

8 months 18 months 36 months

At around eight months of
age, children have learned
what to expect from familiar
people, understand what to
do to get another’s attention,
engage in back-and-forth
interaction with others, and
imitate the simple actions or
facial expressions of others.

At around 18 months of age,
children know how to get the
infant care teacher to
respond in a specific way
through gestures,
vocalizations, and shared
attention; use another’s
emotional expressions to
guide their own response to
unfamiliar events; and learn
more complex behavior
through imitation. Children
also engage in more complex
social interactions and have
developed expectations for a
greater number of familiar
people.

At around 36 months of age,
children can talk about their
own wants and feelings and
those of other people,
describe familiar routines,
participate in coordinate
episodes of pretend play with
peers, and interact with
adults in more complex ways.

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Foundations in Action

Figure 15. 1837

Figure 15.1938 Figure 15.2039

Looking at this sequence of images, what might have happened here? Which of the Social/Emotional

Foundations do you see in these three images?

Language Development
Language development naturally occurs through ongoing interactions with adults. Babies have
an inborn capacity to learn language that emerges by experiencing language input from adults.
Experiences with language allow infants and toddlers to acquire mastery of sounds, grammar,
and rules that guide communication and to share meaning with others.

Figure 15.21: Engaging in play with toddlers is one of the best ways to support language development. Wouldn’t it

be great if this image came with audio? What might they be talking about?40

Guiding principles of the language curriculum include:

• Be responsive to the active communicator and language learner

• Include language in your interactions with infants and toddlers

• Celebrate and support the individual

37 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission
38 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission
39 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission
40 Image by the California Department of Education is used with permission

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itguidelines

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itguidelines

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itguidelines

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

https://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itguidelines

https://www.cde.ca.gov/

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• Connect with children’s cultural and linguistic experiences at home

• Build on children’s interests

• Make communication and language interesting and fun

• Create literacy-rich environments

The environment should:

• Provide for exploration of books and other sources of print
• Moderate background noise

• Be arranged to support language development and c