Prep: None / Activity Time: 3-5 Minutes

Infants and toddlers learn about cause and effect through their own actions in their environment. Initially, they learn cause and effect through accidental movements (e.g., bumping against a musical ball and hearing a chime). They soon learn that they can repeat an action and get the same result. Beginning at around 12 months, toddlers become increasingly curious about cause and effect. This is important because it will later help your child develop understanding of simple stories. Provide toys and experiences in which your child can explore cause and effect relationships.

  • Toys that show cause and effect (e.g., jack-in-the-box; banging/pounding toys; toys that involve sounds and movement when a button is pushed)
  • Experiences that show cause and effect (e.g., turning a light switch on and off; going up and down on a seesaw; hitting the bath water with your hand creating a splash; rolling a ball down a slanted surface) 

Step 1: Provide toys and experiences that allow your toddler to experiment with cause and effect relationships. The most useful toys are those that require the most action on the part of your toddler. The more she has to use her mind and body to make something work, the more she will learn. These experiences help your toddler learn that when she does an action, she gets a result. This is an important concept to work on because it is essential for a lot of other cognitive, social and communication skills.

Step 2: As your child explores, provide rich language to describe what is happening. “Look, you pushed the button and the music started to play! Can you make the music play again?”  or “Wow, look what happens when you hit the water with your hand. You make a big splash! Do it again!”