Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 2: Program Activities for Healthy Development

2.1 Program of Developmental Activities

2.1.2 Program Activities for Infants and Toddlers from Three Months to Less Than Thirty-Six Months Space and Activity to Support Learning of Infants and Toddlers

The facility should provide a safe and clean learning environment, both indoors and outdoors, colorful materials and equipment arranged to support learning. The indoor and outdoor learning/play environment should encourage and be comfortable with staff on the floor level when interacting with active infant crawlers and toddlers. The indoor and outdoor play and learning settings should provide opportunities for the child to act upon the environment by experiencing age-appropriate obstacles, frustrations, and risks in order to learn to negotiate environmental challenges. The facility should provide opportunities for play that:

  1. Lessen the child’s anxiety and help the child adapt to reality and resolve conflicts;
  2. Enable the child to explore and experience the natural world;
  3. Help the child practice resolving conflicts;
  4. Use symbols (words, numbers, etc.);
  5. Manipulate objects;
  6. Exercise physical skills;
  7. Encourage language development;
  8. Foster self-expression;
  9. Strengthen the child’s identity as a member of a family and a cultural community;
  10. Promote sensory exploration.

For infants and toddlers the curriculum should be based on the child’s development at the time and connected to a sound understanding as to where they are in their developmental course.

Opportunities to be an active learner are vitally important for the development of motor competence and awareness of one’s own body and person, the development of sensory motor skills, the ability to demonstrate initiative through active outdoor and indoor play, and feelings of mastery and successful coping. Coping involves original, imaginative, and innovative behavior as well as previously learned strategies.

Learning to resolve conflicts constructively in childhood is essential in preventing violence later in life (1,2). A physical and social environment that offers opportunities for active mastery and coping enhances the child’s adaptive abilities (3,4,9). The importance of play for developing cognitive skills, for maintaining an affective and intellectual equilibrium, and for creating and testing new capacities is well recognized (8). Play involves a balance of action and symbolization, and of feeling and thinking (5-7). Children need access to age-appropriate toys and safe household objects.

For more information regarding appropriate play materials for young children, see “Which Toy for Which Child: A Consumer’s Guide for Selecting Suitable Toys” from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) and “The Right Stuff for Children Birth to 8: Selecting Play Materials to Support Development” from the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC). For information regarding appropriate materials for outdoor play, see POEMS: Preschool Outdoor Environment Measurement Scale (10).
Center, Early Head Start, Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Active Opportunities for Physical Activity Space Required per Child Shoes in Infant Play Areas Indoor and Outdoor Equipment, Materials, and Furnishing Placement of Equipment and Furnishings
  1. Massey, M. S. 1998. Early childhood violence prevention. ERIC Digest (October).
  2. Levin, D. E. 1994. Teaching young children in violent times: Building a peaceable classroom, A preschool-grade 3 violence prevention and conflict resolution guide. Cambridge, MA: Educators for Social Responsibility.
  3. Mayr, T., M. Ulich. 1999. Children’s well-being in day care centers: An exploratory empirical study. Int J Early Years Education 7:229-39.
  4. Cartwright, S. 1998. Group trips: An invitation to cooperative learning. Child Care Infor Exch 124:95-97.
  5. Evaldsson, A., W. A. Corsaro. 1998. Play and games in the peer cultures of preschool and preadolescent children: An interpretative approach. Childhood 5:377-402.
  6. Petersen, E. A. 1998. The amazing benefits of play. Child Family 17:7-8.
  7. Pica, R. 1997. Beyond physical development: Why young children need to move. Young Child 52:4-11.
  8. Tepperman, J., ed. 2007. Play in the early years: Key to school success, a policy brief. El Cerrito, CA: Early Childhood Funders.
  9. Torelli, L., C. Durrett. 1996. Landscape for learning: The impact of classroom design on infants and toddlers. Early Childhood News 8 (March-April): 12-17.
  10. DeBord, K., L. Hestenes, R. Moore, N. Cosco, J. McGinnis. 2005. Preschool outdoor environment measurement scale. Lewisville, NC: Kaplan Early Learning Co.