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Foundation: Cause-and-Effect

California Infant/Toddler Learning & Development Foundations.
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While the California Department of Education continues to operate the California State Preschool Program, the Early Childhood Development Act of 2020 (Senate Bill (SV) 98, Chapter 24, Statutes of 2020) authorized the transfer of many childcare programs from the California Department of Education to the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) effective July 1, 2021. The content on this page may include programs that have moved to CDSS. For additional assistance you can either visit the CDSS Child Care Transition web page External link opens in new window or tab. or call 1-833-559-2420 for more information.

The developing understanding that one event brings about another
8 months 18 months 36 months

At around eight months of age, children perform simple actions to make things happen, notice the relationships between events, and notice the effects of others on the immediate environment.

At around 18 months of age, children combine simple actions to cause things to happen or change the way they interact with objects and people in order to see how it changes the outcome.

At around 36 months of age, children demonstrate an understanding of cause and effect by making predictions about what could happen and reflect upon what caused something to happen. (California Department of Education [CDE] 2005)

For example, the child may:

  • Shake a toy, hear the sound it makes, and then shake it again. (5.5–8 mos.; Parks 2004, 58)

  • Loudly bang a spoon on the table, notice the loud sound, and do it again. (By 7 mos.; American Academy of Pediatrics 2004, 210; 8 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 21)

  • Watch the infant care teacher wind up a music box and, when the music stops, touch her hand to get her to make it start again. (5–9 mos.; Parks 2004, 58)

  • Splash hands in water and notice how his face gets wet. (4–10 mos.; Ginsburg and Opper 1988, 43)

  • Push a button on the push-
    button toy and watch the figure pop up. (6–9 mos.; Lerner and Ciervo 2003)

  • Put objects into a clear container, turn it over and watch the objects fall out, and then fill it up again. (8 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 21)

  • Clap hands and then look at a parent to get her to play pat-a-cake. (8 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 21)

For example, the child may:

  • Try to wind the handle of a pop-up toy after not being able to open the top. (15 mos.; Brazelton 1992, 161)

  • Drop different objects from various heights to see how they fall and to hear the noise they make when they land. (12–18 mos.; Ginsburg and Opper 1988, 56)

  • Build a tower with the big cardboard blocks and kick it over to make it fall, then build it again and knock it down with a hand. (18 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 37)

  • Use a wooden spoon to bang on different pots and pans, and notice how the infant care teacher responds when the child hits the pans harder and makes a louder noise. (18mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 37)

For example, the child may:

  • Communicate, “She misses her mommy” when a child cries after her mother leaves in the morning.

  • Make a prediction about what will happen next in the story when the infant care teacher asks, “What do you think will happen next?”

  • Answer the infant care teacher when she asks, “What do you think your mom’s going to say when you give her your picture?”

  • See a bandage on a peer’s knee and ask, “What happened?”

  • Push the big green button to make the tape recorder play. (By 36 mos.; American Academy of Pediatrics 2004, 308)

  • Walk quietly when the baby is sleeping.

Behaviors leading up to the foundation (4 to 7 months)

During this period, the child may:

  • Hear a loud noise and turn head in the direction of the noise. (3.5–5 mos.; Parks 2004, 37)

  • Explore toys with hands and mouth. (3–6 mos.; Parks 2004, 10)

  • Move body in a rocking motion to get the infant care teacher to continue rocking. (4–5 mos.; Parks 2004, 57; Birth–8 mos.; Lerner and Dombro 2000)

  • Kick legs in the crib and notice that the mobile up above jiggles with the kicking movements. (4–5 mos.; American Academy of Pediatrics 2004, 209)

  • Attend to a toy while exploring it with the hands. (Scaled score of 9 for 5:16–6:15 mos.; Bayley 2006, 55)

Behaviors leading up to the foundation (9 to 17 months)

During this period, the child may:

  • Hold a block in each hand and bang the blocks together. (8.5–12 mos.; Parks 2004)

  • Keep turning an object around to find the side that makes it work, such as the reflective side of a mirror, or the open side of a nesting cup. (9–12 mos.; Parks 2004, 65)

  • Cry and anticipate that the infant care teacher will come to help. (9–12 mos.; Lerner and Ciervo 2003)

  • Drop an object repeatedly from the chair to hear it clang on the floor or to get the infant care teacher to come pick it up. (9–12 mos.; Parks 2004, 65)

  • Watch the infant care teacher squeeze the toy in the water table to make water squirt out, then try the same action. (Scaled score of 10 for 13:16–14:15 mos.; Bayley 2006, 61)

  • Hand a toy car to a family member after it stops moving and the child cannot figure out how to make it move again. (12–15 mos.; Parks 2004, 59)

  • Close eyes and turn face away from the water table before splashing with hands. (12 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 28)

  • Continue to push the button on a toy that is broken and appear confused or frustrated when nothing happens. (12mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 29)

Behaviors leading up to the foundation (19 to 35 months)

During this period, the child may:

  • Roll cars of different sizes down the slide. (18–24 mos.; Lerner and Ciervo 2003)

Next Foundation: Spatial Relationships

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Questions:   Early Learning and Care Division | ELCDPublications@cde.ca.gov | 916-322-6233
Last Reviewed: Thursday, June 17, 2021
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