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Foundation: Perceptual Development

California Infant/Toddler Learning & Development Foundations.
The developing ability to become aware of the social and physical environment through the senses
8 months 18 months 36 months

At around eight months of age, children use the senses to explore objects and people in the environment. (6–9 mos.; Ruff and Kohler 1978)

At around 18 months of age, children use the information received from the senses to change the way they interact with the environment.

At around 36 months of age, children can quickly and easily combine the information received from the senses to inform the way they interact with the environment.

For example, the child may:

  • Look at an object in her hand, mouth it, and then take it out to look at it again. (6–9 mos.; Ruff and Kohler 1978)

  • Hear the infant care teacher’s footsteps in the darkened nap room and turn his head to try to look for her. (6–9 mos.; Ruff and Kohler 1978)

  • Show excitement upon recognizing the color of a favorite food that is offered on a spoon. (6–9 mos.; Reardon and Bushnell 1988)

For example, the child may:

  • Adjust the way he is walking depending on the type of surface; for example, walking slowly on rocks and faster on pavement. (12–18 mos.; Fogel 2001, 333)

  • Choose to sit on her bottom and slide down a steep hill rather than walk down it. (12–18 mos.; Adolph, Eppler, and Gibson 1993)

  • Sway back and forth to the beat of a song while standing up.

  • Pull hands away from the sensory table, which is filled with an unfamiliar slimy substance.

  • Spend a lot of time in the sandbox, burying a hand underneath a pile of sand.

  • Stop pouring sand into a bucket that is already full.

For example, the child may:

  • Identify a blanket or other familiar objects just by touching them. (30–36 mo.; Parks 2004)

  • Identify a truck when she feels it buried underneath the sand. (30–36 mos.; Parks 2004, 17)

  • Watch the lines that she makes with a marker on the paper. (Freeman 1980)

  • Climb more slowly as he reaches the top of the ladder.

  • Press harder on a clump of clay than on play dough.

  • Watch a family member draw a circle and then try to do it. (24–36 mos.; Stiles 1995)

  • Walk more slowly and carefully when carrying an open cup of milk than when carrying a cup with a lid.

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

During this period, the child may:

  • Have a range of vision that is several feet. (By 4 mos.; American Academy of Pediatrics 2004, 207)

  • Experience the sensation of being touched, and then search for the object or person. (4–6 mos.; Parks 2004, 11)

  • Listen to the sounds that family members use while talking in the home language, and use these same sounds while babbling. (4–6 mos.; Parks 2004, 11)

  • Startle when hearing a loud noise. (By 4 mos.; American Academy of Pediatrics 2004, 209)

  • Kick feet while lying in the crib, feel the crib shake, and then kick feet again. (By 4 mos.; American Academy of Pediatrics 2004, 209)

  • Recognize an object as something she has seen before, even while looking at it from a different perspective. (By 4 mos.; Fogel 2001, 252)

  • Notice the difference between different songs that the infant care teacher sings. (By 6 mos.; Fogel 2001, 252)

  • Look confused upon hearing sounds that do not fit with the motions observed (for example, hearing a squeaking noise while seeing a rattle move). (By 6 mos.; Fogel 2001, 252)

  • Explore objects with the mouth. (By 7 mos.; American Academy of Pediatrics 2004, 208)

  • See different colors. (By 7 mos.; American Academy of Pediatrics 2004, 208)

  • See things from a distance. (By 7 mos.; American Academy of Pediatrics 2004, 208)

  • Track moving objects with both eyes together. (By 7 mos.; American Academy of Pediatrics 2004, 208)

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

During this period, the child may:

  • Nuzzle his face into a freshly washed blanket to smell it. (6–12 mos.; Parks 2004)

  • Show recognition of sounds, such as the mother’s footsteps, water running in the bathtub, or the refrigerator door being opened. (18 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 38)

  • Pat, push, mound, and squeeze play dough, experiencing all the ways it can be used. (18 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 37)

  • Explore pegboard holes with a finger, then look around for something to fit in the holes. (18 mos.; Meisels and others 2003, 37)

  • Enjoy messy activities or show a dislike for messy activities. (12–18 mos.; Parks 2004, 14)

  • React to various sensations, such as extremes in temperature and taste. (12–18 mos.; Parks 2004, 14–15)

  • Crumple and tear paper. (7–9 mos.; Parks, 2004, 26)

  • Stop crawling when he reaches the edge of the couch. (By the time most infants are crawling; Walk and Gibson 1961)

  • Be able to remember where toys are stored in the classroom because she has crawled by them before. (By the time most infants are crawling; Bai and Bertenthal 1992; Campos and Bertenthal, 1989)

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

During this period, the child may:

  • Enjoy rough-and-tumble play. (18–24 mos.; Parks 2004, 16)

  • Handle fragile items carefully. (24–26 mos.; Parks 2004, 16)

  • Enjoy tactile books, such as books with faux fuzzy animal fur. (24–29 mos.; Parks 2004, 17)

  • Play with sand and water by filling up buckets, digging, and pouring water. (24–36 mos.; Parks 2004, 17)

Next Foundation: Gross Motor

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Questions:   Early Education and Support Division | itfoundations@cde.ca.gov | 916-322-6233
Last Reviewed: Friday, May 17, 2019
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