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Foundation: Interactions with Adults

California Infant/Toddler Learning & Development Foundations.
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.; Lamb, Bornstein, and Teti 2002, 340) (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).

For example, the child may:

  • Attend to an unfamiliar adult with interest but show wariness or become anxious when that adult comes too close. (5–8 mos.; Parks 2004; Johnstone and Scherer 2000, 222)
  • Take the infant care teacher’s hands and rock forward and backwards as a way of asking her to sing a favorite song. (8mos.; Gustafson, Green, and West 1979; Kaye and Fogel 1980)
  • Engage in games such as pat-a-cake and peek-a-boo. (7–9 mos.; Coplan 1993, 3)
  • Make eye contact with a family member.
  • Vocalize to get an infant care teacher’s attention.

 

 

For example, the child may:

  • Move close to the infant care teacher and hold his hand when a visitor enters the classroom but watch the visitor with interest. (18 mos.; Meisels and others 2003)
  • Bring a familiar object to an adult when asked. (15–18 mos.; Parks 2004)
  • Allow an unfamiliar adult to get close only after the adult uses an object to bridge the interaction, such as showing interest in a toy that is also interesting to the child. (18 mos.; Meisels and others 2003)
  • Watch, and then help the infant care teacher as she prepares snack.
  • Seek reassurance from the infant care teacher when unsure if something is safe. (10–12 mos.; Fogel 2001, 305; Dickstein and Parke 1988; Hirshberg and Svejda 1990)

 

For example, the child may:

  • Participate in storytelling with the infant care teacher. (30–36 mos.; Parks 2004)
  • Tell a teacher from the classroom next door about an upcoming birthday party. (36mos.; Parks 2004)
  • Help the infant care teacher bring in the wheeled toys from the play yard at the end of the day.
  • Ask a classroom visitor her name.

 

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

During this period, the child may:

  • Engage in playful, face-to-face interactions with an adult, such as taking turns vocalizing and then smiling or laughing. (2–7 mos.; Lamb, Bornstein, and Teti 2002, 375)
  • Begin to protest separations from significant adults.

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

During this period, the child may:

  • Engage in back-and-forth interaction by handing a parent an object, then reaching to receive the object when it is handed back. (9–12 mos.; Lerner and Ciervo 2003)
  • Show—but not give—a toy to the infant care teacher. (9–12 mos.; Parks 2004)

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

During this period, the child may:

  • Practice being a grown-up during pretend play by dressing up or using a play stove. (18–36 mos.; Lerner and Dombro 2000)
  • Help the infant care teacher clean up after snack by putting snack dishes in the dish bin.

Next Foundation: Relationships with Adults

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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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