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Foundation: Recognition of Ability

California Infant/Toddler Learning & Development Foundations.
Important Notice: Programs Moved to CDSS

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 the child can take action to influence the environment
8 months 18 months 36 months

At around eight months of age, children understand that they are able to make things happen.

At around 18 months of age, children experiment with different ways of making things happen, persist in trying to do things even when faced with difficulty, and show a sense of satisfaction with what they can do. (McCarty, Clifton, and Collard 1999)

At around 36 months of age, children show an understanding of their own abilities and may refer to those abilities when describing themselves.

For example, the child may:

  • Pat a musical toy to try to make the music come on again. (5–9 mos.; Parks 2004)

  • Raise arms to be picked up by the infant care teacher. (6–9 mos.; Fogel 2001, 274)

  • Initiate a favorite game; for example, hold out a foot to a parent to start a game of “This Little Piggy.” (8 mos.; Meisels and others 2003;
    6–9 mos.; Fogel 2001, 274)

  • Gesture at a book and smile with satisfaction after the infant care teacher gets it down from the shelf. (8 mos.; Meisels and others 2003)

For example, the child may:

  • Roll a toy car back and forth on the ground and then push it really hard and let go to see what happens. (18 mos.; McCarty, Clifton, and Collard 1999)

  • Clap and bounce with joy after making a handprint with paint. (12–18 mos.; Sroufe 1979; Lally and others 1995, 71)

  • Squeeze a toy in different ways to hear the sounds it makes. (Scaled score of 10 for 13:16–14:15 mos.;* Bayley 2006)

  • Smile after walking up a steep incline without falling or carrying a bucket full of sand from one place to another without spilling.

  • Proudly hold up a book hidden in a stack after being asked by the infant care teacher to find it.

For example, the child may:

  • Communicate, “I take care of the bunny” after helping to feed the class rabbit. (18–36 mos.; Lally and others 1995, 71)

  • Finish painting a picture and hold it up to show a family member.

  • Complete a difficult puzzle for the first time and clap or express, “I’m good at puzzles.”

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

During this period, the child may:

  • Try again and again to roll over, even though not yet able to roll completely over.

  • Grasp, suck, or look at a teething ring. (Before 8 mos. of age; Fogel 2001, 218)

  • Shake a toy, hear it make noise, and shake it again.

  • Stop crying upon seeing the infant care teacher approach with a bottle.

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

During this period, the child may:

  • Drop a blanket over the side of the crib and wait for the infant care teacher to pick it up. (12 mos.; Meisels and others 2003)

  • Drop a toy truck in the water table and blink in anticipation of the big splash. (12 mos.; Meisels and others 2003)

  • Look over a shoulder, smile at the mother, and giggle in a playful way while crawling past her, to entice her to play a game of run-and-chase. (10–14 mos.; Bayley 2006)

  • Turn light switch on and off repeatedly.

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

During this period, the child may:

  • Insist on zipping up a jacket when the infant care teacher tries to help. (20–28 mos.; Hart and Risley 1999, 62; 24mos.; Hart and Risley 1999, 122 and 129; 20–36 mos.; Bates 1990; Bullock and Lutkenhaus 1988, 1990; Stipek, Gralinski, and Kopp 1990)

  • Point to a stack of blocks he has made and express, “look” to the infant care teacher. (28mos.; Hart and Risley 1999, 96)

  • Communicate, “I doing this,” “I don’t do this, “I can do this,” or “I did this.” (25 mos.; Hart and Risley 1999, 121; Dunn, 1987; Stipek, Gralinski, and Kopp 1990)

  • Say, “I climb high” when telling the infant care teacher about what happened during outside play time, then run outside to show him how. (30mos.; Meisels and others 2003)

*Denotes thirteen months, 16 days, to fourteen months, 15 days.

Next Foundation: Expression of Emotion

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Questions:   Early Education and Support Division | itfoundations@cde.ca.gov | 916-322-6233
Last Reviewed: Thursday, June 17, 2021
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