The Good Play Curriculum - Infant and Toddler Learning Program

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This tested, sequential learning program proceeds in steps – beginning in infancy with Mouthing and finishing at approximately the 3 year-old level with an introduction to Classification and Number experiences.  You will begin to see the sequential order in learning.  You will also be able to see, and hopefully understand, how learning experiences at earlier developmental levels guide success at later developmental levels.

Mouthing / newborn explorations

Shortly after birth, we are aware of how actively the infant explores the world around him with his mouth.  The pleasure derived from his mother’s breast or from his bottle quickly generalizes to his interest in his fist, thumb, or pacifier.  Since something he holds soon becomes something to put into his mouth, he should be provided with varied mouthing experiences.  Thus, you see this infant mouthing a plastic rattle.

  • Tongue thrust toys.


Sensory actions / eyes and hands

Provide the infant with a rubber teether to mouth.  The infant begins to focus his eyes on interesting objects – at first, his mother’s face, and later objects that are placed about one foot from his face.  You see this baby looking intently at a balloon that has been fastened to a cord crossing his crib.  You can vary an infant’s visual experiences by regularly changing the objects you fasten to the cord.

  • Shiny foil balls
  • Stuffed birds on strings – red, orange, blue, yellow, pink
  • See through plastic crib bolsters with objects inside
  • Fish/ducks in bathtub – yellow “wet”


The infant begins to visually follow interesting objects with his eyes.  His interest is heightened if there are sounds to follow too.  Here you see an infant visually follow the sounds and shape of a small rattle that is being moved slowly before her in a half-circle.

  • Velcro strap with bells attached; noise-making fabrics

Next you see the infant visually follow the sounds and shape of another toy – this time, a squeaky bug.  As the eyes and hands begin to work together, we see a baby reach for and grasp objects.  At first his efforts are non-directed and he misses.  But with practice, you will see him reach out purposefully take hold of something he can grasp in his small hand.  Reaching for, grasping, and shaking the small dangling objects in a portable playground produce interesting sounds too.

  • Dangling objects on strings and box frame; squeeze ball
  • Squeeze fabrics
  • Squeeze bottles
  • Sticky form toys
  • Sticky finger pads with sound effects
  • Sticky foot pads with sound effects.


The banging and shaking actions, so much fun for the young child because of the sounds he can make.  

Cause and effect actions / baby actions produce an effect

As the baby begins to enjoy performing actions, which produce interesting responses, he will become increasingly occupied in manipulating different materials.  You see a hitting action that causes the suction toys to be set in motion.  We call this kind of toy action-response toys and cause and effect toys.

The same hitting motion will set a rolling bell in motion on the floor and the baby creeps or crawls to repeat the motion.

  • Pie tin and ball; mirrors


Object permanence games

About this time, hide-and-seek games are fun to play.  At first, partially hiding an interesting toy under a cloth makes it easy for the baby to retrieve the toy.  

  • Peek-a-boo; cups and pans; containers and spoons


The young child’s interest in objects is heightened as he examines the world around him by looking through a colored transparent paddle.

  • Magnifying plastic pieces; Mylar shapes and size pieces; colored prisms


Eye/finger coordination

Simple motor skills begin to emerge as the young child is encouraged to manipulate a variety of interesting toys and materials.  This creeping baby exercises his large muscle groups as he experiences the pushing and pulling motion of the popper toy and also popping sound toys.

Finer finger motions are called for in the action pillow you see.  The child must hit, slide, push, or turn the individual blocks in order to get the response he seeks.

  • Crib toy box
  • Action mail box
  • Action bath toy


Continued fine finger manipulations which include stroking, crumpling, tearing, squeezing, and pulling offer these triplets a variety of tactile experiences.  Use a fur piece, some time paper, and a foam rubber sponge in the picture.

  • Cellophane paper


Grasp / release activities with targets

Grasping objects is easier for the young child than releasing them.  

Shortly after a child easily begins to release or drop objects, he begins to master the forceful action of throwing.  

Combine those skills by fitting clothespins into a plastic bottle – purposeful grasping, easy release of objects, and fine eye-hand coordination.  Such success to be able to aim and hit the target!

Imitation pretend play / objects as symbols

The young child develops his social skills as he begins to indulge in all kinds of imitative behavior.  

  • Imitation masks
  • Baby books
  • Finger puppets


Youngsters making a tower after they have a model to imitate.  They will persevere in stacking five blocks if they have the eye-hand coordination to succeed.  Of course, they will enjoy the sounds they can make by knocking the tower down too.

A child who has seen other children make cars go will soon imitate the sounds and pushing motion involved in directing wheel toys.  Imitation and discovery learning are evident as this child comes to realize that only a slight push is necessary to set a friction car in motion.

  • Wind-up toys

Early self-help skills call for imitative behavior plus an awareness of body parts.  Children know that she places a comb on top of their head in order to approximate a combing motion.  Putting the spoon in the mouth and trying to put a shoe on a foot are other examples of early self-help skills.

They know how to pull the beads over their head in order to take a necklace off.  Later they will learn how to put the necklace on if this action is modeled for them and they are encouraged to try.

  • Hat, gloves, mittens, sweaters, dresses

You recall the eye-hand coordination skills you saw in dropping clothespins into a plastic bottle and in building a tower with blocks—now, you see a child refining their target experiences as they place geometric shapes on a spindle.  Besides being introduced to circular, square, and triangular shapes,They have the added challenge of exerting a pushing and fitting force

  • Magnetic blocks

The ball and box  offers additional target experience as a youngster drop the ball into the hole in the top of the box.

  • Containers and cups; small pieces

And, now you see the youngster’s reaction.  They open the cover of the box to retrieve the ball.  The ball is out of sight but not out of mind.  Remember the earlier hide-and-seek game where the child found the toy hidden under the cloth?

Taking apart/fitting together/matching similar forms

Now you see a more difficult target toy in the rubber pegboard.  In order to be successful in fitting and removing the pegs, the child must exert additional force and exercise rather precise eye-hand coordination.  Their success with this toy will serve them well with the last sequence of toys in the Infant Learning Program, which deals with taking apart and fitting objects together.

A pulling motion separates the popbeads.

A greater pulling force separates the interlocking Lego blocks.

Obviously, taking things apart is easier than putting them together.  However, the previous eye-hand coordination experiences will add to the child’s success in fitting popbeads together.  The child must examine the beads first in order to be able to join the matching sides.

Joining together small unifix cubes calls for the same pushing motion and examining, and illustrates transfer of learning.

Joining more than two of the popbead, unifix cubes, or Lego blocks is more difficult, and to be able to do so is an early indication of a youngster’s sustained interest in making something or completing a project.

In the slides that follow, you will see the activities that match the developmental levels included in the Toddler Learning Program.  You will become aware of how the young child combines sensory-motor skills fostered at earlier developmental levels in the Infant Learning Program to ensure his continued success at succeeding levels of the program.

The threading block is the easiest of a series of grades stringing and lacing activities.  The child learns to thread the block and later to reverse this threading operation in order to recover the cord.

In stringing large beads, the child must master a three-step sequence as he threads a bead, pulls the lace through, and releases the lace so the bead slides down.

Again, transfer of learning is demonstrated as a youngster moves from stringing larger beads to stringing smaller beads. The in-and-out threading action required in lacing around a pattern on a card is the most difficult task and comes last in the series of stringing and lacing activities.

Manipulative skills coupled with perceptual skills make Fitting Whole Shapes a challenging introduction to problem-solving activities.  The ball-in-the-box activity in the Infant Program expanded to include the fitting of five different geometric shapes into corresponding holes in the cover of the form box. The fitting of geometric shapes is expanded in this toy to include the concepts of size and color.  Finally, the child is introduced to fitting the whole shapes of a four-piece puzzle of picture objects that are familiar to her.

A four-piece simple object puzzle has been replaced with a twelve object animal puzzle.  Interest – manifested by the child’s ability to manipulate and fit the animal shapes into the corresponding board cutouts – plus attention and perseverance to task ensures the child’s success at this skill level.

The youngster’s success in fitting whole puzzle shapes at the previous developmental level prepares him for success in his introduction to more difficult puzzles – involving part-whole relationships.  The mental picture of a kitten helps to position the puzzle pieces to reconstruct the whole figure.

A three-piece kitten puzzle has been replaced by a six-piece boy puzzle.  This little boy’s picture of his body parts help to ensure his success at this level.

The young child’s perception of size relationships is reinforced in seriation activities.  You recall that the concept of size was introduced earlier with the shape insert board and that his perception of shape and color were helpful cues, which ensured his success at that skill level.  Now, you see a youngster who is sharpening his perception of size as he seriates rings on a spindle.

Another seriation activity – this time you see a child stacking boxes according to size.  He might further nest or hide the boxes if it is modeled for him.  This is an important time to introduce positional words –on, on top of, in, under – as the child carries out the actions.

  • Colorforms.


About this time, a child is ready for matching activities that deal with pictures – or two dimensional vs. three-dimensional materials.  His vocabulary may be between one-to-two hundred words.  As the child plays with easy picture lotto game you see the mental picture of the familiar objects as well as the  examining skills will ensure her success at the matching skill level.

They continue matching lotto cards – this time they are matching according to color.  As in the seriation activities when it was suggested that positional words should be stressed as the child carries out the activities – here it is important to supply the names of the picture and color cards as the child carries out the matching operation.

Matching is extended in the sorting operation.  Sorting at this level is similar to matching because you provide a cue for the operation.  In sorting by color, for example, you place a different color block in each sorting cup.  This youngster is sorting blocks according to color.

This child is sorting three different geometric shapes.

Big and little beads provide the criteria of size in this sorting task.

And finally, they sort picture discs by identity.  As in the seriation and matching activities, it is important to provide the child with identifying words, which define the concepts he is dealing with.

Experimenting with art materials on a regular basis provides the child with the fine motor skills he needs to enjoy his creative efforts.  Playing with modeling clay involves rolling, poking, squeezing, and other forceful and fine manipulations of the hands and fingers.

Using large crayons on large sheets of paper introduce the young child to a realistic boundary in line drawing experimentation.  Scribbling changes to circular motions and then long and short vertical and horizontal lines as the child begins to control the direction and movement of his crayon.

They will experience the differences between geometric shapes as they follow the form and boundaries of a circle, square, and triangle with their crayon.  Moreover, you can see the fine hand control involved in this tracing activity.

In the developmental sequence of cutting, you will note that the child is using a short snipping motion to cut through a narrow strip of construction paper.  He is not ready for continuous cutting but with practice and encouragement, he will succeed!

Very young children make good use of thin wheat pasta and long brushes to stroke on tissue paper bits.  This easy art project also looks quite good when the child decides he is finished.

Early patterning experiences build on the young child’s interest in manipulating materials.  You will need four different colored plastic teddy bears, which are arranged in a line pattern.  This child is placing like colored teddy bears in front of the pattern, proceeding from left-to-right as she duplicates the pattern by one-to-one matching.

The teacher has made a story pattern by arranging felt cutouts on a felt board.  The child is reproducing the visual pattern and developing listening skills as she responds to verbal cues supplied by the teacher.

A staircase paper pattern helps this child experience success as she sequences varying lengths of wooden rods according to size.  She will soon be able to sequence the different size rods without a paper pattern to guide her.

As the young child begins to understand properties of objects and why certain things go together, there are myriads of classification activities, which will broaden his understanding of the world he lives in.  They will sort small wooden miniatures according to the following criteria: things that grow, things to eat, and things that go.

The concept of one and more than one is an early math experience.  This little girl is introduced to the concept as she manipulates a Match and Check Board.

Ask Dr. Susan