Infants and Toddlers: How do They Learn?

Sometimes it can be hard to remember that babies and toddlers are proficient learners. They may not learn in the same ways as adults, but they are experiencing the world and taking it in nevertheless. They build memories and understanding even though they can’t explicity express them, and the first few years of life are vital to children’s cognitive development.


In the first 3 years of life, infants and toddler’s mainly learn:

  • About relationships (with parents and caregivers mostly, sometimes with other children)
  • How to express their feelings
  • To develop a sense of self
  • How to use their bodies in space (to walk, explore, handle objects, etc.)
  • How to communicate through gestures and facial expressions
  • To develop friendships
  • To use pictures, words and pretend play (which are an important basis for literacy)


How do Infants and Toddlers Learn?


Infants and toddlers learn primarily through exploration of their environment. A few strategies toddler’s develop by doing this include:

  • Maintaining attention (the ability to focus on something for longer periods)
  • Curiosity (the desire to learn/discover)
  • Memory (the ability to store information for future use)
  • Gathering information (the ability to collect information for storage)
  • Solving problems
  • Persistence through frustration


Source: Petersen, Sandra H., and Donna S. Wittmer. Infant and Toddler Curriculum, 2nd Edition. Pearson Learning Solutions, 2012. VitalBook file.



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