• cognitive development: the process of knowing, thinking, reasoning, and remembering
  • emotional development: the ability to recognize, identify, produce, and respond to emotions in yourself or others
  • language/linguistic development: the process of developing language skills to understand when others speak and to speak and engage in conversation
  • physical development: the ability to perform physical activities that require motor skills like running, jumping, and climbing
  • self-regulation: regulating or controlling one’s emotions, thinking, and behavior
  • social competencies: the skills needed for successful social interaction; in young children these include making simple decisions, interacting with others in productive ways, and being able to resolve conflicts in appropriate ways.
  • social development: the ability to use appropriate social skills to communicate and interact with others

Foster Exploration

Before watching this video, read the text below. When instructed, watch the video from the beginning to end.

Once the learning space is organized and predictable routines are in place, the joy of exploration can begin. Exploration fosters development across all areas—socially, physically, cognitively, linguistically, and emotionally. When children explore, they use all their senses to take in and ask questions about the things they are exploring. The learning environment can foster this exploration.

  • Stimulating indoor and outdoor environments offer activities and materials that promote questioning, predicting, and experimentation.
  • Explanatory language allows children to hear vocabulary and use it to engage in conversations and to describe and interact with the world.
  • Activities that allow children to work alongside each other build skills in communication and collaboration.

Let’s pop back into Laurie and Maria’s programs to see how both environments invite children to explore, communicate, collaborate, and learn. As you watch, look for effective strategies used by the educators in the video and jot down answers to these viewing questions in your Learning Log.

  • How are the environments set up to encourage children to explore with all their senses?
  • How do the educators use language strategies to engage children in exploration?


How can the learning environment be set up to encourage exploration?

  • Allow children time, space, and materials with which to explore and experiment.
  • Use activities to promote peer interaction. When children have opportunities to explore alongside other children, they learn how to get along and work together, improve language and communication skills, and solve problems.

What types of materials can educators provide to prompt children to explore ideas in multiple ways?

  • Provide stimulating, interesting, and engaging materials. Different types of materials encourage different types of exploration. For example, sand, water, plastic cups, blocks, and frozen paint sticks invite children to investigate in different ways. (They can experiment with mixing sand and water; building towers with plastic cups; naming and sorting blocks by shape or color; painting with frozen paint, etc.)

What language strategies can educators use to support children’s exploration?

  • Ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions prompt children to think deeply and critically. They begin with words like What and How and generally cannot be answered with a simple Yes or No.
    • What do the beans feel like?
    • How can you get the ice to melt?
    • How could you make your cup tower taller?
    • What do you think will happen if…?
  • Use language that defines and explains. Guide conversations with children and use them as an opportunity to teach. For example, at the Block Center a teacher can use words such as big, bigger, biggest or small, smaller, smallest. This introduces children to ideas, concepts, and words that help them learn.


Think about the learning environment in your own program as you answer these reflection questions in your Learning Log.

  • How is your environment set up to encourage exploration?
  • What types of hands-on materials do you already have available for children?
  • What changes to your environment, activities, or materials could you make to encourage more exploration?
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