Sub-domain: Approaches to Learning

The Approaches to Learning sub-domain covers goals one through three of the Idaho Early Learning Guidelines.

Using this guide

Scroll down to see the age group you are most interested in. Click on the goal to learn more about the goal's:

  • developmental growth
  • child indicators
  • caregiver strategies

There is an option to download the information at the end of each goal. When you click the link you will be brought to a new page where you can download the goal as a PDF.  

Childcare worker using colored pencils with toddler

0 - 8 Months

Goal 1: Children show curiosity and interest in learning and experimenting.

Developmental Growth: Seek, initiate, and respond to interactions with people and objects.

Child Indicators: Shows interest in people by kicking legs, smiling, reaching, and looking at the person. Reacts to new voices or sounds by turning in the direction of sound, becoming more quiet or active, or changing facial expressions.

Caregiver Strategies: Create a safe, secure, and attractive environment for children to explore toys, books, and caregiver. Respond to and initiate play with the child during the course of everyday routines (diaper changing, bathing). Observe child to understand unique temperament, learning styles, and ways of showing curiosity. Introduce child to new people, places, objects, and experiences. In group child care settings, establish a primary caregiver to create a trusting relationship from which the child can explore.

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Goal 2: Children are able to generate new ideas, approaches, and activities in daily routines.

Developmental Growth: Using all of their senses, actively explore themselves and their immediate surroundings.

Child Indicators: Inspects own hands and feet, by mouthing. Mouths, shakes, bangs, drops, or throws objects. Responds to smells (especially mother’s smell). Turns and responds to familiar voices and/or new sounds. Cries, coos, and makes single syllable sounds around certain activities. Startles easily around new sounds, smells, textures.

Caregiver Strategies: Play with baby every day. Provide toys and experiences with a variety of colors, textures, sounds, shapes, and smells. Change the materials, toys, and objects in baby’s environment regularly. Use everyday routines to allow creativity, and sensory exploration (e.g., when feeding a baby let them touch the food while describing what they might be feeling, or telling a child, “this wipe will feel cold.”). Describe what the baby is experiencing (e.g., “Oh, that feels squishy.”  “Hear that drum go boom, boom, boom!”).

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Goal 3: Children and confident to initiate and complete activities using a variety of approaches.

Developmental Growth: Engage in interactions with familiar people and explore people and objects around them.

Child Indicators: Holds the attention of caregivers (smiles, babbles, sustains eye- contact). Directs attention towards objects by reaching, grasping, or staring at them. Examines a face, toy, or rattle for a brief period of time. Repeats simple motions or activities (swats at a mobile, consistently reaches for objects). Engages familiar adults and children in interactions.

Caregiver Strategies: Respond to child’s actions and play with child during everyday routines and free time. Follow child’s lead and/or choices in daily activities. Provide opportunities for simple exploration on back and tummy, with supervision. Interact with child during daily routines; explain what will happen next. Provide opportunities for baby to watch others by placing them close to activities (bringing to dinner table or alongside other people as they play or work.) Seek and sustain eye contact with the infant.  Looking away and back as the infant cues interaction. Mimic the infant’s sounds back to them.

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6 - 18 Months

Goal 1: Children show curiosity and interest in learning and experimenting.

Developmental Growth: Respond with verbalizations and curiosity to objects, people, and their traits

Child Indicators: Shows interest, explores, manipulates, or stares at objects in the environment. Shows interest by pointing, gesturing, or verbalizing. Explores objects through mouthing, banging, dumping, moving, and throwing. Uses senses to explore the environment (tasting, touching, hearing, smelling, looking). Experiments with objects and actions.

Caregiver Strategies: Provide support and time for child who is hesitant about new objects and experiences. Play with child using objects with different textures, sounds, shapes, temperatures, and smells. Provide safe floor play space for child to explore favorite toys and movement. Point out places, objects, and what people are doing. Offer variety in food, textures, and taste.

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Goal 2: Children are able to generate new ideas, approaches, and activities in daily routines.

Developmental Growth: Use sensory exploration of objects and sounds by trying different things and making different noises or movements.

Child Indicators: Imitates actions observed in another situation (tries to stack blocks after watching other children, bangs on a surface after watching drumming at a cultural event). Uses objects differently and creatively (a bucket is turned upside down to build a tower or be a pedestal). Looks to caregiver for assurance when trying something new or risky. Plays with sounds by babbling, cooing, or clicking their tongue.

Caregiver Strategies: Provide child time and opportunities to be spontaneous, silly, and messy. Play with child in creative ways (using soft toys to create a puppet show, tell imaginative stories using familiar characters and the local environment). Reassure child to try something new and safe. Provide time and materials for sensory exploration.During daily routines, engage child in the task (e.g., singing, or push your hand in the sleeve of a coat and ask, “Where are your fingers?).

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Goal 3: Children and confident to initiate and complete activities using a variety of approaches.

Developmental Growth: Seek out familiar people and objects to engage in pleasurable activities.

Child Indicators: Remembers where favorite items are stored.Focuses on the reader or storyteller for brief periods of time.Tries different ways of doing things. Shows willingness to try a new activity or a familiar activity in a new setting. Expresses a desire to feed themselves in the culturally- defined manner. Engages in and actively explores new surroundings. Selects a book, toy, or item from several options.Looks to their caregiver/parent for reassurance and moves away to try a new activity. Shows preferences and dislikes for activities, experiences, and interactions.

Caregiver Strategies: Provide opportunities for child to choose toys to play with and books to read. Provide opportunities for child to take reasonable and safe risks (stretch for an object beyond reach). Provide many opportunities for active exploration and doing; discourage watching television or videos. Encourage child to try something new; a texture, taste, movement, or object. Involve child in daily routines; asking for their help (e.g., “Can you put your arm in the sleeve?”). Reinforce new skills (e.g., “Yes, you put your arm in the sleeve.”) Get on the child’s physical level as you talk and engage each other.

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Cultural patterns also influence the way children learn.

16 - 38 Months

Goal 1: Children show curiosity and interest in learning and experimenting.

Developmental Growth: Display curiosity with deliberate exploration an experimentation with people and objects.

Child Indicators: Explores immediate environment (asks about a new object, actively searches through a collection of toys). Shows interest in new activities and others’ activities. Asks simple “wh” questions (why, who, what, where, and when). Asks about people in their own environment. Turns objects around, upside down, and inside out to examine the characteristics of the object. Opens, closes, fills, empties, and builds up and knocks down objects and containers.

Caregiver Strategies: Make child’s surroundings safe and inviting to encourage exploration. To increase interest, provide child with a variety of safe objects/toys that can be used in multiple ways.  Interact with child by asking simple questions and responding to his/her questions. Wonder aloud with child about why, who, what, when, and where. Describe and talk about what you see around you. Read and tell stories that introduce the child to many people, places, and cultures.  Offer a variety of materials and activities that match child’s exploration style (a child who is slow to warm may respond best to an activity that allows play at the edge of the group, a blind child may explore best with materials that have a variety of textures).   Offer sensory play to include water and sand toys. 

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Goal 2: Children are able to generate new ideas, approaches, and activities in daily routines.

Developmental Growth: Uses imagination and pretend play to plan experimentation with objects and roles.

Child Indicators: Invents new uses for everyday materials (bangs on pots and pans). Approaches takes experimentally; adapting the use of objects as the play evolves. Displays understanding of how objects work together (gets the dustpan when an adult is sweeping the floor). Enjoys opportunities for pretend play and creating things. Uses creative language to describe events, sometimes with made-up sounds. Builds with blocks and other manipulatives. Plays with dolls, costumes, and acts our roles.

Caregiver Strategies: Model use of a variety of familiar and new learning materials and activities. Provides child with art materials and a place to use them without adult-created models or specific instructions. Allow child to mix toys or materials. Provide opportunities for child to remain absorbed in play. Engage child in creating using different media (clay, collage, paint, music, dance, block construction). Engage child in exploration of raw (messy) materials such as sand, water, rocks, and outdoor exploration. Encourage child to talk about and revisit their creative work. Use open-ended questions and descriptive language when interacting with child. Ensure that child has props from their own culture to support pretend play. Encourage child to pretend, make-believe, and use their imagination. Sit with and talk with child at mealtime. Make up stories with child.  Prepare food with the child

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Goal 3: Children and confident to initiate and complete activities using a variety of approaches.

Developmental Growth: Take initiative in selecting activities and seeking out ne experiences with familiar people,objects,and settings.

Child Indicators: Initiates play with others. Responds with “no!” or mine!”  when someone takes a toy. Chooses one activity over another and pursues it for a brief period of time. Proposes an idea for how to spend time. Shows interest in wanting to take care of themselves (dressing). Initiates activities at their caregivers’ suggestions. Seeks and takes pleasure in both new and familiar skills and experiences. Pretends to be in new and familiar places with new and familiar roles. Shows willingness to try less familiar environments and situations; depending on temperament. Plays beside others, usinsimilar materials, though not necessarily sharing the same toy.     

Caregiver Strategies: Provide time for child to engage in sustained activities; to be ontoddler time.” Respond to child’s requests for assistance. Limit environmental distractions to help child sustain attention to activities (turn television off while child plays in room). Talk with child about their activities using open-ended questions (e.g., “How did you do that?”  “Tell me more.”). Try new tasks with child and describe them. Provide and support child’s choices during daily activities (choosing a book, cup, toy). Help child feel safe and capable of trying something new or taking reasonable risks in a variety of settings.  Direct concerns about child's behavior or development to a medical or developmental expert (in partnership with the family).   Offer suggestions about how the child can play beside other children, as the child is learning to initiate such play.  

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36 - 60 Months

Goal 1: Children show curiosity and interest in learning and experimenting.

Developmental Growth: Become inquisitive; seeking information to build understanding and gaining descriptive vocabulary to seek understanding.

Child Indicators: Asks others for information (e.g., “What is that?” “Why is the moon round?”). Investigates and experiments with materials; matching, sorting, and grouping. Shows interest in how and why others do things. Uses “wh” questions to get additional information about how their world works (why, who, what, where and when). Develops personal interests (trains, animals, dinosaurs). Develops sense of competence by actively engaging in play and putting materials together in new ways to test end results. Builds a vocabulary of adjectives and adverbs to describe and categorize words and actions. Uses fantasy and reality to explain phenomenon.

Caregiver Strategies: Provide opportunities and time for child to explore a variety of activities and materials, including those in the larger community and those from diverse cultures. Identify and build on child's individual interests. Provide a variety of stimulating, open-ended materials reflecting child's expressed interests, and self-directed time to use them. Provide opportunities for child to explore ideas and ask questions where adults and other children listen and respond. Help child find answers to their questions by exploring together and asking open-ended questions (e.g., “I wonder...?”  “How could that work?”  “What do you think about…?” or “What ideas do you have?”). Play question-and-answer games that inspire child’s curiosity. Read about topics of interest with the child (trucks, insects, gardening) to demonstrate how and where people find information. Elaborate and embellish a child’s utterances (Child says, “I rode the trike.”  Adult responds, “Yes, you rode on the tricycle with two small wheels and one large wheel.”). Offer many sensory play opportunities using textures, mixing substances, block play, and dramatic play.

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Goal 2: Children are able to generate new ideas, approaches, and activities in daily routines.

Developmental Growth: Expand personal expression through inventive language and play.

Child Indicators: Uses dramatic play to take on roles. Invents new activities or games. Uses imagination to create a variety of ideas. Creates and negotiates acceptable rules for group activities. Makes up words, songs, or stories.Expresses ideas through art, construction, movement, or music. Engages in extensive pretend play that includes role-play (playing house or explorers). Engages in open-ended exploration of raw materials messy play). Uses materials in a new or novel way.Chooses new and different materials to represent thoughts.

Caregiver Strategies: Create an environment and a range of materials where child is encouraged to experiment and use their imagination. Ask open-ended questions to encourage creative thinking. Provide tasks where the goal is trying different strategies rather than right or wrong answers. Ask child how a story may have ended differently (e.g., “What if...?”). Provide opportunities for child to create and complete projects in their own way. Engage child in creating and completing projects using different media (clay, collage, paint, music, dance, chalk, box construction).Demonstrate and explain how to be flexible about changes in routines and plans (provide more structure for child with special needs). Provide child with access to artists and artwork from their own and other cultures. Maintain files of a child’s creative work for the child to revisit and comment on. Display a variety of child’s creative work instead of mass- produced or teacher-created display. Engage child in drawing a series of pictures that represent or illustrate experiences or a story they have made up.

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Goal 3: Children and confident to initiate and complete activities using a variety of approaches.

Developmental Growth: Display initiative and confidence interacting in a variety of social and physical settings.

Child Indicators: Asks a peer to join in play. Joins a play activity already in progress, with assistance. Selects new activities during play time (selects characters for dress up, tries a new scooter). Offers to help with chores (sweeping sand from the floor, helping to clean up juice spills). Finds and uses materials to follow through on an idea (blocks for building a tower, blank paper and crayons for drawing about a story or experience). Makes decisions about activities and materials to work with from the selection offered. Plans time for completing activities. Shows completed projects to others and explains what they did.

Caregiver Strategies: Encourage child to pursue favorite activities. Demonstrate and explain to child that taking reasonable risks is acceptable. Facilitate play in groups; offer props to extend play. Modify group activities to ensure participation of children with special needs. Acknowledge when child initiates pro-social activities and point out the positive outcomes. Provide environments that create opportunities for child to initiate activities where failure is acceptable. Recognize that child may not demonstrate and express initiative in the same way in all settings (may take initiative with peers but not in presence of elders). Create opportunities to “save” art, blocks, or process activities so child can return to them later. Offer opportunities to display work, including three-dimensional structures.

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Reasoning and Logic indicates children’s growing skills to create and analyze attributes.

60 Months - Kindergarten

Goal 1: Children show curiosity and interest in learning and experimenting.

Developmental Growth: Acquire the ability to think logically; showing increased interest for reasoning about complex information about people, objects, and actions.

Child Indicators: Talks about new events and occurrences. Asks questions about changes in their world. Shows enthusiasm for field trips and other outings to new places. Looks for new information, with assistance, and wants to know more about personal interests. Uses available tools to explore (books, technology, other people).Uses multiple strategies to explore a new situation or object.

Caregiver Strategies: Offer a variety of resources for gathering information to build on child’s interests (books, videos, field trips, technology). Provide child with opportunities to use resources to answer questions (if a child wonders about dinosaurs, find a dinosaur book at the library, search a child- appropriate website together). Provide opportunities for child to learn about families and their surrounding environment. Provide opportunities for child to observe and listen to adult conversations about why, who, what, where, and when. Encourage child to invent make- believe stories. Offer ample opportunity for dramatic play where the child is free to try out roles and activities. Offer time for experimenting with a variety of art media.

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Goal 2: Children are able to generate new ideas, approaches, and activities in daily routines.

Developmental Growth: Become more elaborate and cooperative in creative expression.

Child Indicators: Uses dramatic or symbolic play to pretend. Combines activities, materials, and equipment in new ways (builds tent by using a sheet or blanket around a table).  Completes projects differently from other children (uses a unique approach in block structures or paintings).  Makes changes to a familiar story by adding actions or characters. Represents reality in a variety of ways (pretend play, drawing, making up songs, or making rhymes). Approaches tasks and experiences with increased flexibility, imagination, and inventiveness. 

Caregiver Strategies: Play make-believe games with child, including games that introduce the child to diverse people, places, and cultures (e.g., If you were a frog, what would you think about the rain outside?).Ask open-ended questions that create an interaction and dialogue with child (e.g., What do you think about...?).  Provide a variety of creative outlets for child (opportunities to dance, paint, build, make music, invent stories, and act them out)

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Goal 3: Children and confident to initiate and complete activities using a variety of approaches.

Developmental Growth: Initiate and sustain play and activities with confidence through increased personal and shared interests.

Child Indicators: Chooses to work on a project because the activity is of personal interest. Invents projects and works on them with little assistance. Forms a plan for an activity and acts on it. Tells the difference between appropriate and inappropriate (or dangerous) risk-taking, with assistance. Chooses to leave a project and returns to it later for completion or elaboration. Participates in displaying a completed project.

Caregiver Strategies: Provide opportunities for children to set and pursue goals. Encourage children to follow through on own interests or projects. Create projects for children to work on over time (planting seeds and nurturing them to watch them grow). Provide opportunities for children to take on activities or responsibilities that last more than one day (feeding the gerbil this week). Provide adequate time and support for children to complete increasingly complex games or tasks. Provide opportunities for children to work successfully together on complex projects. Provide opportunities and assistance, if necessary, for children to join other children playing. Provide opportunities for children to play by themselves and with others. Encourage children to follow through on own interests by providing comments, information resources, or props, as needed. Provide opportunities for children to interact with a variety of people (peers, elders, shopkeepers, neighbors). Provide opportunities for children to form, design, and undertake activities and projects.

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Grades 1 - 3

Goal 1: Children show curiosity and interest in learning and experimenting.

Developmental Growth: Make and test hypotheses; looking at a problem from more than one perspective.

Child Indicators: Explores self-directed interests. Uses a variety of means to gather new information. Knows where to find needed information, including seeking adult help. Extends and elaborates with the help of peers. Uses basic “if, then” logical thinking to explore a question. Uses humor to express understanding of the multiple meanings of words and phrases. Distinguishes between fantasy and reality using logical thinking.

Caregiver Strategies: Address children’s different learning styles and abilities by planning activities with multiple approaches. Facilitate self-directed learning and problem-solving through different modalities (visual, auditory, tactile). Build on child’s interests by providing opportunities and time for child to collaborate with peers on group projects of interest to them. Read a variety of books that interest the child, both fiction and nonfiction. Encourage child to talk about their discoveries and discuss their ideas with others. Provide opportunities for child to observe and listen to adult presentations on topics of interest. Offer opportunity for fantasy play, as well as opportunity for reasoned logic in play.

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Goal 2: Children are able to generate new ideas, approaches, and activities in daily routines.

Developmental Growth: Can solve problems and generate new ideas and multiple solutions using basic logic, systematic thinking, and perspective taking.

Child Indicators: Relates their activities in the past, present, and future; engaging in "what if?" scenarios. Generates multiple solutions to problems/projects. Generates creative solutions in conjunction with their peers. Takes into account others' views and perspectives. Strives to represent reality. Demonstrates understanding of how the basic, everyday, physical world works.

Caregiver Strategies: Provide experience with different materials (computer graphics, paper-mache, oil paints, music, language, and mechanical tools). Provide opportunities for child to create objects of their own choosing by experimentation with materials. Use visual arts along with curriculum for learning about other cultures. Provide opportunities for the child to develop personal stories and poems. Provide opportunities for children to work on projects together. Offer a range of problem-solving tasks from simple to complex (logical to abstract).

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Goal 3: Children and confident to initiate and complete activities using a variety of approaches.

Developmental Growth: Sustain autonomous work and also contribute to group efforts.  Use rules and conventions to help them carry activities out to conclusion.

Child Indicators: Comments on self-competence or self-confidence in social, physical, or cognitive situations. May exhibit feelings of helplessness (believes they cannot influence the world around them). Shows awareness of gender and cultural differences in perceived competence. Shows assertiveness toward rules and social conventions (older children can resolve conflicts between groups.). Shares interests with peers and displays mutual understanding of situations. Takes initiative in selecting activities and approaches to problems. Sustains interest in and returns to creative projects over time.

Caregiver Strategies: Provide opportunities to extend projects related to themes over a period of time. Provide opportunities for children to work on projects in groups. Be sensitive to children's emerging ability to compare their competencies to others (social comparison), which can negatively influence their self- esteem. Involve children in resolving conflicts when they occur between groups (girls and boys, cultural differences). Respect cultural differences in the value placed on competition and cooperation. Encourage children to solve their problems and acknowledge their efforts.

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