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Associating actions with objects - Babies and toddlers - Educatall

Associating actions with objects

Key experiences for babies and toddlers-Object exploration


For this key experience, provide babies and toddlers with the opportunity to explore a variety of objects to discover their use. The goal is for children to experiment different actions to determine what objects can be used for and how.


Here are a few examples:

  • A watering can is used to water flowers.
  • A baby bottle is used to feed a doll.
  • A crayon is used to draw on paper.
  • Shoes are used for walking and running.

Babies and toddlers explore objects to discover their use because they have seen others use them. They imitate what they have seen.


A baby will, for example, hold a baby bottle up to his/her mouth because an adult has shown him/her how to do so. In the same way, a toddler will clean a table using a cloth because he/she has seen an adult do the same.


Through play, introduce moments when babies and toddlers will have the chance to explore this key experience: associating actions with objects.


Naming actions
Begin with simple actions. Describe actions babies and toddlers perform using different objects during the day. Demonstrate how various objects can be used. For example, you may say, "You push the ball with your foot.", "You eat ice cream with a spoon.", or "You rock the doll."


A picture book
Photograph different people or animals executing different actions involving objects to demonstrate how items are used. For example, take a picture of an adult playing a drum, a child brushing his teeth, a baby in a baby swing, a bird in a birdhouse, and a dog playing with a ball. Use the pictures to create a picture book. Look at the pictures with your group. Name and describe the objects and corresponding actions.


Associating pictures
With older toddlers, use pictures of several items that can be associated with specific actions. For example, a picture of a sandbox can be associated with a picture of a plastic shovel and bucket. Show older children how they can match actions to objects and encourage them to name the associations. For example, the shovel can be used to fill the bucket with sand from the sandbox. A picture of a crying baby can be associated with a picture of a baby bottle. Children can explain how the baby is crying because he/she wants milk. Since a spoon is needed to eat cereal, a picture of a bowl of cereal can be associated with a picture of a spoon.


The next two activities will give babies and toddlers the opportunity to find what different items can be used for on their own.


Crayons are for drawing
Let babies and toddlers associate an action with an object independently. Here, the goal is for them to associate crayons to a piece of paper. Hang a large piece of paper on a wall. With very young children, set crayons on the floor nearby. With older toddlers, set the crayons a few feet away, on a table for example. Observe children to see if they will successfully establish a connection between the crayons and the paper they can draw on.


A watering can for watering flowers
In your yard, set a watering can filled with water on the ground. With very young children, set the watering can very close to a flowerbed. With older toddlers, set the watering can a few feet away. Let children figure out how they can use the watering can to water your flowers and encourage them to do so.


The next three activities require children identifying the correct object to execute an action. Begin by having them choose between two items.


Wrong utensil
This is a silly activity that toddlers will enjoy. Give each child a small bowl of soup and a fork. Let them try to eat their soup with their fork. Observe their reaction and use words to describe it. For example, you may say, "Of course, you can't eat soup with a fork hahahaha!" Set a spoon next to each child's fork. Children will choose between the fork and the spoon. When they begin using the spoon, say, "It is much easier to eat soup with a spoon!"


Feathers or crayons
Set a large piece of white paper on a table along with feathers and crayons. Have fun trying to draw with the feathers with your group before asking them, "Can we draw with feathers? No, but we can use crayons!" Let them use the crayons to draw on the paper.


Every object has a use
Arrange several miscellaneous objects on the floor. Encourage babies and toddlers to identify the use of each one. As older toddlers gain experience, you can increase the number of objects you offer. You can, for example, have a flower and a vase, a figurine and a toy car, and a doll with a baby bottle. As children explore the items and make associations, you can say, "You are using the baby bottle to feed the doll."


The next four activities will provide children with the opportunity to explore bins and associate actions with objects. These simple imitation games are ideal for describing the use of various objects.


The clothing bin
Fill a large container with clothing items. With the children in your group, have fun putting different items on. Describe your actions. For example, you could say, "I am putting the hat on my head.", "You are putting mittens on your hands.", "I am wrapping the scarf around my neck."


Kitchen bin
Prepare another bin containing items children can use to pretend they are cooking. Associate actions to each object and name them (a spoon is used to put food in our mouth, the baby bottle is used to give babies milk, a facecloth is used to wash our face, a bib is worn around the neck to keep clothes clean, etc.). Allow children to execute the various actions with you or with a doll.


A personal care bin
Fill a large container with facecloths, empty soap bottles, hairbrushes, hair ties, tissues, and toothbrushes. Set dolls next to the container and use them to describe the action associated with each object (constant supervision is necessary).


Veterinarian's bin
Toddlers love to care for animals and pretend they are veterinarians. Prepare a bin containing several stuffed animals and a doctor's kit. Use the various tools to examine the animals' eyes, listen to their heart, administer vaccines, etc.


The following activity will give older toddlers the opportunity to sort objects per their use.


Fly, swim, roll
On a wall, hang a large piece of paper and draw a sky and land. With the older toddlers in your group, add a lake. Cut out pictures of an airplane, a bird, a car, a boat, a fish, a train, a bicycle, etc. Adjust the number of pictures you offer depending on the capacities of the children. Encourage children to associate each picture to the corresponding area (sky, land, water) and use words to identify the use of each item or thing (an airplane for travel in the sky, a bicycle for riding down a street, a boat for floating on water).


Chantal Millette
Early childhood educator


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