Active Exploration

Infants and toddlers are eager and curious to explore their world

Infant exploring musical instruments

At A Glance

Young children are naturally curious and love to explore their environment. They learn by mouthing/tasting, watching, listening, smelling, touching, and more! We can support children’s active exploration by providing lots of opportunities to explore objects and events on their own and in their own way.

What It Looks Like

A quick glance at ways you can help infants and toddlers develop active exploration skills

Support Exploration

Model and use comments to encourage children to try new ways to play, like this educator does with a variety of instruments.

Promote Active Observation

Create hands-on learning experiences that allow children to observe with their senses. Notice how this educator encourages children to explore by smelling the applesauce.

Support Autonomy

Notice when children show interest and encourage them to see for themselves what something is and how it works, like this educator does with the puppets.


Green on Green

Written by Dianne White and illustrated by Felicita Sala, this story follows a family as they notice and experience changes in the world, and in their own family, as each season passes.

Green on Green Page of Book
Flashlight Book Cover Image



Written and illustrated by Lizi Boyd, this story uses detailed scenes, instead of words, to tell a story of discovery on a dark night.


Supportive Learning Environments

This guide from WestEd describes the importance of safe, trauma-sensitive learning environments to promote children’s active exploration.


Exploring Mud Play

This video from Illinois STAR NET offers several ways to encourage children’s active exploration during mud play. 


Curiosity and Achievement

This article from the University of Michigan Health Lab explores the benefits of promoting children’s curiosity to support their development.

Activity Cards for Infant and Toddler Classrooms

Part of the STREAMin3 curriculum, these activity cards provide simple and fun ways to promote active exploration skills
Image for Infant/Toddler Exploration Bins Activity Card
Similar Things

Exploration Bins

Collect related items into a bin for children to freely explore.

Image for Infant/Toddler Sticky Strips Activity Card
Sticky things

Sticky Strips

Have fun experimenting with different items to see what sticks to tape or contact paper.

Image for Infant/Toddler In the Grass Activity Card
Outside things

In the Grass

Encourage children to freely explore and discover items in the grass.

Image for Infant/Toddler Recycled Items Sensory Bin
Familiar things

Recycled Items Sensory Bin

Prompt children to explore recycled items, like newspapers or cardboard rolls, with their senses.


Get Our Resource Guide

Includes questions and activities to guide your use of the videos, book suggestions, and activity cards featured for each of the Core Skills