Skip to content


  • There are no suggestions because the search field is empty.


Active Exploration: Activities that promote and encourage child development and learning through movement or by doing something.

Active Physical Play: Playful physical activities (structured or free-play) that promote physical fitness and motor development.

Activities: Experiences planned by the adult that create opportunities for children to explore and learn about their world.

Adaptations: Adjustments or modifications made to materials, the environment, interactions, or teaching methods to support individual children.

Adaptive materials/equipment: Devices or equipment designed to support development and learning by helping a child more easily participate in play, curriculum activities, and caregiving routines.

Adults (as used in this document): Those who care for infants and toddlers in homes, childcare centers, family childcare homes; members of family, friends, or neighbor care providers, preschool programs, and those who are early intervention professionals or specialized service providers.

Aesthetic experiences: Experiences where children can explore through creative activities, such as, music, painting, drama, puppetry, movement, etc.

Age appropriate: What is typically expected for a child’s age and ability level.

Age levels: Overlapping ages of young children described in broad categories: infants, younger toddlers, older toddlers, younger preschoolers, and older preschoolers.

Alphabetic principle: The understanding that letters and letter patterns represent the sounds of spoken language.

Assessment: Gathering information about a child’s level of development and learning for purposes of making decisions that will benefit the child.

Assistive devices: A range of devices and strategies used to promote a child’s access to and participation in learning opportunities, from making simple changes to the environment and materials to helping a child use special equipment.

Attach/Attachment: The strong emotional bond children feel with special people in their lives (family members and other familiar adults).

Book knowledge: Knowledge of the basic features of a book such as the cover, title, author, etc.

Caregiving routines/care routines: Everyday experiences that meet young children’s needs such as diapering, feeding, and dressing.

Cause and Effect: Children combine actions to cause things to happen or change the way they interact with objects and people in order to see how it changes the outcome.

Checklist: A list of characteristics used to indicate mastery of specific areas and used to evaluate a child’s progress.

Child-directed play: Allowing children to choose their own play in an environment that includes several options or choices.

Collaboration: Working with parents and/or other individuals in order to provide whatever is best for the children.

Communication board: A form of assistive technology that consists of photographs, symbols, words/phrases, or any combination of these designed to make language visible and accessible for children with communication impairments.

Communication: The act of understanding and/or expressing wants, needs, feelings, and thoughts with others. Forms of communication may include crying, vocalizing, facial expressions, speech, gestures, sign language, pictures, and/or objects.

Concrete Representations: The use of real objects to represent an idea or a concept.

Constructive: Activities that have a purpose; are meaningful, useful.

Construct knowledge: To gain understanding and knowledge of the world through experiencing things and then reflecting on those experiences.

Coo: Production of vowel sounds, often in response to human face or voice, usually beginning around the second month of life expressing happiness or contentment.

Creative expression: Expressing one’s own ideas, feelings, experiences, and/or perceptions through artistic media such as dance, music, and/or visual arts.

Creativity: The ability to move beyond the usual ideas, rules, patterns, or relationships.

Culture: A way of life of a group of people, including the behaviors, beliefs, values, traditions, religion, and symbols that are typical for the group and generally done/accepted without thinking about them.

Curriculum: A written set of materials that provide an integrated framework to guide decisions adults make when providing experiences for children.

Discriminate: To make a distinction or recognize the difference in sounds, shapes, colors, tastes, etc.

Developmental Indicator: Specific statement that defines what children can do at a particular age level.

Developmentally appropriate: Any activity, material, environment, strategy, or assessment that is based on theories of child development, the individual needs and strengths of each child, and the child’s cultural background.

Developmental milestone: A set of skills or tasks that most children can do in a certain age range.

Dexterity: Skill and grace in physical movements.

Disability: A delay or impairment that is physical, cognitive, mental, sensory, emotional, or some combination of these.

Divergent thinking: A thought process used to generate creative ideas by exploring many possible solutions.

Diversity: Refers to the variety of characteristics that make individuals (and/or families) unique (culture, ethnicity, education, religion, economic background, etc.).

Documentation panel: A collection of photographs, notes, transcriptions, and artifacts that serve as a visual representation of children’s learning.

Domain: One of the five broad categories of learning and development in which goals and strategies are grouped, such as Emotional Development and Social Development.

Dramatic play: Refers to various kinds of play where children can take on roles and act them out (pretending to be a parent or using dolls to tell a story).

Early interventionist: An individual with a special education background who works with children, ages birth to kindergarten, who have developmental delays. The early interventionist works on specific goals and objectives identified for the child, either in their home or in an early education setting.

Early literacy: Describes the foundations of reading and writing that begin to develop in infancy and continue to emerge through the toddler, preschool, and kindergarten age periods.

Emerging: When a child is at the early stages of reaching the skills shown or taught.

Emotional competence: The ability to recognize, understand, express, and regulate emotions and respond to the emotions and interactions of others.

Engage/Engagement: To be or become involved or to be attentive.

Experiment: An action used to discover something unknown, to test a principle or idea, or to learn about a cause and its effect.

Expressive communication: The ability to use words or gestures to communicate meaning.

Extend: (1) To make a longer sentence or add a thought to what the child has said; (2) to allow for more play by adding new ideas or materials to the setting; (3) to lengthen or stretch the human body, torso, arm, or leg.

Fine Motor: The skills and activities that need coordination of small muscles to make precise movements such as those needed for writing, cutting, manipulating puzzles pieces, stacking small blocks, etc.

Foster: To encourage or promote the development of.

Gaze: To look steadily and intently with curiosity, interest, pleasure, or wonder.

Generalization: The ability to take what has been learned in one situation and apply it to new and different situations (when children use a previously used or observed strategy to solve a new problem).

Gestures: Moving the limbs or body as an expression of thought or emphasis.

Goal: Statement that describes a general area or aspect of development that children make progress on throughout the birth through age five period.

Gross Motor: The skills and activities that use large muscles to move limbs and trunk and to control balance and posture. Walking, running, climbing, throwing, and jumping are examples of gross motor activities.

Hand-eye coordination: The ability to coordinate vision and hand movement in order to accomplish a task.

Hands-on activities: Learning activities that enhance children’s understanding of a concept through activities that they do with materials, toys, etc., rather than just listening to an adult or repeatedly practicing isolated skills or knowledge.

Home language: The language that a child’s family typically speaks, and that the child learns first.

Imagination: Forming mental images or concepts of things that are not actually present to the senses.

Inclusive setting/Inclusion: The environment, attitude, and knowledge that encourages the enrollment and participation of all children, including children who have disabilities.

Independence: The child’s ability to do, think, and learn on their own with little or no assistance from others.

Informational text: A type of non-fiction writing that conveys factual information about the natural or social world.

Initiative: The inclination or ability to start or begin an activity.

Interest areas: Areas in a childcare environment where similar materials, such as dramatic play materials, are grouped together to capture children’s interest and engage them in play and learning activities.

Inventiveness: The ability to invent or create with one’s imagination.

Investigate: To study details, to examine, or to observe something in order to gain knowledge.

Joint attention: A state in which the child and the adult pay attention to the same object or event, and the adult often talks about what they are looking at.

Label: To attach a word to a picture, object, action, or event, either verbally or in writing.

Language: Words, signs, and symbols used by a group of people to communicate.

Large muscle control: Ability to use the large muscle groups, such as the muscles in the arms and legs, in a relatively coordinated manner.

Literacy-based materials: Any materials that will facilitate language and literacy opportunities.

Logical consequences: A natural outcome that occurs as a direct result of the child’s choices.

Manipulatives: Materials that allow children to explore, experiment, and interact by using their hands. Such items include, but are not limited to, beads and laces, puzzles, small blocks, and items that can be snapped or hooked together.

Materials: Resources that adults add to the environment to enhance development and learning, including toys, pictures, and other things children can explore.

Mirroring: A behavior in which one person imitates the gestures, facial expressions, speech patterns, or emotions of another in an attempt to show understanding.

Model: The act of teaching others (children) through the example of doing the desired behavior.

Motivation to read: A child’s eagerness to learn to read, and to read.

Non-verbal communication: Includes gestures, facial expressions, and body positions; also known as body language.

Numeral: A written symbol used to represent a number.

Nurture: The process of caring for and encouraging the growth or development of someone else.

Observe: Taking notice of the unique characteristics of each child or something in the environment.

One-to-one correspondence: The ability to match each item in one set to another item within a different but equal set (matching a set of socks with a set of shoes).

Open-ended materials: Those materials which young children can use for creative play in any way they choose.

Open-ended questions: Those questions which require more than a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ response; designed to encourage a meaningful answer using the child’s knowledge and/or feelings.

Over-generalize: When a child applies a rule of grammar to words that do not fit the rule (use of ending –ed, “I goed” or “I rided”).

Persistence: Continued effort; steadfastness.

Phonological awareness: An individual’s awareness of the sounds and structure of spoken words.

Pincer grasp: Putting the index finger and the thumb together.

Play: Spontaneous actions chosen by children and considered by them to be fun and meaningful.

Policymaker: An individual who works to create laws, rules, and/or guidelines that can affect children and families.

Precursor skills: Skills that need to develop prior to learning a new skill.

Primary caregiver: The adult caregiver who is responsible for developing an emotional connection with a specific infant or toddler and who is usually first to respond to the child when needs arise.

Print awareness: The basic understanding of how print works—what print looks like, how it works, and the fact that print carries meaning.

Print conventions: The concept of the basic features of print, including what a letter is, the concept of words, and the understanding of the directionality of print.

Problem-solving: Behaviors practiced by young children that allow them to explore questions or situations and try different solutions.

Prompt: To encourage an action or behavior.

Prop: Any object used by children during play.

Pro-social behavior: Behavior that allows a child to interact with adults and other children in a successful and appropriate manner.

Recall: The act of remembering; to bring back from memory.

Redirect: A teaching strategy used to refocus a child’s attention on an alternative object, feature in the environment, and/or activity rather than directly correcting the child’s behavior.

Reinforce: To strengthen a response with some type of physical, emotional, or verbal recognition or acknowledgment.

Repetitive books: Books that repeat the same words or phrases over and over again.

Represent: To use something to stand for or symbolize something else.

Resiliency: The ability to overcome a setback or adapt to adversity.

Respect: To show esteem for another person; to communicate that his or her ideas, feelings, and needs are worthy of consideration.

Responsive: Warm, sensitive, well-timed, and appropriate to the child’s needs; used to describe adult-child interactions that promote healthy development.

Role: Behavior exhibited by a person that identifies their work, status, or responsibilities.

Routines: A pattern of events or interactions planned and occurring on a regular basis.

Rhythm: A musical term that refers to the repeated pattern of sounds or silences. Also referred to as the “beat” of a song.

Safe environments: Environments where children can be actively involved in things that interest them and are appropriate for them to use without getting hurt.

Scientific method: A process of experimentation that is used to explore observations and answer questions.

Security: Freedom from care, anxiety, or doubt; feelings of safety and trust.

Self-care routines: Tasks or routines carried out to take care of health and hygiene needs.

Self-regulate: The ability for a child to focus their attention, control emotions, and manage thinking, behavior and feelings.

Self-reliance: A child's ability to get things done and to meet their own needs.

Sense of self: How a child sees him/herself, based on their thoughts, feelings, and ability to achieve in ways that are important to him or her.

Sensory: Related to the senses: hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, and smelling.

Sensory impairments: Vision or hearing losses or other sensory disabilities that may require specialized assistance or early intervention.

Sensory materials: Materials and experiences that stimulate at least one of the five senses: hearing, seeing, touching, tasting, and smelling.

Separation anxiety: The stress experienced by a child when separated from a parent or primary adult.

Sleep routine: The process by which a child settles down, with or without the assistance of an adult, and allows sleep to occur.

Social interaction: An exchange between two or more children; relates to children’s knowledge of and ability to function successfully in a group.

Social skills: Any skills used to communicate and interact with others, both verbally and non-verbally, through gestures, body language, and personal appearance.

Solitary play: Independent play when the child is alone and maintains focus on an activity.

Special needs: Developmental disabilities that may require specialized care.

Stamina: The ability to maintain prolonged physical or mental effort.

Stimulation: Any number of sounds, textures, temperatures, tastes, or sights that impact a child’s senses or development.

Strategies: Suggested activities, materials, and ways of interacting that promote development and learning in the areas described by the Goals and Developmental Indicators.

Strengths-based approach: Refers to policies, practices, methods, and strategies that identify and draw upon the strengths of children, families, and communities.

Symbol: Something that represents something else by association.

Teachable moment: An unplanned opportunity that arises where an adult has an ideal chance to offer insight to a child/student.

Temperament: The unique way a child responds to the world.

Themes: Activities, materials, or interest areas in the childcare environment that center around a certain concept or topic.

Tools: Anything used or created to accomplish a task or purpose.

Trial and error: Attempting to solve a problem by randomly trying different approaches.

Transition: To move or change from one activity or location to another activity or location.

Two- and three-dimensional shapes: A two-dimensional shape is a flat image of the shape; a three-dimensional shape appears to have width and height and allows for rotation and depth.

Venn diagram: A set diagram or logic diagram that shows all possible logical relations between a collection of different items.

Vocabulary: The collection of words that a child understands or uses to communicate.