Infant and Toddler Learning Foundations

Early Development Learning Foundations

The California Infant/Toddler Learning and Development Foundations are an in-depth, research and evidence backed explanation of the way infants and toddlers develop in the first three years of life and how that translates to high-quality classrooms. The Infant Toddler Learning Foundations explains development through four inter-connected domains, or specified areas of knowledge and activity: social-emotional, cognitive, linguistic, and physical. Teachers can utilize the foundations to create scenarios and cultivate relationships in the classroom as a way to observe children’s skill sets. By observing children’s patterns and behaviors, providers can created targeted lessons to boost development and share what they see with parents and caretakers. It is important to do so in a class setting to determine if there are any developmental delays and if a child would benefit from an assessment or intervention.

Let’s take a look at who benefits from knowing about the Infant Toddler Foundations, the purpose they serve, the four domains, and how QSSB utilizes and shares this information.

Who is the CA Infant/Toddler Learning & Development Foundations for?

The Infant Toddler Learning Foundations establish common language around and understanding of the four developmental domains. This is important as it helps teachers communicate with their students, one another, and also with the families they serve. It is also essential for advocacy and policy change; when everyone uses the same terms around early education, it is easier to advocate for the importance of high quality care and services. Teachers will utilize the skills outlined by the foundations to support the individual needs of the children, communicate with parents and caretakers, and ensure all parties are observing a child and making any necessary interventions.

What is the purpose of the CA Infant/Toddler Learning & Development Foundations?

The purpose of the Infant/Toddler Foundations is to equip early educators with the knowledge and resources they need to create and implement high-quality curriculum. Teachers are able to take what they know about the learning and development domains to foster environments that give children the opportunity to exhibit and grow their skills.

The Four Components of the California Infant/Toddler Learning and Development System



High-quality interpersonal relationships are vital for a child’s development and long term outcomes. It is through relationships, with parents, other caretakers, and peers that they learn how to identify and regulate emotions. Relationships also teach children empathy, impulse control, and where they fit into and how to interact with the world. Teachers can build social emotional skills through books, song, storytelling, breathing and yoga activities and more.


Language development is the ability to understand and use language and begins even in preverbal infants. Infants practice receptive language in which they start to perceive language by taking in the sounds around them and organizing that sound into recognizable patterns. They also make conversation through expressions and gestures. Expressive language is sound and speech starting with the coos of infancy to first words to a child’s ever growing vocabulary and ability to string sentences together. Teachers can build group games, utilize finger puppets, and introduce rhyming activities to help build language skills.


This is the ability to learn, think, and problem solve. It is also a partner to social-emotional development. The two work together to influence behavior and build the capacity for learning and decision making skills. Cognitive skills can be strengthened through puzzles, routines, and matching games.

Physical Development

Physical development is determined by a child’s perceptual and substantial, motor, abilities. Perceptual is one’s ability to observe and interact with their environment and motor is the initial and increasingly complex movements of the body marked by major milestones. Motor development is broken down into two categories, gross and fine motor skills:

  • Gross skills are actions that require large muscle groups like sitting up, walking and jumping.
  • Fine motor skills are those associated with touch and manual manipulation and are employed in eating, dressing and drawing.

Teachers can incorporate physical movement into the classroom with music and dancing, follow the leader, and stretching. It is also important to focus on  inclusivity in movement and all activities.

How Quality Start Utilizes the California Infant/Toddler Learning and Development System

In alignment with other trainings around the state, QSSB hosts informative sessions, like this one, to support the continuous improvement efforts of infant/toddler programs and familiarize them with the Infant Toddler Foundations. Make sure to keep an eye on the QSSB calendar and register to receive regular emails to ensure that you never miss a training opportunity.

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