Early Intervention Strategies for Success

Sharing What Works in Supporting Infants & Toddlers and the Families in Early Intervention

Early Intervention Strategies for Success, Tips, Insight and Support for EI Practitioners


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  • What’s your Best Strategy for…Teaching Cause & Effect?(current)

I’m starting a new series to try to gather YOUR best strategies for supporting children and families! I’ll share a few of my favorites, and I invite you to post your best strategy or a story of when you helped a child learn this activity or milestone. I have a few ideas up my sleeve, but I bet you have many many more!

Cause & Effect

Dad With Puppet and BabyAs every early childhood or early intervention practitioner knows, a child’s understanding of cause and effect is a pivotal competency that underlies so much of development. Communication and social interaction are really just games of cause and effect. So much of what infants and toddlers learn about how to get their needs met is related to cause and effect – you drop the toy and mommy picks it up, you cry and your daddy comes to get you, you shake a rattle and it makes a noise, you push a button and music plays.

Here’s a great example:

Later in development, cause and effect is seen when children take turns in games of tag, when they build sandcastles and the ocean knocks them down, or when they help clean up their toys and are rewarded by going outside to play. Cause and effect is a precursor to turn-taking and is something that happens many times a day in natural routines!

Top Three Best Strategies

So here are my top three best strategies for teaching cause & effect:

1. Set up the situation so that the child is successful then gradually fade out assistance – Make the game as easy as possible for the child to cause something to happen. Use hand-over-hand support if needed then fade it out as the child is able to do it on his own. He might start with just looking at the object and that’s how he causes something to happen (with your or the parent’s help), then eventually learns to make a sound or do a larger movement as the cause.

2. Use the child’s favorite toy or person – You can cover the parent’s face up and play peek-a-boo, put the toy on the parent’s head and let it fall when the child looks at her, splash in the bathtub, etc.  Using what interests the child will help keep the game going as long as possible (great for encouraging attention and persistence).

3. Watch for the child’s actions and sounds and make a big deal about the effect – Say “you made it fall!” or “you found me!” so that the child makes the connection between what he did and what happened. Be expressive, make a big deal, and make it fun!

Now’s the time to share your strategies! Here are a few questions to think about:

How do you teach children with visual impairments cause & effect?

How about a child who has significant motor limitations?

Do you think electronic push-button toys are necessary for learning cause & effect? Why? Why not?

How have you used iPads and other technology to help children practice cause & effect?

Here’s a great video of a little boy with some motor challenges enjoying the app Baby Fingers on an iPad:

I can’t wait to see what strategies you share!

2 comments on “What’s your Best Strategy for…Teaching Cause & Effect?

  • Marie says:

    At first I use very simple actions and materials, such as knocking over blocks, pushing a ball, or touching a wind chime. For visually impaired children, I use a light box to place toys on, and also incorporate flashlights and glow sticks. I use the iPad with several children, although only for a few minutes at a time. Some apps I’ve found that are good for cause and effect are

    I Love Fireworks
    Cause and Effect Sensory Sound Box
    Cause and Effect Sensory Light Box
    Draw Stars!
    Baby Touch (Zoola)
    Sound Box (Sago Mini)

    These activities are for children who are just beginning to understand cause and effect.

    • Thanks for sharing the fantastic ideas and the list of apps, Marie! Starting with very simple actions goes right along with how children naturally learn cause-and-effect so is a great way to start teaching it. I’m curious…what kind of things do you do with the glow sticks?


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