Helping Your Baby Explore Cause and Effect

Helping Your Baby Explore Cause and Effect

Does your 9- to 12-month-old baby like to throw things onto the floor? Does she like to push the same button on her noisy toy over and over (and over…) again? Does she like to knock over stacks of blocks? Your baby is conducting important experiments in cause and effect! And as every good scientist knows, experiments can be messy, loud, and sometimes require a number of repetitions to understand if the same outcome will occur.

Babies use this kind of play to learn about the world around them, what objects are, and how objects work together.1 As your baby gets closer to her first birthday, she’ll become more coordinated and will be able to conduct her experiments in fun, new ways. She’ll shake, bang, push, pull, throw, mouth, and drop objects to see what will happen, so give her plenty to play with!2,3

Which toys and activities will encourage my baby’s study of cause and effect?

  • Blocks to stack
  • Toys that light up or make noise
  • Pots and pans to bang
  • Wooden shape puzzles
  • Toy Hammers and other toy tools
  • Plastic containers to fill up and pour out
  • Pull and push toys
  • Common objects from around the house like sponges, keys, and bouncy balls.

As always, make sure you choose items carefully so that your baby can have safe and fun exploration. Be especially aware of choking hazards at this age because most things will still go straight into her mouth. Also, choose items that cater to her interests in order to engage her curiosity. If your baby loves cats, give her items with kitties on them. If she loves to bang items and make loud noises, let her explore items she can crash and bang and make a lot of noise with.

Don't Forget: While your baby is playing, it’s important to praise her cause and effect learning pursuits, no matter how big or small they are.4 This praise will keep her focused, encourage her to pursue new interests, and maintain her motivation when she encounters road blocks. Finally, make sure to play along with her! Seeing you play will give her actions to copy, and it will give you an opportunity to observe her development. You’ll be amazed by the things your little scientist comes up with and learns!



1 Gellens, S. R. (2013). Building Brains. St. Paul: Redleaf Press.

2 Shelov, S. P. (Ed.) (2009). Caring for Your Baby and Young Child – Birth to Age 5 (5th ed.). New York: Bantam Books.

3 Maryland State Department of Education (2010). Healthy Beginnings: Supporting Development and Learning from Birth through Three Years of Age.

4 Gaertner, B. M., Spinrad, T. L., & Eisenberg, N. (2008). Focused Attention in Toddlers. Infant Child Development; 17(4): 339–363. Retrieved on March 12, 2014, from

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