The benefits of cause and effect learning for babies

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Most people are unaware of cause and effect learning. It’s a cognitive process that helps infants make sense of the world, which is why it’s so important.

Our little people are going to make their mark on this world.

In some form or another, their actions are going to have an effect on other people, their community and the environment on a global scale.

Cause and effect learning pin

The benefits of cause and effect learning for babies

As adults, we expect one another to be accountable for our actions.

Whether it is to look both ways before crossing the street, respecting the law or simply putting the milk back in the fridge, our children will need to be held responsible for their actions.

Understanding how their actions effect the rest of the world is an important life lesson.

This lesson begins in very early childhood.

This article explains cause and effect learning for babies and how to apply it in their day-to-day lives.

There is value in using this type of cause and effect learning at school as well. This information could be useful for preschool and school aged children too.

What is cause and effect

Cause and effect learning is an instinctive process in which babies associate their own actions with the cause of immediate consequences.

This psychological instinct allows babies to associate the instantaneous consequences of their actions with the type of stimulus that caused it.

This instinct, or imprinting allows them to develop spatial relationships as well as language skills.

The ability to recognise cause and effect also makes children more likely to be successful in school because they’re able to learn from mistakes or failures by seeing what caused those things to happen.


The Beginning of Learning About Accountability

This realisation can often start with a simple, mostly accidental, shake of a toy.

Imagine grasping an object, lifting it to the hundreds of sensory receptors in your mouth when tink, clunk, clack – there is a sound. This surprises you causing your hand to drop. A moment passes.

You raise the toy to your mouth again and tink, clunk, clack – it happens again. This time with purpose, you raise your hand and forcefully jerk your arm. Tink, clunk, clack!

A specific, conscious action has resulted in reaching a desired outcome; Cause and effect.

Babies and Learning Cause and Effect

From an early age, babies learn that they may receive a desired response through passing their caregiver a little smile or coo. Unknowingly the caregiver would offer a response which reinforces the babies understanding of cause and effect, being a smile or kind words.

The baby has learnt that their actions will initiate a particular reaction.

stacking blocks

Babies really start to actively explore the concept of cause and effect from between 6-8 months of age.

They start to understand that their actions can result in a clear outcome.

One example that jumps to my mind was when we started introducing solid foods. Little Miss would splat her food onto the floor to watch it fall. This quickly turned into much enjoyment for her watching our food orientated dog quickly dash beneath her highchair to gobble up the nutrient enriched grenade.

Cause-and-effect can be learned through various types of interactions, including:

  • Verbal instruction
  • Demonstration through stories, games
  • Observing role models who engage in cause-and-effect behaviours
  • Participation with others who engage in cause-and-effect behaviors (e.g., parents).

How parents can support cause and effect learning

Parents and caregivers can help cause-and-effect learning in infants in several ways:

  • Talking with your baby about cause and effect
  • By demonstrating cause and effect in conversations, stories, and games
  • Using cause and effect to teach practical skills for life (such as changing baby’s nappy, applying sunscreen or preparing a snack)

Babies learn cause and effect by observing how different things are related. They can learn by listening to people talk about cause and effect. They can also learn by participating in activities that involve cause and effect. For example, cause and effect learning environments look like playrooms that involve balls and boxes. The baby can watch and listen as the ball rolls away and falls off the box. Eventually the baby realizes cause and effect by watching what happens to cause an event to occur.

Why your baby throws things

The Importance of Babies Interacting with Their Environment

Babies are born curious.

They are sensory learners that thrive through engagement with their surroundings.

Learning through play can offer the opportunity for our children to interact with their surroundings. Through this discovery is how they learn where they stand within their environment and the impact they have on elements within it.

Allow your child to actively engage with toys, activities and experiences that can fuel their curiosity and present opportunities for them to experiment.

Best toys to encourage cause and effect learning

Toys that build an understanding of cause and effect so they may then learn how their actions lead to outcomes.

Musical instruments such as Maracas, Bell Sticks and Xylophone are perfect tools to encourage your child to explore the concept of cause and effect. These can be shaken or tapped softly or loudly, quickly or slowly.

Any toy that your child interacts with to make it do something, is going to help develop this important life lesson.

Here are some of our favourite toys that promote learning about cause and effect in a gentle way, without being over stimulating. These toys each involve your baby or toddler in meaningful, active play.

Totli Box
Totli Box
Djeco Tapatou Chicken
spinning drum totli
Spinning Drum
Fta Brain Toys Klickity
Fat Brain Toys Klickity
Hape Pound and Tap Bench
Manhattan Rattle Skwish
Manhattan Rattle Skwish

Creating a cause and effect learning environment

Creating a cause and effect learning environment is important.

When babies are surrounded by cause and effect activities from the time they’re born, it will make them more likely to learn from themselves through their own experiences.

As you teach cause and effect to your child, consider the following:

  • Show how different actions produce different results
  • Provide plenty of opportunities to experiment with cause and effect on their own
  • Ask your child to explain situations themselves

With cause and effect, you’ll be helping your baby build a strong foundation that will help them throughout their life.

In a cause-and-effect environment, activities have been set up for babies so they can explore cause-and-effect concepts on their own.

Babies are encouraged to experiment with cause and effect by performing different actions that will elicit a response from a toy or another object in order to learn the relationship between the two.

For example, if a baby places a ball on top of a box that has no lid, then lifts the box. The ball will fall out which causes it to roll away. If this happens several times over an extended period of time while the baby is exploring cause and effect on their own without parental guidance, they will begin to learn how cause and effect works.

How cause and effect learning could be applied at school

Studies show that cause-and-effect helps babies learn about relationships between objects in their environment. This important concept also extends to the development of language skills such as reading comprehension, writing, and math.

This notion of cause-and-effect can also be applied to different scenarios at school.

Cause-and-effect impacts social skills which help improve communication between children at school or during group projects.

Moving forward, cause-and-effects concepts should be used more often during group work or other types of collaborative events. This is because it helps students learn how to cooperate with one another while improving the overall quality of their work.

For example in the classroom when children are working together. There are several ways cause-and-effect can help them further develop their relationships with classmates.

For instance, consider a situation where one student asks another an important question during a group project. Because they want to understand further, it could cause a good response from the other students as well as improve the quality of the group project.

Then, if a student is struggling with a particular topic but is helped by others within their class, that would cause them to feel better about themselves. In this way, cause and effect learning encourages cooperation and collaborative learning within school groups, which benefits everyone involved.

Learning through play – its so much more then just having fun.

Beginners to sensory play course

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    1. For sure! Our brains are hard wired to grow so rapidly during the first 3 years of life. Play based learning really is the best way to develop those all important neuro connections!

  1. Wow this is great insight. I feel like there are some adults that don’t quite understand cause and effect in interpersonal relationships! It’s a great tip to start teaching it to young babies.

    1. Thank you! Yes, for sure! Imagine the difference that there would be if we all considered the ramifications of our actions on others before acting. This lesson certainly does continue well into adulthood

  2. First off – WOW! What an awesome shot of the balloon bursting. That is a fabulous photo. I love the idea of explaining to children early on about cause and effect. So often they don’t understand that everything we do has a result that makes an impact whether it’s positive or negative. And to make the lessons enjoyable means they are more likely to stick. Great post

    1. Thank you! I must admit that is a stock photo.. haha You have inspired me to try and take one myself ?

      I completely agree with you. Cause and effect certainly is one of those life lessons we all need to learn. I feel grateful that we have the opportunity to explore this during play to, as you said, make it more likely to stick

  3. You’re definitely right about “cause and effect” as one life lesson every child must learn and realize. This has been an issue in our household for some time now.

  4. So interesting reading your perspective on this. I agree that children are information sponges, even when they are playing!

  5. You would be amazed at how their little minds work. My kids will come out and tell me some things that I would never even have thought of over a situation.

  6. This is definitely something that a lot of adults don’t tend to explore with kids. This type of reasoning is so very important for them to learn.

  7. Agree that it’s important to teach children responsibility from young. Love your method of detailing action and effect. Learning responsibility through play could be fun for kids.

  8. Beautifully written! Children will learn more while playing and having experiences. I love your writing style.

  9. I am a big fan of learn through play! Kids learn so much about cause and effect and how things work simply by playing!

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