Cause & Effect

Actions and Responses

Cause and effect is the relationship between an action and its outcome.


Twins Catherine and Ian are excited because they are going to music class today. As the twins arrive at music class, the music teacher asks them to come sit on the floor. The music teacher says, “Hello, everybody! Today you are going to play music with me using a pot and a spoon. This is a pot, and this is a spoon.” She holds up each item to the class. “When I start to sing and play my guitar, you can start hitting your pot with the spoon. When I stop singing and playing my guitar, you should stop hitting your pot with the spoon. Watch and listen to me as I show you how.” Then she gives both children a different size pot and a wooden spoon. As she starts to play her guitar and sing, the twins begin to hit their pot with their spoon. Catherine and Ian start by hitting the pot quietly and then each one gets louder and louder, hitting as hard as they can. The children get so loud they do not hear the teacher stop singing and playing her guitar. The music teacher has to remind the twins to stop.


Even though Catherine and Ian do not stop hit ting on the pot, each child is able to hear that by hit ting on the pot they can make a noise. The harder each child hits the pot, the louder the noise gets. The causative action is hitting the pot with the spoon, and the effect is the noise it makes.

When your child presses a button on a toy and hears it go “beep, beep,” he is engaging in cause and effect. The cause is your child pressing the button, and the effect is the sound the toy makes.

Through developing an understanding of cause and effect, your child will build his abilities to solve problems, to make predictions, and to understand the impact of his actions.

The concept of cause and effect is understood further as your child learns that certain actions bring a predictable response. He pushes the toy off the table, and you pick it up for him and place it back on the table. He pushes the toy off the table again. This exchange of cause (pushing the toy off the table) and effect (you pick up the toy) can go on and on to the endless delight of your toddler.

When your child is around 20 months old, you will notice how he experiments with cause and effect when playing with blocks. You will see your child stack one block on top of the other; as he places a third block (cause) on top of the tower, the tower falls down (effect). You will see your toddler try to place a large block on top of a small block (cause). When the large block falls over (effect), it will take your child a few tries before he realizes the small block should go on top.

However, when your child plays with blocks again, he will not remember exactly how the blocks stacked together and will begin to experiment with cause and effect all over again. This is because his memory skills are still developing. Give him time. These skills develop with age.