Infants and toddlers learn new skills when they actively engage in purposeful, goal directed activities.
Infants who are actively engaged in an activity are persistent and motivated.
Sometimes the infant wants to achieve a particular goal and have already acquired the skills to do so. Repetition of the task allows the infant to refine the sensorimotor control and increase speed and accuracy.
Infants may have a goal in mind but need to figure out how to achieve the goal. This requires trial and error and exploration of different options.
Repetition allows the infant to refine the mapping between sensory information and motor output.
Often infants do not have a particular goal in mind. Instead they are simply exploring the possibilities for action presented by a particular situation or set of objects.
Active engagement encourages focused and sustained attention to the requirements of the task: what do i need to do to achieve my goals, what aspects of the environment need my attention.
Active engagement with a strong desire to achieve a goal also encourages selective attention which allows the child to direct attention to the salient aspects of a task and to switch attention as needed.
Active engagement needs just-right levels of positive arousal: it cannot occur when arousal levels are too high wth signs of distress, or too low with with apathy and lac of interest.