Learning Opportunities

Child working out a puzzle gameYoung children are by nature very curious and interested in exploring the world around them and how things work. Home visitors can work with parents to use the many day-to-day routines and activities in the home and community as learning opportunities. For example, getting dressed in the morning is an opportunity to talk about colors, the weather, and direction and spatial sense. Home visitors can help parents understand how these are school readiness activities. 

What are children learning? 

Many of the skills and concepts young children are learning are outlined in the ELOF. Through experiences with their parents and the environment in the first five years of life, children are establishing the foundation in the brain for all later knowledge. They develop the skills and abilities necessary for learning, such as the ability to pay attention, working memory, curiosity, problem-solving, and persistence. They learn the basic concepts needed in order to live within their own culture and family. 

Children learn about themselves and how to use their bodies. Each child creates a sense of personal identity in the context of his or her family. The child develops an internal picture of him- or herself through his or her interactions with others and the environment. The child sees him- or herself as competent and likable, adventurous or shy, active or quiet. Each child learns how to be in relationships initially with his family and, increasingly, the outside world.

Children learn through their senses—by hearing meaningful language, by exploring and problem-solving, and by interacting with peers and adults. The environment and their relationships offer unlimited learning opportunities.

How To 

Using your program's selected curriculum and the ELOF, you can help parents offer child-focused, structured learning interactions and experiences by trying the ideas below. 

  • Observe the child with the parents, share your observations, and discuss what they might mean about the child's interests, goals, learning, and development.
  • Use a research-based curriculum as a guide for interactions, experiences, and planning with the parents to support the child's learning and school readiness goals.
  • Help parents explore the learning and developmental progression from earliest infancy to preschool years in every domain. 
  • Connect with parents about the learning opportunities in everyday routines. Parents and other caregivers are already promoting their children's learning as they interact sensitively and responsively during daily caretaking routines, often without knowing it. For example:
    • When a father gently tickles his baby's feet and plays This Little Piggy Went to Market with her toes, she is learning that, "Daddy takes care of me. I can trust him to keep me comfortable. We play fun games together," and "I recognize these words."
    • When a parent of a toddler lets the child struggle to put on her own socks and shoes, that child has a chance to practice small motor skills by using her hands and fingers to manipulate the socks and shoes. She consequently learns that, "I am respected and trusted to do things myself. Mommy or Daddy is there to help me if I need it."
    • Similarly, a preschooler who is allowed to help set the table is strengthening motor skills (e.g., how to walk and carry items), counting skills (e.g., four forks and four plates), color identification (e.g., blue place mats and yellow napkins), and self-esteem (e.g., "I am a helper," "I can do things all by myself," and "Mommy trusts me with an important job.").
  • Use materials from the home for play (e.g., sofa pillows to create an obstacle course for a crawler, measuring cups for stacking, fabric squares to fill and pull out of an empty tissue box), doing finger plays and singing songs, offering a pot and spoon, going outdoors, or joining in what the family was doing (folding laundry, washing dishes, or setting the table and counting).
  • Talk to and listen to the child.
  • Show the child photographs or pictures in magazines.
  • Encourage families to get library cards and bring board books into the house.
  • Help families recognize learning opportunities in their daily routines to teach young children healthy habits (e.g., how to cover a cough or wash hands after toileting).
  • Look for opportunities to integrate health and learning experiences (e.g., hand-washing together before a meal is both a healthy behavior and an opportunity to sing and rhyme!).

Experience It

In this clip, a home visitor greets and then works with Mason and his mother on using homemade materials as a learning opportunity and following the child's lead, whether he is using the material in the manner intended or not.

Learning Opportunities


What do you observe?

Answers may include:

  • Home visitor greets the infant, Mason, and his parent
  • Baby balances on one arm, which home visitor comments on and imitates
  • Home visitor reviews what she and the mother talked about the week before regarding what Mason is doing and what they planned for this week
  • Home visitor notices the paper-covered cans the mother made for the child and says to Mason how creative his mom is
  • Mother demonstrates how Mason can use his hands to grasp and then drop blocks into the cans
  • Mason grasps blocks but doesn't drop them into cans
  • Home visitor comments that it's okay if he doesn't put them in the can; he is still picking them up and grasping
  • Mother claps the blocks together, baby bangs one block on top of the other, and mother says, "Good job"
  • The home visitor remains behind the baby or to the side of the mother-infant dyad, except when she is talking to the mother
  • The home visitor asks the mother what else she has around the house that she and Mason could use to practice his grasp and release
  • Mom says they use baby bottle caps and baby-wipes containers to drop things into

How can you apply what you observe to enhance learning opportunities in your home visits?

Answers may include:

  • Use home materials for learning opportunities
  • Pay attention to your physical position in relation to the parent-child dyad or triad
  • Discuss the child's developing skills with the parents and what materials they have in the house that might support those skills
  • Plan the next home visit using that discussion as a basis
  • Support the parent in being responsible for the home visit
    • Scaffold child's learning as needed (e.g., if the baby is not cooperating with activity, reframe what the baby is doing and what he is learning)

Reflect on why your physical position in relationship to the parent-child dyad makes a difference and how it might influence the learning opportunity.

Answers may include:

  • It can change the baby's focus from parent to home visitor.
  • It can make the home visitor the center of attention if she is facing the baby.
  • It may take attention away from the parent, who then may withdraw from the learning experience.
  • It may lead to a focus on conversation between the home visitor and parent and take away from engagement with the child.

What dimensions of development contributing to school readiness do you observe?

Answers may include:

  • Perceptual, Motor, and Physical Development 
    • Fine motor: grasping, releasing, and banging
    • Gross motor: sitting, bending, and balancing
  • Social and Emotional Development
    • Eye contact with mother and home visitor
    • Back and forth play (e.g., banging blocks, imitation)
    • Cuddles/hugs mother
  • Approaches to Learning
    • Initiative in balancing and playing with blocks
    • Attentiveness toward mother and activity
    • Curiosity in exploring characteristics of blocks, grasping, and banging
  • Cognition and General Knowledge
    • Exploration of sound and feel of blocks
    • Imitation
  • Language and Literacy
    • Says "up" to be picked up
    • Makes sounds
    • Responds to mother's vocalization

Last Updated: November 8, 2019