This is one in a series of inclusion-focused frequently asked questions (FAQs) for educators and special education staff. Below you’ll find answers to FAQs about embedded learning opportunities (ELOs) for infants and toddlers.
What are ELOs?
ELOs are short interactions that teach important, everyday skills in meaningful contexts. For infants and toddlers, these interactions occur during typical daily activities, routines, and transitions. They are designed to focus on a child's individual learning objective or target, including the goals set in an Individualized Family Service Plan.
Why use ELOs?
ELOs help infants and toddlers learn important functional skills and then apply these skills across settings and with other people. ELOs maximize motivation by taking advantage of the child's interests. Using ELOs should require minimal changes to the child's regular activities and routines.
What are some examples of ELOs that can be embedded into routines and activities for infants and toddlers?
Educators can use ELOs to support infants and toddlers with a variety of learning objectives — such as drinking from a cup or using a spoon, pointing in order to make a request, imitating sounds and actions, scooping and dumping, washing hands, and putting on shoes. ELOs can also be used to help an infant or toddler navigate social emotional situations, such as making a choice, waiting for a turn, or asking for help.
What are some examples of activities, routines, and transitions for infants and toddlers?
Examples of activities that lend themselves to embedded learning include playing with blocks, looking at books, and going for a walk. Routines could include diapering, meal times, washing hands, and bath time. Transitions might include putting on a jacket to go outside, preparing for a nap, or taking part in an end-of-day activity, such as getting into the car seat. Activities, routines, and transitions can happen at home, in an early learning setting, and out in the community.
What are the steps to implementing ELOs?
- Plan what will be taught and when.
- Implement the plan.
- Evaluate if the teaching was effective.
How are ELOs planned?
First, define the learning objective. This should be an important, functional, and developmentally appropriate skill you and the family would like the infant or toddler to learn.
Next, identify activities, routines, or transitions throughout the day during which you will teach the new skill. Communicate with families about challenges and successes the infant or toddler typically faces during daily activities. This can help to identify moments where the learning objective would likely occur as a natural part of participation.
How are ELOs implemented?
- Plan ahead of time how you will interact with the child to teach the new skill.
- Plan for the environmental or adult-given cue that will initiate the new skill.
- Give the child the right amount of help, if needed.
- Offer time for the child to respond.
- Give feedback based on the child's response — either reinforcing successes or giving gentle corrections.
How are ELOs evaluated?
Monitor the child's progress toward the ELO by observing and collecting information. This could include taking notes or photos, counting successes, and collecting samples of the child's language or play. Evaluate the effectiveness of embedded learning by considering and making changes based on three questions:
- Am I doing it consistently and according to plan?
- Is it working?
- What changes are needed?
Where can I learn more about ELOs?
Are ELOs supported by research evidence?
Embedded instruction is one of the Division for Early Childhood (DEC) Recommended Practices. Instruction Practice 5 states: "Practitioners embed instruction within and across routines, activities, and environments to provide contextually relevant learning opportunities."
The practice is supported by a variety of research evidence.
How do ELOs for infants and toddlers fit into the Head Start Program Performance Standards?
The Head Start Program Performance Standards specifically mention supporting development and learning in the context of daily routines and activities
Resource Type: Publication
National Centers: Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning
Last Updated: July 18, 2023