Try the following practices with infants and toddlers and preschool-aged children. Find out how home visitors can put these practices to work with families.
Infants and Toddlers1
- Provide opportunities for children to explore using all their senses, encouraging them to react and move (e.g., place one or two colorful toys within an infant's reach during tummy time or invite toddlers to taste different varieties of apples).
- Watch and listen for clues (e.g., body movements, facial expressions, vocalizations, child approaching you) that reflect what children might be wondering, thinking, or trying to share. Share their excitement and delight!
- Provide an environment and materials that are safe for a child to explore so you can nurture and celebrate a child's curiosity.
- Offer open-ended toys, like boxes and blocks, that can be physically manipulated in a variety of ways.
- Let toddlers do things their own way. Letting children attempt something, fail, and sometimes become a little frustrated equips them with the understanding that it is okay to try and fail.
- Encourage infants and toddlers to participate in routines as much as possible (e.g., have a child lift their legs up when getting a diaper changed or pull up their pants).
- Show delight at children's discoveries (e.g., "Alicia, that is a beautiful pine cone! Tell me about where you found it.").
- Encourage inquiry by asking open-ended questions, such as:
- "I wonder how that got there?"
- "What would happen if …?"
- "How might you do that?"
- "How might you learn more about …?"
- Provide materials and time for children to follow their own interests, create, and explore.
- Play games that build on and extend children's curiosity, such as "I Spy" or "Mystery Bag."2
- Change plans if children initiate a more interesting idea or experience.3
Home visitors can support parents in identifying, adapting, and trying practices above during home visits and group socializations. Here are more ideas.4
- Join parents in observing what their child is doing and saying. Provide them with tips for what to observe. Suggest comments and questions parents might ask that reflect or extend what their child might be wondering, thinking, or discovering. Exchange ideas about what the child is interested in. For example, "What do you think he's curious about?" or "I wonder if he's listening to the paper crackle, trying to figure out what makes it crackle sometimes and be quiet at other times. Do you think he might be looking for what causes the crackling?"
- Encourage parents to learn about things that interest their child as a family. For example, use words or sign language to describe the objects, people, actions, and feelings in the child's world. Learn together by looking for a new topic or discovering the way something works. Suggest resources parents and children can use to find more information (e.g., library, museum, cultural center, appropriate Internet sites if parents have Internet access).
- Encourage parents to let their child explore open-ended materials. Brainstorm which household items could be considered open-ended and used for exploration and discovery.
- Talk with parents about how they can ensure their home environment is safe for exploration and how to actively supervise their child at all times.
1Early Head Start National Resource Center, News You Can Use: Approaches Toward Learning—Foundations of School Readiness, Part 2 (Washington, DC: Author, 2012), https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/school-readiness/article/news-you-can-use-approaches-toward-learning-part-2-foundations-school.
2U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, Administration on Children, Youth, & Families, Head Start Bureau, The Head Start guide to positive child outcomes: Strategies to support positive child outcomes (Washington, DC: Authors, 2003), 98.
4Early Head Start National Resource Center (EHS NRC), OpenDoors Home Visitor's Handbook (Washington, DC: HHS, ACF, OHS, EHS NRC, 2014), Chapter 10.1, Approaches toward Learning, How To.
Last Updated: December 3, 2019