Try the following practices with infants and toddlers.1 Find out how home visitors can put these practices to work with families.
Infants and Toddlers
- Acknowledge each child’s active, self-motivated role in perceptual and motor tasks. For example, you may comment to a:
- Young infant: "I see you kicking and kicking your legs."
- Toddler: "You figured out how to walk carefully down that grassy hill. You took little side steps. It’s different than walking on a flat sidewalk."
- Provide a variety of toys, materials, and experiences that support exploration with multiple senses (e.g., easy to grip, have multiple textures, make noise). Place unbreakable mirrors and reflective toys where children can see and use them. As children use toys and materials, comment and ask questions about how objects feel or what children see.
- Place objects (e.g., musical shakers; large plastic beads to pull apart; soft dolls to mouth, feel, and squeeze) within a nonmobile infant’s reach when he or she is sitting or lying down. Encourage the child to reach for the objects through verbal and physical support (e.g., placing object next to child’s hand, gently moving child’s hand toward the object).
- Take nonmobile infants to interesting places or change what they see by placing them in different locations (e.g., looking out a window, going outside, moving to another room). This changes their view and offers them a variety of sensations, such as seeing leaves move with the wind or feeling a breeze on their cheeks.
- Draw attention to children’s sensory experiences during everyday routines and learning experiences. For example, talk with infants at mealtime. Comment on how the food tastes, how it might feel in their mouths, and on the noise food makes as it is chewed and crunched. Talk with toddlers while they are finger painting. Comment on how the paint feels and what their eyes, hands, and fingers are doing as they move the paint around the paper.
- Describe properties of objects (e.g., color, shape, size, texture, smell, sound, temperature) and how they are alike, different, and can be used together as children are using and playing with them.
- Provide varied sensory input in the setting, including varied genres of music, interesting visual materials, and subtle scents.
- Be sure to check for sensitivity to smell before introducing new scents.
- Provide different sizes of spaces for exploring (e.g., small and large cardboard boxes or other containers, spaces in the room for one child to be alone, etc.). Observe and comment about space, noting where a toddler can or cannot fit his body, toy doll, or truck.
- Develop a "sensory log" on each child to document individual sensory differences and create sensory profiles.
Home visitors can support parents in identifying, adapting, and trying the practices listed above during home visits and group socializations. Here are more ideas:
- Talk with parents about how describing their child’s actions and movements helps the child connect words with physical sensations and movements. Model such descriptions as needed and encourage parents to use the language(s) they know best.
- Reassure parents that mouthing toys and board books is one of the ways young children use their senses to learn about the world. Talk with parents about toys and objects that are safe and appropriate to mouth and how to keep them clean.
- Talk with parents about "messy play" (e.g., finger painting, water and sand play, digging/planting in dirt). Brainstorm with parents how such play might be adapted so that the child has the sensory experience within the boundaries of the parents’ beliefs and expectations.
1California Department of Education, California Infant/Toddler Curriculum Framework (Sacramento, CA: author, 2012), 127–134, Perceptual and Motor Development, http://www.cde.ca.gov/sp/cd/re/documents/itcurriculumframework.pdf.
National Centers:Early Childhood Development, Teaching and Learning
Last Updated: December 3, 2019