Effective Practice Guides

Perception: Improve

Infants and Toddlers

Reflecting on and improving your skills and knowledge to help children develop perceptual skills is important work. Here are some ideas you can try with your coach or supervisor to build your teaching practices in this area:

Planning Goals and Action Steps

  • Work with your coach or supervisor to identify the teaching practices you want to build and strengthen. Here are some practices that help infants and toddlers develop perceptual skills.1,2
    • Be a "sensory role model" by showing interest and enthusiasm about sensory experiences.
    • Watch for opportunities to introduce new and different sensory experiences, indoors and outdoors.
    • Provide children with both calming and stimulating experiences and environmental settings.
    • Offer materials and objects of various textures, colors, shapes, smells, and sounds, and opportunities to explore and manipulate them.
    • Provide physical experiences that integrate children’s movement with all the senses.
      • For nonmobile infants, avoid prolonged periods of time in devices that restrict movement (e.g., baby carriers, mechanical swings).
    • Describe children’s sensory and perceptual experiences during everyday routines and learning experiences.
    • Follow children’s lead during sensory play. Be attuned to what children like or do not like about the sensory experience.
    • Adapt sensory and perceptual materials and experiences to enable children with suspected delays, identified disabilities, or other special needs to participate. Consult with children’s parents and specialists working with the child to obtain specific suggestions to meet each child’s unique needs.
  • In home-based programs, effective practices may also include broader relationship-building practices such as those described in Building Partnerships: Guide to Developing Relationships with Families.
  • Create an action plan with timelines to help you use the practices consistently and effectively.

Focused Observation

  • Revisit the teaching practice that you outlined in your planning goals and action steps with your coach/supervisor. Together, plan for and schedule an observation where your coach/supervisor can focus on how you implement the practices you’ve identified.
    • For example, if you chose to focus on the practice, Provide physical experiences that integrate children’s movement with all the senses, invite your supervisor or coach to observe during free play time. Ask her to watch how you engage children in experiences that invite them to explore through their senses. Your coach or supervisor can note which sensory experiences you integrate into physical play time. She can also watch infants’ and toddlers’ actions to note which of their senses are stimulated and used during the learning experience.
  • In home-based programs, observations may focus on how the home visitor engages with parents to identify, adapt, and use the identified teaching and relationship-building practices. They may also focus on how you model the practices.

Reflection and Feedback

  • What went well? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond? What did the child communicate in terms of his or her needs or experiences in a given moment? What messages did you pick up from the child? What messages might you have missed?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? How did their reactions support the relationship with their child? Their child’s emerging perceptual skills?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • What seemed challenging? What did you do? How did the child/children react or respond?
    • In home-based settings, how did the parents react or respond? Their child?
  • Cite specific evidence from the observation.
  • Did your coach/supervisor offer feedback from the observation that was surprising? What supports do you need from her to refine and strengthen the practice? What else would help you strengthen the practice?
  • What would you do differently if you were to use this practice again?
  • What do you hope the child/children/parents will gain by using this practice? How will you know?

1Gill Connell, and Cheryl McCarthy, A Moving Child is a Learning Child: How the body Teachers the Brain to Think (Minneapolis, MN: Free Sprit Publishing, 2014), 56–57.

2Massachusetts Association for the Education of Young Children, Massachusetts Early Learning Guidelines for Infants and Toddlers (Boston, MA: Massachusetts Department of Early Education and Care, 2010), 65–70, 152–153, Physical Health and Well-being.

Last Updated: February 13, 2019