Effective Practice Guides

Sense of Identity and Belonging: Do


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 Toddlers

  • Describe obvious physical similarities and differences between children. “Your hair is red and long. Chantel’s hair is brown and short. You both have two blue eyes, one nose, and one mouth!”
  • Point out that different people have different ideas and preferences. “You love applesauce! But Kalim doesn’t like it at all.”
  • Sing songs that celebrate membership in the group and uniqueness. Choose some songs that show how your class or group does things (e.g., greeting each other in the morning or picking up toys). Choose other songs with verses that name individual children.


  • Take photos of children working and playing together and post them around the room. Share children’s accomplishments with families via photos on protected websites or apps designed for this purpose.
  • Learn words and phrases in a child’s home language that are meaningful to the child and family.
  • Have families bring in objects that represent children’s cultures; for example, empty food boxes to stock the dramatic play area.
  • Offer chances for children to share information about themselves, their family, culture, and community; for example, drawing pictures, telling personal stories, and singing a song or doing a dance they learned at home or a community event.

Home Visitors

Home visitors can support parents in identifying, adapting, and trying the practices listed above during home visits and group socializations. Here are more ideas:

  • Brainstorm with parents ways they can tell their child they see her as competent. For example, “You’re working hard on holding that rattle and shaking it. You’re good at grabbing and holding your rattle.” “You sing to your baby sister while I get her food ready. You help me take good care of her.”1
  • Share observations that reinforce how much the family means to the child. For example, “During the group socialization, I saw Phoebe put a book in a bag, pick the bag up, and put the strap across her shoulder just like you do. Phoebe told another child, 'Bye. Go to night school!'—just like you do! She sees you going back to school, and it makes learning fun for her because she wants to be like you.”2

1Early Head Start National Resource Center (EHS NRC), OpenDoors Home Visitor’s Handbook (Washington, DC: HHS, ACF, OHS, EHS, NRC, 2014), Chapter 10.5, Social and Emotional Development, How To.

2National Center on Parent, Family, and Community Engagement (PFCE), Building Partnerships: Guide to Developing Relationships with Families (Washington, DC: HHS, ACF, OHS, PFCE, n.d.), 18, Relationship-based Practice No. 4, https://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/sites/default/files/pdf/building-partnerships-developing-relationships-families.pdf

Topic:School Readiness

Resource Type: Article

Last Updated: June 5, 2018