TIPS FOR INFANT & TODDLER TEACHERS AND CAREGIVERS
TALK TALK TALK!
- Model! Model the correct use of words, the use of familiar word sinew situations and in longer sentences, and the use of new words. The more that teacher model language for babies and toddlers, the more children learn.
- Ask Questions! Ask different types of questions, including open-ended questions. Give them enough time to respond. Giving toddlers choices may help them respond. For example: “Did you use a marker or a crayon to draw your picture?”
- Follow the child’s lead and talk about it! Identify what the child is looking at, playing with, holding, doing, or interested in. Label and describe whatever it is they are engaged with. Jump in and play with them, narrating what you are doing together.
- Have conversations! Some babies and toddlers may not have words yet, but they still communicate in their own “baby language.” This is usually in the form of babbles, coos, laughter, smiles, looks, and gestures. Talk to them and reply to their “baby language.” That is called a “back-and-forth conversation”- baby style!
- Use many different words! Introduce new or uncommon words, explain what they mean, and repeat them across different activities throughout the day. For example, use words like huge, humongous, or enormous to describe things that are very big.
- Repeat and Expand! Repeat the words babies/toddlers use back to them and expand by adding a little more. For example, if the child says “airplane!”, you can say “yes, the airplane is flying in the sky!”.
- For children learning more than one language, use even more gestures and body language.
- Reading to babies and toddlers helps build their language and early literacy skills and helps them get ready for school. For infants and toddlers, the most important part of reading is interactingwhile you’re reading. That means talking about the pictures in the book, asking questions, making fun comments, and connecting the story to the child’s life. It’s not as important to read every word in the book at this age. Instead, it is about learning new words and concepts while having fun
- Introduce children to books! Demonstrate the appropriate way to hold a book. Point out the parts of the book, such as the front cover, the title, and the author’s name.
- Label the objects in the bookand connect them to real life! Identify and define new words and encourage babies/toddlers that are beginning to speak to repeat these words. Make connections between the book, new words, and the baby/toddler’s life. For example, if you read a story about a teddy bear, ask the child about his or her teddy bear at home.
- Repetition helps! Babies and toddlers learn more when the same story is repeated to them multiple times. Point out different parts of the story, new objects or new characters. Introduce new words, and ask new questions with each reading.
- Make it an interactive experience! Ask lots of questions and make comments on things the child points to or talks about. Play “fill in the blank” where the child fills in words of a familiar story. For example, in reading The Three Little Pigs you might say “I’ll huff and I’ll puff and I’ll…” and wait for the child to fill in the blank. Books where the child can touch different textures, open flaps, push buttons, and make sounds allow children more opportunities to interact.
READ, READ and READ!
- Follow the child’s lead! Let the child pick the book or pick a book that you think may interest the child. Spend more time on the parts of the story the child is most interested in. They may show you that they are interested by pointing to specific pictures or talking about specific characters. Let the child turn the page when he or she is ready.
- Make it fun! Be expressive and use different tones of voice for different characters. The more fun children have, the more motivated they will be to read next time.
- Have a diverse array of booksthat represent the languages and cultures of the children in your care. Read books in children’s home languages. If you do not speak the home language of the child, invite volunteers, such as the child’s family, who are fluent in the language to fill the need.
SING SING SING!
- Babies and toddlers love music! Music nourishes children’s brains and can be used to teach them new words and concepts.
- Sing songs and change the words to known tunes. For example, if you use a familiar cleanup song in your classroom, change the words and apply the tune to setting up for snack time (for example “snack time, snack time, everybody eats yummy snacks”).
- Encourage children to act out the meaning of songs. For example, you can teach children hand gestures to go along with Twinkle-Twinkle Little Star or The Itsy Bitsy Spider. Once you teach some gestures, let children come up with their own!
- Create songs to go along with daily routines. Make up silly songs for transitions, snack time, circle time, hello and goodbye, diaper changes, and other activities during the day.
- During a predictive phrase, stop to let the child fill in the blank. Familiar nursery rhymes are great for this purpose. Include nursery rhymes from children’s home languages.
- Sing songs in the child’s home language. Ask families for recommendations about songs they sing at home. Remind families about the importance of singing at home in their home language.