Infants & Toddlers: Building Intimacy

Infants and toddlers need help from adults to become loving people.

  • Grades: Early Childhood, PreK–K

DEVELOPMENT

ONE OF THE CHALLENGING AND FUNDAMENTALLY IMPORTANT tasks of a baby's early years is to learn how to become intimate with the loving adults who care for the little one. Teachers may be puzzled. Isn't this a parent's job? Infants and toddlers need all the help they can get from their special adults to learn to become loving persons. Messages of security and cherishing are registered in the first years deep in the limbic area of the brain. These messages are the foundation for confident and kind children.

Intimacy Boosts Learning Ability

Building intimacy is also fundamental to a baby's ability to accept the challenge of early learning tasks. Infants and toddlers who trust the caregiver will also work hard to learn to imitate teacher's words and songs. They become deeply absorbed in listening as the teacher shows them pictures in a picture book. They bang two toys together or point to a picture of a doggie when a nurturing caregiver urges them on. Toddlers struggle to walk dragging a pull toy; they try hard to stack boxes together IF each has a special intimate relationship with the adult who is challenging them. Loving and learning go together.

Caregiver Techniques to Build Intimacy

Every aspect of routine daily care is a wonderful opportunity to build intimacy.

  • Wipe bottoms gently and talk to children cheerfully about helping them feel all clean and comfortable while changing their diapers.
  • Rub and pat babi& and toddlers' backs soothingly in circular motions as you croon in low tones when they have trouble settling in to sleep.
  • When you leave children with an assistant in order to pick up supplies, tell your little ones that you will be going to get a fresh pile of clean diapers and will be right back.
  • When a child is cranky at the end of a day and misses his family, pick him up in your arms and cuddle him while you murmur reassuring words.
  • Help a colicky baby burp and warm his belly against yours to relieve gas pains.
  • When a child tumbles while starting to walk, reassure her calmly; cuddle her until she is ready to try again.
  • When babies struggle to feed themselves, cheer them on, even though wrist control is in short supply until about 2 years and there will be food spills.

Intimacy Leads to Cooperation

As you build intimacy, infants and toddlers will have faith that they can indeed succeed: They can turn a handle or push a button to work a toy. They can fit toy train cars together to make them go "choo-choo" on a track. Your skill at creating an intimate relationship leads to social/emotional and learning competence for your little ones.

  • Subjects:
    Early Learning, Child and Infant Care, Family Activities, Social and Emotional Development, Working with Families and the Community
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