Infants & Toddlers/Development: Helping Babies Build Connections
Combine thoughtful observations with some terrific techniques and what do you get? A friendly, cooperative classroom!
- Grades: Early Childhood, PreK–K
HELPING CHILDREN UNDER 3 LEARN TO COMMUnicate and cooperate with their peers is a serious challenge for teachers. Babies want what they want when they want it. Yet, to be able to play harmoniously with others, a child must take into account the feelings and wishes of another person. He has to have the patience to wait for a turn. He has to understand and play by the rules of a game. This is a tall order for young children!
Build Language to Boost Communication
During the infant/toddler years, language is in short supply. An infant grabs an attractive toy from a peer. A frustrated toddler bites another to express his strong feelings.
You can promote communication by helping babies understand language and learn to express their wishes and wants with words. Toddlers who use their words can remind a peer of the rules. The child who was playing with the toy first gets to play with it until he is ready to give it up. This rule is easier to understand if a baby can say "My toy!" to a peer who tugs the toy out of his hands. When toddlers need to take turns, the reminder "My turn now!" makes it easier for a peer to remember that he just rolled the ball and now it is his little friend's turn.
When only days old, a baby tries hard to imitate the tongue thrusting and mouth opening he sees as an adult holds him close and speaks to him.
You are a powerful model for little ones! If your voice is warm and your body relaxed, they will adopt your easy ways. If you are gentle and comforting, babies will imitate you. They will assume your troubled look when a peer is crying. They'll even try to pat a crying baby and look toward you with concern. If you are patient and take the time to teach new skills over and over, children will be patient with playmates too.
Teach Through Touch
Touches and caresses are powerful teaching tools. Model caring, nurturing behavior by stroking a baby's hair and slowly and lovingly rubbing circles on his back. Soon you'll see babies imitating this behavior by cuddling their dolls and trying to soothe one another with soft strokes and hugs. Full palmar strokes are helpful for healing hurts and worries and are particularly important when little ones experience separation anxiety.
Your knowledge of babies' individual temperaments is extremely important in helping them to connect with their peers. Knowing whether a baby approaches peers with eagerness or shyly observes from the sidelines gives you an important clue about how to pace your attempts to get babies to play together.