• attunement: understanding and smoothly responding to a baby’s nonverbal signals and communications; getting “in tune” or “on the same wavelength” with a baby as you get to know each other and build a special bond
  • being present with a baby: giving the baby your full attention so you can get in tune
  • bonding: the mutual love and trust between a baby and a family member or educator who gets in tune with him
  • en face: (pronounced “on fas”) face-to-face, making eye contact, and attuned (or getting in tune)
  • open-ended questions: questions that require critical thinking, invite opinion or explanation, and have the potential to result in multiple-word answers
  • primary caregiver: the educator in an infant room or mixed-age setting who has primary responsibility for a particular baby, builds an enduring relationship with him and his family, and can help him connect with others in the program
  • responsive interaction: back and forth conversation, play, or interchange in which partners take turns answering each other’s words, sounds, actions, or other communications
  • verbal mapping: putting words to a baby’s actions or telling him what is happening or what will happen

Build a Special Bond with Each Baby

Before watching this video, read the text below. When instructed, watch the segment of video beginning at 0:52 and ending at 3:41.

To start the video in the middle, click the play arrow. Then move your cursor along the progress bar. Click the progress bar when you reach the time you'd like to start.

Babies are learning all the time—everything they do, see, hear, and feel is a learning experience. Babies are unique individuals, with their own personalities, activity rhythms, and ways of exploring the world and engaging with people. When you and a baby are in tune, you can respond to the baby’s needs and communications in the moment. You can recognize when to engage, when to offer more, and when to pull back. Over time, your bond with the baby bond deepens as you play, explore, and read together. The loving connection you share helps the baby to feel secure as he engages with new people and explores his environment.

  • Tune in to the baby’s communications and make an emotional connection. You and a baby get in tune as you each take turns looking, vocalizing, and smiling in response to each other.
  • Follow the baby’s lead. During play, the baby will show you what he is interested in, when he wants more, and when he needs a break.
  • Identify a primary caregiver for each baby in your group of children. With a primary caregiver, each baby will have his own special person who can get to know him and his family well. As primary caregiver, you can help the baby build relationships with your coworkers and with other children in the program, just as the baby’s family helps him build a special bond with you.

In this segment, you’ll see how the educators—Demetria, Kathy, and their colleagues—build strong bonds with each of the infants in their care You’ll see the educators talk and play with babies face-to-face and respond to their moment-to-moment communications. (You may notice some very brief disconnects and then see a baby and adult come back together.) You’ll also see educators making and maintaining connections with babies even when they are not face-to-face. You’ll see an educator adjust her comforting to the baby’s rhythms as she rocks the upset baby to sleep before transferring her to a crib (not shown). Remember: it is never okay to leave a baby unattended in a bouncy chair, car seat, or swing.

Now watch the video segment. Begin at 0:52 as Kathy asks the baby to show Talia her hand and end at 3:41 as Demetria asks baby Avery if she is comfortable. As you watch, look for effective strategies used by the educators in the video and jot down answers to these viewing questions in your Learning Log.

  • Notice how the educators and the babies make emotional connections with each other. What are the ways they do this? How can you tell when they are in tune?
  • What do you notice about the way the educators maintain connections with babies when they are not face-to-face?
  • What verbal and nonverbal strategies (for example, talking, singing, hugging, catching a child’s eye) do you notice educators using as they respond to babies’ communications and follow their leads?


What does it mean to “be present” with a baby? How can you handle the challenge of being fully present with one child while maintaining connection with others?

  • In the video Kathy says, “The main thing is that you’re interacting with the kids and you’re being present with the kids.” Being present means paying full attention—supporting the baby’s agenda (what she is doing or trying to do) and being available to help when needed; noticing a baby’s subtle signs that she wants more, doesn’t like it, wants to take a break, or has had enough; and keeping the baby physically and emotionally close.
  • When caring for more than one child, you can’t be fully present and interacting with each one all the time. With effort, you can stay aware of what each child needs and make sure that they are all happily engaged. Babies need a lot of stimulating one-to-one interaction, but they also need time to initiate their own explorations, make their own discoveries, and explore their increasing interest in other children. They also need some down time (sometimes only for a few seconds) before they are ready to engage again. You can balance multiple children’s needs by:           
    • Using caregiving routines such as feeding and diapering for one-to-one conversations.
    • Taking a moment to calm yourself and clear your mind of personal distractions in order to fully engage with a baby.
    • Using words and body language (smiling, hugging, stroking, holding, etc.) to stay connected with a baby when not making eye contact.
    • Checking in frequently and briefly to make sure a baby is still happily engaged as they engage with other children.
    • Using words and body language to help children connect with each other.
    • Using a baby’s name frequently.
    • Helping older children to join in taking care of a baby, including her in their activities, and enjoying her responses.

How do babies tell you what they need so that you can respond appropriately?

  • In the video, Demetria says, “Each baby needs something different all the time.” Babies vary in the amount and type of stimulation they need (both individually and moment-to-moment). Being present with a baby and building a relationship over time helps you to understand a baby’s signals for when she is tired, hungry, eager to play, or needing to move. Signals might be different cries, fidgeting, reaching out, or wanting to be held. You will learn what the baby likes and doesn’t like and notice when the baby flinches, fusses, shuts down if there is too much noise or activity or has a hard time settling down when the lights are too bright.
  • Families can let you know how their babies like to be held, carried, comforted, fed, played with, and put to sleep. They can also alert you to disruptions in babies’ daily routines, which may be related to developmental advances, illness, or stress. It’s easy to assume that a “good baby” who lies quietly doesn’t need attention. For a brief period, a baby may be happily engaged in watching fluttering leaves or listening to older children playing nearby. But babies can also get bored. They need stimulation—especially the stimulation of back-and-forth human interaction and attractive things to reach for and explore.  


Think about the infants in your own program as you answer these reflection questions in your Learning Log.​

  • How do you build emotional connections and trusting relationships with individual babies?
  • What did you learn that you will take back to your learning environment and put into practice?
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