• 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

Help Babies Connect with Their World

Before watching this video, read the text below. When instructed, watch the segment of video beginning at 4:59 and ending at 7:19.

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.

For a young baby, the world is a new and fascinating place, filled with things (and people) to investigate and discover. It can also be overwhelming. Babies look to familiar, caring adults to help them understand and to keep them safe. When a baby’s primary caregiver is nearby, he feels safe to reach out and explore. He is willing to work to solve a problem, knowing that a person he trusts will encourage his efforts and share in his delight. His primary caregiver also helps him connect with other children and adults and make new friends.

  • Help babies make discoveries and mirror their delight. Offer just a few interesting objects at a time, so that the baby can focus on one thing or activity. Use verbal mapping and responsive conversation to support babies’ investigations. Make emotional connections while mirroring their delight in discoveries and accomplishments. Think about what can be offered next to a baby to provide a new challenge or a new learning experience.
  • Help babies use their emerging skills. Provide just enough help so that babies can enjoy success as they reach a goal themselves; then celebrate their success together.
  • Help babies connect with other children. Position babies where they can watch each other. Offer similar toys or experiences, such as a rattle or a scarf that two babies can shake. Use verbal mapping to help them notice and connect with each other—in time, they may start babbling together!

In this segment, you’ll see Demetria offer babies toys and talk with them as she shows them what they can do with these objects. You’ll see how she helps Noah get some important tummy time and how she makes a special connection that encourages him to lift his head and look around. You’ll also see how Kathy includes baby Callie in older children’s activities, such as going down a slide and joining older children in an action song. You’ll hear Demetria and Kathy describe how much babies learn when educators are intentional about the experiences they provide.

Now watch the video segment. Begin at 4:59 as Demetria praises baby Jackson for shaking the rattle and watch through the end of the video. As you watch, look for effective strategies used by the educators in the video and jot down answers to this viewing question in your Learning Log.

  • What do you notice about what intrigues the babies and what do they reach out for? How do educators follow their leads?
  • What do you notice about how the educators use face-to-face conversation and verbal mapping to encourage and celebrate babies’ discoveries and accomplishments?
  • What do you notice about how educators stay in communication with babies as they help them learn to be social?


How can educators build special bonds with young babies as they help them explore intriguing objects and practice emerging motor skills?

  • There are many ways you can build special bonds with young babies. You can:
    • Hold the baby or stay close by as the baby enjoys tummy time or works at reaching, rolling, crawling, or pulling up.
    • Get on the baby’s eye level and make a connection.
    • Offer one or a few objects at a time.
    • Let babies explore objects in lots of different ways: by batting, shaking, mouthing, kicking, pulling, turning, banging, and so on. Comment on what the babies are doing and discovering. For example, say, “That feels smooth” or, “Round and round it goes.”
    • Don’t forget board books. Young babies especially like to look at pictures of other babies.
    • Notice what a baby reaches out for and comment using an engaging voice.
    • Respond to babies’ communications including cues that they are happily engaged, want more, need a break, or are tired, bored, or uncomfortable.
    • Use face-to-face talk and verbal mapping to put words to what babies are doing and to prolong their engagement.
    • Cheer on babies’ efforts and activity!
    • Call babies by name.
    • Talk all the time! Match a baby’s enthusiasm with your own—use a calm, reassuring, understanding voice to soothe a baby who shows signs of distress.

How can you strengthen your bonds with young babies as you help them learn to be social?

  • Hold the baby or stay close as you position him where he can watch or interact with other children.
  • Show affection with hugs and smiles.
  • Talk to the baby in an engaging voice as you point out what other children are doing and invite him to notice or join in.
  • Respond to a baby’s moment-to-moment cues that he wants more or less stimulation and involvement.
  • Help a baby to do what others are doing in his own way.
  • Put words to babies’ emotions and to those of other children.
  • Teach older children how the baby likes to be touched, talked to, and entertained; what is calming, fun, or funny; and how to stop before the baby gets overwhelmed.


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

  • What kinds of toys, materials, and social experiences do you intentionally offer to young babies? How do you use words to encourage their play and celebrate their discoveries and successes?
  • What did you learn that you will take back to your learning environment and put into practice?​
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