• baby sign language: a set of conventional signs designed to make it easier for older infants and young toddlers to communicate with their caregivers
  • expressive language/communication: the words and phrases a child speaks and/or the specific, mutually-understood signs and gestures she uses to communicate meaning
  • joint attention: a shared focus on an item; an older baby and an adult pay joint attention when they notice where the other is looking or pointing (by one year, babies should be able to point, gesture, or vocalize to get an adult to pay attention to something)
  • parallel play: playing near another child and noticing each other but without interacting
  • receptive language: the words and phrases a child understands
  • social referencing: the process by which young children check with trusting adults to see how to react to new situations and people, including whether new people can be trusted


Before watching this video, read the text below. When instructed, watch the video from the beginning to end.

Older infants are on the move—and curious. They want to know what everything is, where it fits, and how it works. They are also exploring how they fit—into different kinds of spaces and also how they fit into their social world. As with younger infants, they depend upon the reassurance of loved and trusted adults like you for the security that allows them to reach out and learn. Now, these adults provide a secure base from which older infants can set out and explore on their own.

Most older infants understand some language and are rapidly learning more. They communicate with increasingly expressive sounds and actions and may also use gestures, signs, and even a few words. As they make new discoveries and connections, language becomes an even greater support for learning. As with younger infants, back-and-forth “conversation” helps build relationships and language, but older infants are now trying to understand and communicate intentional messages.

In this 45-minute, self-paced tutorial, you will explore best practices in supporting older infants’ learning. A seven-minute video will show seasoned educators using best practices in action. After re-watching segments of the video, you will review and reflect on what you’ve seen and heard.

During this tutorial, you will:

  • Learn how to talk with babies who are not yet using (many) words in ways that expand their language.
  • Practice using language to encourage, support, and expand older babies’ explorations, grow their language and communication skills, and celebrate their discoveries.
  • Explore ways to help older babies interact with each other in positive ways.
  • Reflect upon how your current practices support babies’ learning and identify ways to be more effective.
  • Plan how you might partner with families to support their children’s learning.

First, do a self-assessment to discover what your strengths are and to identify specific skills you'd like to work on.

  1. Download and print the Self-Assessment (PDF).
  2. Complete the first half now, before you begin the training.
  3. Save the sheet with your answers. At the end of the training, you'll complete the second half, compare your "before" and "after" responses, and find out how far you've progressed.

Now watch all of Supporting Older Infants’ Learning featuring Eleonora Villegas-Reimers, Associate Professor of Education at Wheelock College in Boston, Massachusetts. In the video, you will hear Professor Villegas-Reimers explain how older infants seek out learning opportunities and social interactions. You’ll follow family child care educator Maria and center-based educators Eileen and Demetria as they engage older infants in conversation and play. The educators offer a range of opportunities for children to explore, make connections, and learn how to communicate with others. As you watch, pay close attention to how adults and babies connect and communicate with each other and how they maintain their connections.

Download and print the Learning Log (PDF). Use it during the tutorial to answer questions, reflect upon the materials presented, and jot down ideas and insights about how to apply what you have learned to your own learning environment.

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