• elaborated reminiscing: helping a child tell and retell the story of a past event, adding more details with each retelling
  • interactive reading: stopping at many points during the reading to engage children in related conversation that helps them follow the story, draw connections between the book and their own experiences, and learn more; also called dialogic reading
  • math talk: talk about number, amount, order, size, shape, pattern, direction, sequence, and other mathematical concepts as well as mathematical questions such as “How many altogether?” “What’s missing?” “How many more do we need?”
  • number sense: an intuitive understanding of numbers and how they relate to each other, as well as how they are affected by addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division
  • Picture Communication System (PECS): a picture-based communication intervention that teaches children with autism spectrum disorder and related challenges to initiate communications
  • scaffold: to provide a support or boost that helps a child master a new challenge or concept or take a skill to a new level
  • STEM: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, as integrated fields of inquiry


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

Most older toddlers are competent communicators who can use language to tell stories, reason, plan, imagine, and ask questions. You can support their learning by providing interesting things to talk about and interested people to talk with. You can offer children rich opportunities to learn about real-world topics in depth and to explore, pretend, and create with interesting materials. You can engage children in vocabulary- and concept-building conversations that elicit, respect, and build upon each child’s ideas. You can make sure that all children participate in rich conversations with both adults and peers. 

In this 45-minute, self-paced tutorial, you will explore best practices in supporting older toddlers’ 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 engage children in extended conversations that go beyond the here and now.
  • Learn how to ensure that all children gain the language-building benefits of participation in interactive reading and pretend play.
  • Explore opportunities for using math talk throughout the day.
  • Reflect upon how your current practices support toddlers’ learning and identify ways to be more effective.
  • Plan how you might partner with families to support 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 Toddlers’ 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 that older toddlers are creative, imaginative, and curious. They use their growing vocabularies to ask questions, tell stories, and engage in pretend play with each other as well as with adults. You will follow family child care educators Kathy and Maria and center-based educator Kerry as they engage with older toddlers in conversations that often go beyond the here and now to include the past, the future, the possible, and the imaginary. As you watch, pay close attention to how the educators engage toddlers’ reasoning and creativity as they extend their vocabularies and their knowledge of STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) concepts. 

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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