• getting in tune: making an emotional connection with a child; paying full attention to her verbal communications and nonverbal signals and responding in ways that strengthen your relationship; also known as synchrony
  • powerful interaction: an interchange between an educator and a child in which the educator uses what she knows and observes about a child to make an emotional connection and purposefully extend the child’s learning
  • primary caregiver: the educator 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
  • STEM: science, technology, engineering, and mathematics as interrelated areas of learning; for babies and toddlers, STEM means learning how the world works and developing concepts like cause/effect, space and time, how much and how many, order and sequence, and how to use tools and strategies to accomplish a goal
  • whole-child approach: providing learning opportunities that support children’s development and their pursuit of their own learning agendas, rather than teaching particular subject matter; focusing on a child’s interests, feelings, and physical, social, and emotional development along with his cognitive and language skills


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

Caring relationships with adults provide the essential support for all areas of a child’s development. They nurture the roots of language, literacy, and STEM, like rich soil nourishes a plant. When family members and early educators like you provide infants and toddlers with dependable relationships, love, back-and-forth play, and learning opportunities, they grow and thrive.

Infants and toddlers develop language through back-and-forth conversations that build on their natural curiosity and their desire to connect with the people they care about who understand and care about them. Children learn through play—with their bodies, with objects and materials in the world around them, and with people. As they play with objects and materials and try to make interesting things happen, they explore concepts that are fundamental to science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). They also learn how objects, materials, and living things behave and how they can relate to one another in the world.

By offering intriguing challenges, supporting children’s thinking, and sharing in their excitement and discoveries, you help prepare children to be good readers and writers as well as logical and creative thinkers. Together, these activities and conditions help build children’s vocabulary, language, love of books and stories, and ability to ask questions and make connections.

In this 45-minute, self-paced tutorial, you will explore best practices in nurturing the roots of language, literacy, and STEM in infants and toddlers. 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:

  • Strengthen your understanding of why educators of infants and toddlers need to build strong relationships with individual children and with their families.
  • Learn ways to make families feel welcome in a child care setting.
  • Learn how to begin to build relationships with family members that value their culture, language, understanding of their child, and hopes for what he will learn.
  • Learn to offer children investigation opportunities that are interesting but not overwhelming and to use language that supports children’s learning.
  • Reflect upon how your current practices help children build foundations for language, literacy, and STEM learning.
  • Identify what you would like to learn more about and plan formal and informal learning opportunities for yourself.

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 The Roots of Early 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 the many roles early educators take on as they care for children. Family child care educators Maria and Kathy and center-based educators Demetria, Eileen, and Kerry respond with sensitivity and care to children’s communications. They offer stimulating learning opportunities and notice how each child reacts. They continuously talk with children in ways that build the children’s language and thinking skills and support their investigations. They mirror children’s delight with their own, further strengthening their special bonds. And, they work in partnership with families to provide their children with supportive relationships and rich, culturally meaningful experiences. As you watch, pay close attention to how parents and educators connect with children and share the children’s excitement as they explore, discover, and communicate.

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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