Children are learning all the time, especially when they are playing. Play also helps children learn to share, listen to others, and wait their turn. Just as you would help a child learn to recognize their name or colors, you can help infants and toddlers learn skills to express thoughts, feelings and behaviors in socially appropriate ways.
Don’t wait! Kindergarten may be too late for children to start learning these skills. Through care and nurturing, you can nurture these skills in infants and toddlers to help them take control of their thinking and their feelings.
- SAY WHAT YOU THINK YOUR BABY IS FEELING. For example, say, “You look so sad. Let’s see if we can make you feel better.” Your baby will learn that you are paying attention to her needs and want to be there for her.
- HELP YOUR BABY LEARN TO CALM HIMSELF AND PRAISE HIM FOR DOING IT. It’s okay for him or her to suck on his fingers or fist; sucking helps babies self-soothe and is a first step to managing emotions.
- LEARN TO READ YOUR BABY’S MOODS. He or she can feel a range of emotions at a very early age. Paying attention to what his behavior is indicating will help you feel more confident about how to respond.
- SHOW CHILDREN APPROPRIATE BEHAVIOR AND HOW TO ACHIEVE IT. From the very beginning, your baby learns by watching you. Responding calmly to situations, expressing joy, and letting your child know that you love them helps them learn how to behave and what to expect from future relationships.
- RESPOND ALOUD WHEN YOUR CHILD IS ENGAGED IN POSITIVE BEHAVIOR, SUPPORT HER AS SHE LEARNS TO MANAGE HER THOUGHTS, BEHAVIORS AND FEELINGS, AND GRADUALLY REMOVE YOUR ASSISTANCE. For example, praise your child when he or she comforts a friend, puts a toy away, or follows a simple
Visit marylandfamiliesengage.org for ideas and activities for playing with your child.
Adapted from the Fostering Healthy Social and Emotional Development in Young Children found at https://www2.ed.gov/about/inits/ed/earlylearning/talk-read-sing/feelings-families.pdf