When training on the Infant and Toddler CLASS, the importance of cue detection can’t be stressed enough to your participants. Infants and toddlers depend on a sensitive and responsive adult to recognize the messages or cues that they are sending. These "bids for attention" are the way then that children communicate, essentially asking adults to respond in a way that meets each child’s individual needs. And whether we are coding or caregiving, starting with cues is the way to go!
Infants depend on adults for physiological balance; they are "other-regulated." They need adults to soothe, to engage, to assist, and to help the infant learn how to communicate to have these needs met. The responses infants receive to their overt and more subtle messages lay the foundation for all development; their conception of how the world works happens as they grow.
Toddlers depend on adults to understand their attempts to become more independent—doing things for themselves, communicating with language, exploring and putting experiences together to form a better understanding for self-regulation and increasing social interaction and cognition.
So, it’s important that observers stay tuned-in to these cues as they drive the context for the response the adult provides. To do this, we want to train participants to watch the child: what are they communicating through actions, words, and sounds? These bids for attention are where you start. Then look to the adult: in that same moment, how do they respond? Did this response meet that child’s need? Perhaps it’s a hug in a moment of stress, a returned smile, a diaper change, a snack, or simply imitating a sound. Look again to the child—what was the response? Was the need met?
One terrific strategy we CLASS Specialists use while training is to have participants watch part of a video or an entire exemplar video with the sound muted. We ask participants to focus on the child and try to guess what that child is communicating—then we ask participants to watch again, this time with the sound on. We then reflect on what the adult did and whether that action matched the cue the child sent.
Share some of your strategies for training observers and teachers to focus on cues!
Young infants develop a unique relationship—known as attachment—with their caregivers. To develop secure bonds, infants need to know that at least one person really cares about them. Caregivers provide that comfort by helping infants regulate needs and emotions, such as hunger and sadness. With healthy attachments, infants develop a sense of safety and trust.
Infants need to be held, to have face-to-face interactions, to feel another human heartbeat. By meeting these needs, caregivers foster attachment. Plan how you will meet these essential needs—while keeping yourself and infants safe.
Children need to feel safe before they can explore their surroundings. While curiosity and exploration help awaken children’s talents, teachers help reinforce their learning through guidance and repetition. All children benefit from intentional interactions that inspire them through new experiences—and some children need additional or individualized support.
Given the natural need to be around others, children might have a hard time with social distancing. Organize materials in spaces where two friends can explore together. Make yourself available to facilitate their exploration while ensuring safety.
Toddlers reinforce their trust in caregivers while venturing into the world on their own. Along with stable relationships and independence, they need frequent reminders of behavioral expectations to keep themselves and their peers safe. With support and regulation, educators can help buffer the effects of stress or trauma and promote healthy child development.
Children learn best in a warm, safe environment. While positive interactions strengthen a classroom community, clear safety expectations promote healthiness. Remind children that these measures are in place because you care about them.
Teachers everywhere have yet another new challenge—supporting students and their families from home. We know that high-quality interactions, including interesting, hands-on experiences that are facilitated and supported with feedback, scaffolding, and higher-order thinking questions, best support young students' learning. So how do you help your students' caregivers offer the same high-quality interactions while at home? Well, Rachel Giannini has some super fun ideas to share! The following are ideas she shared during her session at our recent InterAct CLASS Summit.