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Building Assets in Infants & Toddlers

What you can do to make a difference in the lives of children 2 years of age and younger

 

The following ideas are offered to guide those working with infants and/or toddlers. Whether you work in a day care centre, a social services office, or as a babysitter, these ideas can be useful in creating a positive and solid environment for the infants and toddlers in your care.

 

 

 

Photo: Michael Connors, Morguefile

SUPPORT


Spend time with newborn babie
s. Interact with them and hold them so they become familiar with you.
 

Smile at infants and toddlersshow them interest and care.
 

Be supportive of infants/toddlers when they learn something new. When they are having difficulties with learning something, guide them and help them work through it.
 

EMPOWERMENT


Respond quickly to infant’s cries and needs. Understand that they cannot control their urges at such a young age. Their emotions are very likely to be controlled by needs. Pay attention to how infants are positioned, making sure that they can see their surroundings. Responding quickly to a baby’s cry helps them learn to trust. Trust is a key element in future parenting.
 

 

Encourage toddlers to put toys away when they are finished playing. Show them how to do it and practice with them.
 

 

Make sure the areas where toddlers often play are childproof and safe from any hazards.

 

Examples:
Block stairways with gates
Have locks on cupboards and drawers that have hazardous materials in them
• Ensure there no heavy objects that can fall from shelving
Get down on the floor, view the world from your child’s perspective to see what might attract their attention and be a potential safety hazard.
 

BOUNDARIES & EXPECTATIONS


Infants cannot comprehend boundaries and expectations at such a young age, so they are not able to purposely go against
the boundaries or expectations you have. Punishing infants and toddlers for reasons they cannot understand is inappropriate. Behaviour always has a communicative message.  Try to understand what the child’s behaviour is telling you. Think “if this behaviour could talk, what would it say?” Then you can teach the child a more appropriate way of meeting those needs. 
 


Example: If a child throws their plate when they are done with their dinner, you can teach them to say “finished” (and respect their words!) or teach them to put the plate on the counter when they are done. Positively reinforce behaviour with comments like “Great job!” or “You did it! Good for you!” or offer high-fives or hugs for behaviour you like and you will begin to see it more often.
 

Deter children from engaging in inappropriate behaviour and practice appropriate behaviour with them. If inappropriate behaviour continues, talk with the parents and work with them to redirect the child’s behaviour.
 

 

For toddlers, set simple boundaries that they can understand. Speak in a positive, firm tone, using simple language.
 

Examples: “ Gentle touching”, “Sit down”, “Play gently”

 

Be consistent in the boundaries that you set with the toddler. Ensure that it applies to all the children in your care, not just one. Maintain the same standards each time the toddler is in your care.
 

 

CONSTRUCTIVE USE OF TIME


Try not to enforce strict schedules for infants and encourage parents to refrain from doing so as well. As the infants get older, work them into more regular routines for playing, eating, and sleeping at certain times. Routines are the key for
maintaining predictable behaviour in toddlers.  If you want their behaviour to be predictable, make their day predictable, and keep your own responses consistent too. 
 

Show your toddlers their daily routine in picture form.  You know the value of your day planner or calendar and how it helps keep you on track.  A picture schedule of their day will help keep a toddler on track too. It will also help aid with transitions to new activities.
 

Encourage parents to spend unlimited amounts of time with their infant or toddler. We used to think that “quality time” was important. Now we know that quality time only happens as brief nuggets in among the quantity of time we spend,  In short, the more time you spend with your child the more the quality of your lives will increase.
 

COMMITMENT TO LEARNING


Find new places to explore with toddlers. Expose them to new environments, such as playgrounds, parks and neighbourhoods. Toddlers love new surfaces to walk on. Test out their new walking skills on bark, mulch, grass, pea gravel, sand. Make the natural
earth their playground. 
 

 

Have reading time with young children. Spend time learning nursery rhymes and telling short stories.  Books are great transitions into bedtime but try books at other times too. Water proof bathtime books are always a hit!
 

 

Have simple games ready that toddlers can play. Games can be about animals, people or places and should include teaching something new.

Example: Use the book Brown Bear Brown Bear What Do You See? by Eric Carle to play an eye spy game with your child.  You ask: “Susan, Susan what do you see?” and Susan can respond “I see a red bird looking at me”.
 

Teach toddlers simple songs that they can learn easily.
 

Examples: “The Wheels on the Bus” and “The Itsy Bitsy Spider”
 

POSITIVE VALUES


Create a caring atmosphere and comfortable space for the infants and toddlers in your care.
 

 

Model positive behaviours that you think are important for children to learn.

 

Example: Model the value of sharing by offering things to others. Talk with toddlers about why you want to share and why it is important to you and encourage them to do the same.
 

Be compassionate, respectful and caring towards the infants and toddlers in your care.
 

 

Talk with parents about the importance of modeling and teaching positive values.
 

 

Turn taking is an important skill in the toddler years. Labelling the turns in a simple game of kick the ball can help teach this.
 

Example: John’s turn, Harry’s turn, John’s turn, Harry’s turn.

 

SOCIAL COMPETENCIES


Have toys and dolls that infants can play with to get accustomed to interacting with objects. This will help them become more interactive with people as well.
 

Encourage infants to make noises and make sounds with them. Try new sounds that they may be able to pick up on. This type of play helps children become accustomed to making sounds so their language development will be easier in the future. 
 

Allow toddlers to express how they are feeling. Guide and teach young children about what is proper behaviour and what is not. Have patience with them as they learn what is appropriate and inappropriate behaviour as this process will take time. Remember that all behaviour is communication and is telling us something.  Help your child learn appropriate ways of meeting their needs, such as asking for help instead of yelling.
 

Read books aloud to toddlers, allowing them to look at and talk about the pictures. Talking with them about books helps them learn to interact with people.
 

POSITIVE IDENTITY


Find ways to entertain the infants in your care. Keep them smiling and laughing, creating a positive bond.
 


Example:
Play “Peek-a-boo”  

 

Ensure that the space where infants and toddlers play is a happy, cheerful and supportive environment.

 

Examples:
Paint walls in positive, warm colours
Display cheerful pictures and decorations that keep the room lively and interesting.
• Have only appropriate objects within grasping range

 

Focus on reinforcing the good things that the infant/ toddler does. Make this the focus of your interactions with them. If they misbehave, address the behaviour, not the child. The child is always good, it is the behaviour that you disapprove of.

 

Example: Instead of saying, “You are a bad boy/girl,” focus on the behaviour and say, “The doll is for cuddling and rocking. Keep the doll in your arms. Throwing the doll is dangerous—you might hurt one of your friends.
 

 Adapted from Pass It On! Ready To Use Handouts for Asset Builders, ©1999 by The Search Institute
 

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