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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 4, Lesson 2

Activities Supporting Social-Emotional Development

The chart below provides examples of curricular activities for the home, community or group care setting that support social-emotional development.

Age Examples of Social-Emotional Play behaviors Typical Adult support with objects or others Adaptive Adult support with objects or others
Young Infants Birth to 8 Months first social play is smiles
anticipates lifting with body/face
stretches arms to be taken
pay attention to infant's smiles, coos
plays music
responds to infant
makes direct and extended eye contact
turns the baby's head to look into the adult's eyes
plays music close to the baby or puts the musical toy right next to the baby
engages in baby verbal and non-verbal messages
Mobile Infants 8 Months to 18 Months may be anxious around unfamiliar adults
explores objects with other people
demonstrates intense interest in language
reassures the baby that the familiar adult is near
verbalize what they are doing, encourage sharing
respond back
hold the baby close
have unbreakable mirrors taped carefully to the floor so babies can see themselves
read picture books to the child\
Toddlers and Twos 18 Months to 35 Months shows awareness of being seen by others
begins to realize others have rights
enjoys peer play
identifies with same sex child
is aware of others feelings
exhibits some impulse control
help the child self-regulate through words or actions
play chase games
talk about feelings and how others feel
show feelings with body language
imitate the toddler's play
use a mirror
make sure the toddler is positioned at the level of other toddlers
help the toddler with appropriate touches of other toddlers

From: Brain Wonders (Bredekamp & Copple, l987; Frost, Worthington, Reifel, 2005; Gozalez-Mena, Eyer, 2004; Johnson, Christie, &Yawkey, 1999; Johnson-Martin, Jens, Attermeier, & Hacker, 1991; O'Brien, 1997).

Play in Everyday Routines, Activities and Places

Read Characteristics and Consequences of Everyday Natural Learning Opportunities. An overview is provided below, however it is important that the learner access and read the full text of the article.

Article Overview

Father reading to babyRelationships between person (i.e., personalities, culture, experiences, training) and environment (i.e., home, child care, enough toys) characteristics of everyday natural learning opportunities effect infant/toddler behavior and performance. To increase infant/toddler's participation, the person and environment (activity setting) variables need to be uniquely situated for infant motivation to explore and interact with materials and other people. Activity settings need to provide for a child's interests (as motivating) and as a source of competence. Activity settings defined in this article are ".situation-specific experience, opportunity, or event that involves a child's interaction with people, the physical environment or both, and provides a context for a child to learn about his or her own abilities and capabilities as well the propensities and proclivities of others. These can be planned, unplanned or incidental" p.70.

Taking an ecological perspective of the importance of the systematic understanding of processes and outcomes of human development (Bronfenbrenner, 1992), researchers studied the effects of variables with intentions of further supporting play and daily living activities between infant/toddlers and their caregivers and hence increasing learning opportunities. The variables included:

  • child developmental standing (age, severity and type of disability)
  • caregiver responsiveness
  • caregiver sensitivity to child behavior
  • interactional styles of caregivers
  • caregivers contingent responses
  • caregiver support and encouragement
  • regularity and frequency of the caregiver support
  • variety of activity settings
  • development-instigating (enticing or impediment) properties of the activity setting (related to individual child interests)
  • family SES (age, marital status, income)

Families in this study were visited every other week for 16 weeks for the service provider to coach the families. During the first week of intervention the families and research team implemented two approaches to increase children's participation. For an Activity Schedule and an Activity Setting by Child Behavior Matrix (see pp 74-75 in the article).


Activity Schedule Name _______________
Parent's Name_________ Date__________
ACTIVITY SETTING Mon. Tues. Wed. Thurs. Fri. Sat. Sun.
Brushing hair X X X X X X X
Swimming in the backyard pool     X     X X
Playing in the park   X   X      



Activity Setting by Child Behavior Matrix
Name _______________
Parent's name_________Date__________
CHILD BEHAVIOR Brushing hair Swimming in backyard pool Playing in the park Helping dad fold laundry
Says three words X   X X
Holds on to objects with tight grip     X X
Uses words to request help X   X X

Researchers used several assessment tools and statistical analysis to determine effects of their interventions. Overall, the findings indicated the strong effects for developmental-instigating characteristics of well designed and child-relevant activity settings with multiple (as needed) opportunities to explore those settings. Infant/toddlers interests, engagement, exploration, and mastery were the best predictors of variations in the outcomes of the everyday learning opportunities (or the activities that were of interest to infants stimulated more positive infant behaviors). The variety of activity settings experienced by the infant/toddlers with their families was found to be positively related to learning opportunities and child functioning (or families choices of activity settings that were motivating for infants provided more learning opportunities and better infant functions). The frequency of the participation in the activity settings was positively associated with child functioning (or the greater times, the infant played in that setting, that familiarity was related to better infant functions).


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