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Infant Toddler Development Training
Module 4, Lesson 2

Activity #3
Materials Found in Your Home

Look around your house. Develop a list of materials typically found in most homes that families could use to support the development of infants and toddlers with disabilities. Identify two developmental areas - social and one of the following areas - language, cognitive, fine motor, gross motor, or self-help - that a parent might focus on when using this material.


Activity #4 and Activity #5

Read the following scenario about Ian and his Dad. Through the next few pages, you will see examples of scaffolding in several domains.

Ian and Dad Scenario

Family hikingIan, a 19 month old child experienced anoxia at birth and his language has been assessed at 10 months. This seems to impact his social interactions with other children in the toddler care program that he attends two times a week. Ian's primary service provider is an ITDS, Marcy who is well versed in the use of play as a medium for learning. In their first five bi-weekly sessions, Marcy noted that Ian's mom is most involved in adapting routines and activities to help Ian learn, but his dad also seems very interested and is there for the sessions.

One day Ian and his dad are in the kitchen and dad is making dinner, while Ian's mom takes his older brother to violin practice. Ian gets restless. Ian's Dad remembered some ideas he heard at a coaching session last week. He decided to try something to stimulate Ian's social interactions, so the dad utilized the existing kitchen materials, i.e. a wooden spoon, a pot, some lids, and anything else in kitchen to provide a way for Ian to stay occupied and involved while Dad finishes dinner.

Consider the following description of a process called "scaffolding" and begin to think of how this could be used with Ian and Dad.


Scaffolding (specific cluing, interaction, verbal and visual supports, providing appropriate materials) can bring children to higher levels of development. Vygotsky (1987) realized the importance of optimal learning situations. Each child advances in new tasks/skills in a zone of proximal development (ZPD).The zone of development at the lowest level is the level that children can do a task with adult or other advanced peer guidance. As the child learns more of the skill, he progresses through the ZPD with less and less scaffolding needed until a skill is learned. At the highest ZPD level, the child can perform the task/skill on his own and the child has integrated the skills into his already existing repertoire to be able to take on new tasks with greater challenges.

Adult-Child Scaffolding

Adult-child scaffolding with play materials is illustrated in this adapted model of Deiner (2005):

Adult offers the child a choice of two materials that have some value or interest to the child

Child chooses one material and explores it with his mouth, hands, eyes

Adult observes how the child plays with it and what the child is learning through the play, i.e. through repeated actions, problem solving techniques, trial and error, way the child looks at the material or doesn't etc.

Adult draws attention to an area/part of the material that the child has not fully explored in a way appropriate to the child's strengths and disability along a continuum from: Least Directive - i.e. verbally clues, points. More directive - adult puts his hand over the child's hand to guide child to a part of the toy.

Child continues exploring and playing in new ways that the adult supported or not and may reciprocate play with the adult (ie balls rolling back and forth)

Adult supports further exploration through the least directive means to encourage child initiation of the task.

Adult as needed repeats the earlier scaffolding or as many times as child can tolerate without reaching frustration

Child continues his play and now may play his own way or use the adult's new way

Adult decides if the child can accept more scaffolding to learn another skill or a variation on the play or if he/she could accept a new material to learn other play or if the child needs some down time with rest, a quiet, story or play alone for a while.

Let's think about potential scaffolding by Ian's father to Promote Motor Play. Consider

  • what Ian's responses might be
  • the interactions with Ian's father leading the play interactions

The father can encourage his toddler to be involved in "play" in the kitchen by actively modeling the use of the cooking tools and utensils. He can model by stirring the food in the pot and tasting the food. The toddler may stir quickly at first, and Dad might say, "The food might spill, so I stir slowly." This way, the toddler can be prompted to refine his movements and begin to imitate the more careful movements of Dad. The toddler can put the lid on the pot, and keep lifting it on and off; he may do this several times, getting better at it with each attempt. Dad may also offer some measuring cups and discuss their use with his toddler. The toddler can then pretend and join Dad in measuring, pouring, and dumping as he cooks along with Dad. He can transfer "ingredients", as Dad can teach him the term, from one pot to another. Dad may even put a small amount of water or some other ingredient (if Dad is daring) to help facilitate the development of both gross and fine motor skills in this kind of interaction. Dad can make it fun by singing songs with his toddler as they mix, "Mix-a-mix-a-mix-a, and pour-a-pour-a-pour-a!" When they are done cooking, they can pretend to taste and share the toddler's meal together!

Baby with bowl on his headConsider the importance of parents being involved in such play that promotes growth in all areas of the child's development, including motor development. (And what a great role model Dad can be in the kitchen, instead of the stereotype of just Mom in there all the time!) As the child watches the father perform tasks in the kitchen, he begins playing at the lowest level in his zone of proximal development; how the father extends the activity can increase the child's practice in motor skill development. Stirring, opening and closing lids, measuring, dumping, pouring, and even singing and mixing at the same time are great ways to develop the child's skills. Each step the father takes can raise the level of learning. And yet the child can still take the activity anywhere he wants to, such as experimenting with new ways to play with such common household objects in the kitchen, such as plastic bowls to be used as hats.

Now let's think about potential scaffolding by Ian's father to PROMOTE Cognitive/ or Sociodramatic PLAY. Consider

  • what Ian's responses might be
  • the interactions with Ian's father leading the play interactions

Baby playing with canReflect on the fact that in order to promote cognitive development, adults need to support and nurture pretend play. That is exactly what the dad did by giving his 19 month old pots, lids, and spoons - he provided materials that encouraged play. According to Piaget (1962), a 19 month old child is beginning the symbolic play stage of cognitive play development - he is ready for pretend play. Providing the necessary materials is only the beginning. Appropriate interaction between the dad and his child can further stimulate cognitive development. For example, after the father gave the materials to the child, he should allow time for exploration. After a while, he can extend the child's thinking. If the child was pretend cooking, the dad could model tasting with a spoon or stirring. Again, the child should be allowed to explore given the new information. The father can continue to facilitate play by using words to identify different objects being used. Also, he can introduce new vocabulary that relates to cooking or try to initiate simple conversation. This is especially important since a child at this age has emerging language skills. At this point, the dad can either continue modeling ways to use the materials for cooking or he can introduce a new use for them such as band instruments. Either way, each time the dad becomes a part of the play he promotes his child to think in a different way.

Further, let's think about potential scaffolding by Ian's father to PROMOTE Language or Literacy PLAY.

  • what Ian's responses might be
  • the interactions with Ian's father leading the play interactions

Play provides opportunities for socialization thus creating an environment for children to learn social skills such as cooperation, problem solving, and sharing. Interaction with others is essential for healthy development. Vygotsky (1978) proposed that language is also learned in a social context. It is for this reason that adults are a major factor in a child's language acquisition. All children learn language in the same sequence, but there are wide variations in the timing of how language development occurs. This timing is affected by the interactive relationships that a child has in his life. Communicative language play between adult and child affect the richness and degree that language development takes place.

As children grow, adults take on a supporting role in toddler play. By providing opportunities and materials for play and eliciting play skills rather than directing them, scaffolding has taken place. Scaffolding provides for more complex play that will contribute to a child's social and language development. In the scenario of the father and the 2 year old child in the kitchen, the following could take place to promote language play.

  • Father initiates conversation with child about how Daddy is cooking dinner and child can help him by making music with some of the spoons, pots and lids.
  • Speaking in an enthusiastic tone (parentese) the father continues to engage the child in conversations on what music the child is playing
  • Father smiles, laughs and dances around to reward and encourage the child's efforts to communicate.
  • If appropriate, father can briefly join child in making music
  • As child uses emerging vocabulary to engage in this symbolic play the father should ask questions, rephrase and respond to the child's comments and actions
  • As the child grows weary of the game, the father could pose a challenging problem for the child to solve by asking what else in the kitchen could be used to make music


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