Critical Competencies for Infant-Toddler Educators™ Online Micro-Course, Area 1: Supporting Social-Emotional Development and Learning

ZERO TO THREE Critical Competencies for Infant-Toddler Educators™ Online Micro-Course, Area 1: Supporting Social-Emotional Development provides opportunities to observe, understand, and reflect on critical interactions with infants and toddlers that support and nurture their social-emotional development and learning. The course is designed for educators who work in home or center-based group settings with infants and/or toddlers.

The Critical Competencies Online Micro-Course Area 1 includes 6 modules:
• Module SE-1: Building Warm, Positive, and Nurturing Relationships
• Module SE-2: Providing Consistent and Responsive Caregiving
• Module SE-3: Supporting Emotional Expression and Regulation
• Module SE-4: Promoting Socialization
• Module SE-5: Guiding Behavior
• Module SE-6: Promoting Children’s Sense of Identity and Belonging

  • Critical Competencies for Infant-Toddler Educators™ Online Module SE-1: Building Warm, Positive, and Nurturing Relationships

    Contains 2 Component(s), Includes Credits

    ​Infant-toddler educators can support positive and nurturing relationships by demonstrating warmth and affection through frequent verbal and nonverbal affirmations as they engage with children throughout the day.

    Infant-toddler educators can support positive and nurturing relationships by demonstrating warmth and affection through frequent verbal and nonverbal affirmations as they engage with children throughout the day. Genuine positive facial expressions and tone of voice can reassure children that they have supportive relationships to rely on in their caregiving environments. Research has shown that parental warmth and positive affect are associated with infant-toddler engagement and positive affect during activity and interactions—all important social attributes that contribute to children’s overall social and emotional intelligence (Brooks-Gunn, Berlin, & Fuligni, 2000; Cox, 2003; McIntyre & Dusek, 1995). This research on parental warmth suggests a role for infant-toddler educators as well. When early educators develop warm and positive relationships with young children, they can increase children’s engagement during activities and interactions, thereby supporting children’s development of critical social skills (Brooks-Gunn et al., 2000; Hamre & Pianta, 2001).

  • Critical Competencies for Infant-Toddler Educators™ Online Module SE-2: Providing Consistent and Responsive Caregiving

    Contains 2 Component(s), Includes Credits

    ​Infant-toddler educators who are consistently sensitive to children’s bids for attention and who respond to children in ways that meet their emotional, intellectual, and physical needs are teaching children to trust that when they need help they can count on others to respond.

    Infant-toddler educators who are consistently sensitive to children’s bids for attention and who respond to children in ways that meet their emotional, intellectual, and physical needs are teaching children to trust that when they need help they can count on others to respond. Educators who notice when children are struggling, need assistance, or want to be comforted can provide a secure base from which infants and toddlers can explore the world around them. Young children with responsive caregivers develop confidence and seek out novel experiences because they trust that the adults in their world will be there to support their exploration while ensuring their health and safety. Teachers who are consistent help infants and toddlers learn to regulate their emotions. Children can anticipate caregiver responses and the general schedule of routine events throughout the day when educators offer predictable responses and routines. 

  • Critical Competencies for Infant-Toddler Educators™ Online Module SE-3: Supporting Emotional Expression and Regulation

    Contains 2 Component(s), Includes Credits

    Infant-toddler educators support emotional expression and regulation by responding to children’s emotional cues in ways that meet children’s needs.

    Infant-toddler educators support emotional expression and regulation by responding to children’s emotional cues in ways that meet children’s needs. Ensuring a generally predictable sequence of events each day and providing consistent responses to children’s bids for attention supports infants’ and toddlers’ ability to identify and regulate their emotions. Very young infants need others to provide external regulation—such as rocking, humming, turning down the lights, or offering a pacifier—so that they can begin to learn how to calm themselves. As children grow and develop they will need less external regulation and begin to develop internal regulation skills that they will hone throughout their lives. Caregivers acknowledge strong emotions—both positive and negative—and help children restore their emotional equilibrium by staying calm, modeling self-regulations skills, making suggestions, and physically assisting children with methods to manage their emotions. By helping young children learn how to handle their emotions successfully, infant-toddler educators also support children’s growing abilities to focus their attention and thinking on learning activities.

  • Critical Competencies for Infant-Toddler Educators™ Online Module SE-4: Promoting Socialization

    Contains 2 Component(s), Includes Credits

    ​The earliest attempts at socialization happen in infancy when children interact with caring and responsive adults who model healthy social relationships and respond to their initial attempts to interact with and engage others.

    The earliest attempts at socialization happen in infancy when children interact with caring and responsive adults who model healthy social relationships and respond to their initial attempts to interact with and engage others. In fact, children are born wired to be social, interactive beings—so the adults’ responses to infants’ and toddlers’ social cues, which create back-and-forth social communication and reciprocity, help to enhance children’s earliest social experiences with other adults and children. When caregivers are attuned to babies’ emerging attempts at socialization, read an infant’s cues accurately, and respond to a child’s social overtures in turn and in synch with a young child’s social behaviors, infants learn the art of connecting with a consistent caregiver. As older toddlers move toward parallel and cooperative play, caregivers can support the development of empathy as toddlers begin to learn that others have feelings, experiences, and perspectives that are different from their own. The social expectations created in child–caregiver interactions become applied to the child’s encounters with others: a confident expectation that the other person will be fun to be with, or uncertainty or distrust that one’s initiatives will receive a positive response. These social expectations become what attachment theorists have labeled “internal working models” and play a large role in shaping the way children approach and navigate social relationships.

  • Critical Competencies for Infant-Toddler Educators™ Online Module SE-5: Guiding Behavior

    Contains 2 Component(s), Includes Credits

    The learning that occurs in the infant-toddler years includes educators’ purposeful guiding of children’s behavior.

    The learning that occurs in the infant-toddler years includes educators’ purposeful guiding of children’s behavior. As young children explore their environment, including early interaction with peers, guidance about how to manage their own behavior is crucial. Early educators actively minimize behavior challenges by carefully constructing the learning environment, providing multiples of favorite play materials, positioning themselves in close proximity to pairs or small groups of children, and ensuring that there are many opportunities to play with engaging materials throughout the early learning setting. In addition to activity and environmental planning, early educators model appropriate behavior, provide physical redirection when needed, offer positive reinforcement for children’s early successes at managing their impulses 
    (e.g., using the word “no” or “wait” when a peer grabs a play toy rather than hitting or biting in response), and provide children with simple messages about what behavior is expected. By focusing behavior guidance on what is expected, early educators provide children the information they need to behave appropriately (e.g., “Please sit on your bottom when you come down the slide”) rather than simply telling children what is not acceptable (e.g., “Don’t stand on the slide” or, “If you stand on the slide you will be all done”). Skillful educators provide simple and clear messages about behavioral expectations, while also redirecting children from inappropriate behaviors.  

  • Critical Competencies for Infant-Toddler Educators™ Online Module SE-6: Promoting Children’s Sense of Identity and Belonging

    Contains 2 Component(s), Includes Credits

    ​Infants and toddlers in group care need to develop relationships with the consistent group of adults and children with whom they spend their days.

    Infants and toddlers in group care need to develop relationships with the consistent group of adults and children with whom they spend their days. Forming positive relationships with others helps promote children’s sense of identity and belonging and, as children mature, supports mutual understanding and shared perspective. Helping very young children develop a basic sense of community—those people who make up their system of primary caregivers as well as their peers—promotes a sense of consistency, trust, and predictability that reinforces all aspects of social-emotional development. As children feel safe and included in a group setting, they develop a sense of personal value and identity, as well as acceptance of self and of others as part of a diverse community. These experiences build children’s self-esteem, sense of worth, and understanding of similarities and differences among community members—all of which help ready children for positive social learning opportunities.