Critical Competencies for Infant-Toddler Educators™ Online Module C-2: Building Meaningful Curriculum
Infant-toddler educators often wonder about how much, if any, teacher-directed or planned activity is developmentally appropriate when working with infants and toddlers. Concepts such as explicit teaching or instructional support seem out of place in a program designed to be flexible and responsive to individual needs and preferences; yet, there is a role for the infant-toddler educator in making sure that young children have experiences that teach them about the world around them and introduce them to basic foundational concepts in a meaningful, developmentally appropriate way. Sometimes these experiences happen naturally within a group setting environment, emerging from children’s own interests and real-life experiences, but other times teachers need to carefully plan for and provide such experiences in the group setting in a purposeful, teacher-guided way. Providing these experiences helps infants and toddlers build background knowledge about things in their environment, community, and daily lives that provide a foundational knowledge base upon which more discrete concepts can be understood and assimilated later. For instance, noticing and commenting on seasonal changes in nature while on stroller rides or short walks in the community is a great time for caregivers to comment, “Do you see how the leaves on that tree are falling onto the ground? That means winter is coming soon!” or noting the change in temperature, “Today we don’t need to wear jackets because it is getting warmer out. It gets warmer in the spring time.” Infants and toddlers can begin to notice these changes in the world around them as teachers set the stage for a more complex understanding of seasonal cycles and environmental changes during the later early childhood years. An important factor during the infant-toddler years is exposing children to a variety of experiences and activities that increase their familiarity with these and other basic concepts.