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COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Rhythm-driven songs and rhymes bring joy to young children—they learn to as- sociate that joy with language. While the youngest children in your care may not understand the meaning of your songs and rhymes, they can nonetheless delight in singing and playing with words. You can teach rhythm by encouraging children to clap along with a song or to shake or tap a musical instrument. Fingerplays like “Itsy, Bitsy Spider” and “Pat-a-Cake” offer them the chance to develop fine-motor skills while learning language. Playful songs, chants, and fingerplays teach infants, toddlers, and twos to discern units of speech and to blend sounds through music. Constant immersion in language strengthens their ability to learn language’s many meanings and sets the stage for literacy. All the activities in this book are accompanied by suggestions for vocabulary, books to use, and questions to ask. Appendix B lists books I recommend by the learning domains they best address. I hope you’ll enjoy adapting my suggestions to the children in your care. Your creativity and imagination will expand their lives! Final Thoughts As a responsive caregiver, you play a critical role in the growth and development of infants, toddlers, and two-year-olds. Children are naturally curious, and they love to experiment with and explore the environment. You build on their curiosity by planning and providing play-based activities. And you understand that healthy re- lationships lie at the heart of children’s developing skills and competencies. I created the activities in this book to strengthen your understanding of how children grow and learn. Every one of these 101 activities stresses the importance of responsive caregiving. Every one of them demonstrates how learning can be inte- grated across learning domains. I hope the play activities I’ve devised motivate and inspire you in your efforts to provide high-quality, loving care for young children. I encourage you to use your own creativity to build and expand on my work, to tailor it to every child you care for. Each child is unique, as you know, and each one learns best in a loving, caring, valuing environment. Nothing is quite as sweet or precious as young children are. The first three years of children’s lives are so exciting. I hope the beautiful young children in your care prompt you to try the activities in this book. And I hope this book supports you and your program in offering quality activities to infants, toddlers, and two-year-olds. COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL Setting the Stage for Activities 11