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DOUBLE TAP TO ZOOM ON PHONE OR TABLET master new skills. For example, a child picks up a sensory bottle and twists and shakes it to see how the objects in it move and float (see Liquid Sensory Bottles activity, page 108). Caregivers watch and observe the child, providing support and guidance in a developmentally appropriate manner. They scaffold STEM learning by rein­ forcing new vocabulary and expanding language and learning through inquiry. Asking open-​ended questions provides opportunities to hold a child’s attention, shows approval of the child’s choice of play, and increases the child’s sense of self and self-​esteem. I will share more on inquiry later in the book. Child-​directed activities strengthen the adult-​child relationship, reinforce learning, and enhance the feeling that learning is fun. Experienced caregivers are sensitive to play responses of children. They understand that each child has distinct preferences in the amount and intensity of play. Caregivers develop an under­ standing of the cues infants and toddlers give when they feel under-​or overstimulated. Care­ givers show care and respect to the child by modi­ fying the environment to meet the changing needs and cues of each child. Responsive care­givers talk to children about what they are doing and ask open-​ended questions. Using words and gestures helps children connect prior learning to new expe­ riences. Caregivers broaden children’s learning by scaffolding STEM activities and introducing new learning materials to the play experience. Novel toys and materials are introduced, allowing chil­ dren to extend their play experiences. These con­ nections help children deepen and expand their learning and understanding of the world. Adults have their own playful styles, and infants and toddlers quickly learn to identify the different styles of their parents and caregivers. It’s important for early childhood providers to support parents in their role as their child’s first teacher. Helping parents engage in play with their children promotes positive relationships and helps children reach developmental milestones. Playful environments at home and in early care settings provide a consistent message that learn­ ing is fun. It supports the home-​school connec­ 10   tion, which is so important for children’s learning. Children spend most of their time in play where they construct new learning; therefore, play is essential in high-​quality early care centers. Care­ givers can do the following to support STEM play activities in young children: Talk to the child as you play. Model how to play and use animated expressions. Ask inquiry questions and introduce STEM vocabulary. Provide children space to play and explore alone and with peers. Scaffold the activity by modeling expanded use of the play material(s). Provide open-​ended materials in both inside and outside environments. Join the child on the floor as you engage in playful activities. PART 1 COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL