Understanding oneself, feeling good about oneself and one’s capabilities,
being able to form personal relationships, and being able to interact effectively
with others begins at birth and continues over a lifetime. Social-studies learning
opportunities for young children during the first three years of life can set the
stage for later, more advanced skill development. When toddlers learn words to
express how they feel and skills to self-regulate, they are better able to get along
with other children in preschool or kindergarten and are able to focus and attend
to learning tasks.

As infants become toddlers, their expanding senses of self and growing mo-
tor, language, and cognitive skills provide increasing opportunities for learning
about the physical and social world around them. When toddlers begin to talk,
they want to learn the names of things. They also begin to ask questions and want
to know about other people, how things work, and what you can do with objects.

This is an opportune time for you to teach words for feelings and to model for
children how to express themselves and have social conversations with others.

Since infants and toddlers begin to experience and internalize the social
norms, values, customs, and beliefs of their primary caregivers, supporting their
home cultures and the development of a positive cultural identity is a vital com-
ponent of social-studies learning for this age group. Including objects, music,
and photographs in the classroom that reflect the ethnicities and cultures of the
children’s families helps them to develop a positive sense of self. In addition, pro-
viding infants and toddlers with extended and enriched interactions with the so-
cial world helps them begin to understand both themselves and others. Playing
games with two or more children or having dolls with different skin tones and
hair textures can help them to begin to connect with others. Within the early care
program, children should be given opportunities to meet new and different kinds
of people and to explore a variety of materials and environments.

A Professional Approach
National, state, and local education systems, communities, and policy makers
have become increasingly aware of how important high-quality care and early
experiences are for young children: High-quality infant-toddler programming
provides supportive interactions and developmentally appropriate learning ex-
periences to promote and enhance young children’s development. You can use
professional learning standards, professional ethics, child development theories,
and developmentally appropriate practice as tools to help guide high-quality
teaching practices and program policies.

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