Familiar spaces are comfortable places to learn and grow. There are many familiar places to take your child regularly, such as the library, the grocery store, or the doctor’s office. For you, they are routine, but for young children, these places are fascinating and new.
Infants and toddlers with and without disabilities naturally explore the world, and they are excited to discover the “new” in their spaces. Perhaps you have seen an infant looking intently at a toy that is just out of arms reach. She might stretch her arm as far as she can until she finds herself rolling onto her belly and grasping the toy. You may have seen a toddler crouching on the sidewalk to watch ants crawl. He might point to the ants and look at his mom with a puzzled expression to let her know he wants to know more about these insects. Curiosity motivates all young children to explore the spaces around them. Opportunities to learn and grow happen naturally when we tune into this curiosity and share in the excitement of discovery with children.
Many families experience challenges when balancing household tasks, community obligations, early intervention, and work. Laundry, cooking, EI providers, and errands always seem to take more time than we expect. The day fills up quickly when you add busy children playing and making a mess to the mix. Families may feel even more time pressure when they try to think of ways to incorporate EI strategies into everyday routines in familiar and new spaces. Adults can more easily do this when they tune into the excitement and curiosity that infants and toddlers have about exploring their spaces. Your child is like a traveler in a new land, and you are the tour guide! A good tour guide talks about everything he sees, smells, touches, and tastes.
Want to make the most of your time with your child to help them grow? Look at your spaces and find many opportunities to explore and grow together. Awaken your senses as you go about your day. Here are some ideas to help you get started.
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Enjoy the outdoors! Your child may notice the birds, squirrels, and plants outside.
- Watch your child’s face to see where she is looking. The outdoors is a great opportunity to build language skills.
- Talk with your child about what she is seeing. You can expose her to rich vocabulary words when describing the colors you see, sounds you hear, and scents you smell. You are introducing your child to concepts such as opposites when you describe the warm sun versus the cold snow. These conversations build her cognitive abilities.
- Make time to climb or cruise around the playground to build your child’s gross motor skills. Crawling is a new experience when you are moving on the soft grass.
Discover treasures indoors! Your home has treasures that your child will enjoy discovering.
- Your kitchen space may be filled with safe items to discover, such as wooden spoons, measuring cups, and unbreakable bowls. Practice stacking and nesting these items with your child. This builds his spatial awareness. Pretend to cook and feed each other with older infants and toddlers. Pretend play is a natural way to develop social skills such as turn-taking and manners.
- You might place a few “treasure baskets” in different rooms of your home where you can put items that are safe for your child to explore. Remember, even the laundry basket is full of interesting textures, colors, shapes, and sizes to talk about!
- Help your child master gross-motor spaces such as stairs, ramps, and furniture.
Tour new places and familiar spaces!
- Many places that you visit regularly are routine to you but may be fascinating and new to your child. You can explore the library, the grocery store, or the doctor’s office with your child. Explain what others might be doing as they move around you.
- Adventure out with your child to a new place that makes you curious. This may help you share the excitement of discovery that your child experiences in familiar places.
- Walk at a different playground, stroll around a museum, or explore a local cultural festival. Ask questions and wait for your child to answer or indicate his interest by turning his eyes toward you or pointing at things he sees. Respond to your own questions and be a language model for your child.