“It seems like you both love that cylinder,” I say. “If you want to keep it hold on tight!”
One child looks at me as I speak and I smile. “You're trying to get the cylinder, but he's holding it with both hands. He's using it!”
The child tries to pull the cylinder away again, but it still doesn't work. The child with the cylinder yells a little, pulling back against his grasp. “That is his way of telling you he's using it.” I say softly.
Soon the child decides to let go and discovers one of our new velcro fruit pieces. The other child continues to explore the red cylinder.
This example highlights how I model language with the children, especially as disagreements arise. As the children struggle through these moments it is important that both children's feelings are validated and no one is right or wrong. My role in these interactions is simply to narrate what I see happening, and when we are building these social and communication skills, to conjecture about what each child might be feeling. I also try to avoid giving a solution to whatever problem is arising, instead giving children (even infants!) a moment to figure it out for themselves, then reflecting on what happened. "Watch his face when you touch him, so you know how he feels." "When you hold tight it means you're not done yet." "Can I have it?" (While holding out a hand) "Everyone likes gentle touches, like this!" (gently move the child's hand on their friend) "I can tell that was frustrating. Do you want to try again?" When I start modeling these phrases and behaviors, even before everyone's language is able to use the same words, it sets up a model for how we interact with our friends, gives problem solving skills, respect and love between all of us, and opportunities for the children to experiment with what works when.