Friday, September 2, 2016

Talking to Babies

At Tumbleweed, we talk to babies.  As part of our core belief that infants deserve respect and recognition as individuals, we use language as one tool to communicate plans, responses, limits, and love to the tiniest people in our care.  As the teacher for the current infant cohort, there are many ways that I use language throughout our days together:

"I'm going to go to the kitchen and get the snack tub.  I'll be right back, and then we can sit down at the table to eat."   These phrases communicate a few things:  I am leaving the room, and your sight.  I'll be back soon.  We are about to transition from one activity (playing in the classroom) to another (eating at the table).  While some of the infants will still be sad when I leave the room, they are building the experience to remember that I always come back.  Others will begin moving towards the table, choosing a chair, and attempting to climb in.  By establishing the pattern that I always let the group know before leaving the room, even for a few moments, the children learn to trust that if I haven't told them I'm leaving then that means I'm not leaving!  This gives them the ability to relax and trust that they know I'm close by, even if I'm out of their sightline.

"I'm going to pick you up," or "I'm going to set you down now," or (during a diaper change), "I'm going to lift up your legs now."  Before I move an infant's body in any way, I come close to them, make eye contact, give a verbal cue, and give them a chance to anticipate the movement.  There are no surprise movements, no jarring from one direction to another.  The children have a chance to participate in the movement, whether by lifting arms to be picked up or lifting hips to help with a diaper change.

"You picked the blue block."  "The pear is so juicy and sweet!"  "The play dough is so squishy; what will you do with it next?"  Much of the day in an infant classroom is devoted to uninterrupted time to play and explore.  When children look to me for my reaction or acknowledgement in the work they are doing, part of my response is to put words to what they are up to.  This builds connections between language and actions, objects, and the world.

"You are so happy to see your friend today!"  "You slipped and fell -  that was so surprising."  "You're feeling really sad that your dad is leaving.  You're going to miss him so much." Part of my job as an infant teacher is to bring language to the big emotions that the children experience all day.  This begins building their emotional vocabulary.  It also sends the message that all emotions are accepted in our cohort.

As the oldest children in Cohort 12 begin turning one and experimenting with words, the vocabulary in our classroom will become more rich and varied, hopefully building on the foundation of language we are already building together.