In previous articles, we've emphasized the importance of recognizing and encouraging positive behavior. While we talked about this in the context of preschool classrooms, it's important for children of all ages to receive praise. Now we want to discuss how you can encourage and praise toddlers.
The toddler years (which start at about 15 months) can be a challenging time, but it's also a period of tremendous growth and exploration. Toddlers often want things immediately, and when this doesn't happen — which can be often — they can become easily upset.
Similarly, children during the toddler years may behave impulsively and not always exercise the best judgment. They are very curious about the way things work, which often leads them to wonder "What will happen if I do this...?" They often become involved in a project, whether that's pulling out interesting looking toys or books, without realizing the repercussions and mess they may be creating in the process.
Toddlers are accustomed to being told what to do by their teachers and parents, but offering praise and positive remarks is incredibly important for young children too. You also want to praise students constructively, so that they're more likely to repeat the good behavior.
Here are some strategies for offering toddlers constructive praise:
Give specific praise
Avoid constantly saying "Good job." You want to be specific in your praise and use warm language. For example, if you notice the student is sharing well with their classmates, and you want to encourage this behavior, you might say: "You're sharing the book so nicely." If the action is with regard to an important developmental milestone, such as starting to stack blocks, be sure to emphasize this, for example, "You are going a great job building that tower. I notice that you're correctly putting the smaller blocks on top of the bigger blocks." Since mastering many of these developmental areas is a gradual process, and not a straight line, be sure to encourage toddlers in taking these important steps.
Notice and provide encouragement when students help you or their classmates complete tasks they've been asked to help with, or when they exercise patience in waiting their turn. Acknowledge his or her helpfulness, and make sure to say "Thank you." Toddlers appreciate being recognized for their positive actions.
Practice consistency and model good behavior
Children learn positive behavior through what they see and hear, as well as your responses to them. While children often hear what they shouldn't be doing, make sure they are receiving specific praise and encouragement for good behavior. Be sure to also recognize small steps forward, as it takes a repeated effort and lots of hard work to master goals.
In addition, by offering warm and genuine praise, you help toddlers learn the value of kindness, in turn making it more likely for him or her to praise others.
ProSolutions Training offers a range of resources for early childhood educators. Refer to our course "Social and Emotional Development in Toddlers" for more information on this subject.
We also offer a CDA Training course and a CDA Renewal Training course, both developed to meet the needs of early care and education professionals seeking the CDA Credential. The credential is administered and awarded by the Council for Professional Recognition.