Play and Learning Strategies is a preventive intervention program to strengthen the bond between parent and child and to stimulate early language, cognitive, and social development. The program was developed to facilitate parents’ mastery of specific skills for interacting with their infants, toddlers, and preschoolers that lead to better child outcomes, particularly in children from families with limited resources.
The program is facilitated by a trained parent educator who presents each session to the parent(s) and coaches the parent(s) in using specific techniques. In coaching sessions, PALS uses videotaped examples of real mothers and children to demonstrate each concept and allows the parent to critique these examples before practicing the new skills with her own child. Guided practice opportunities during each session help parents move from watching listening and talking, to doing.
PALS Infant curriculum consists of 10 sessions and is appropriate for parents of infants from about 5 months to 15 months. PALS Toddler consists of 12 sessions and is appropriate for parents of toddlers from about 18 months to 4 years. Used across the state of Texas, as well as in nearly 20 states across the country, PALS continues to be refined and for use with a variety of populations and in group settings as well as in the original home-based individual format.
Session topics include:
- Attention to babies’ and toddlers’ communicative signals
- Responding appropriate to children’s positive and negative signals
- Supporting infants’ and toddlers’ learning by maintaining their interest and attention rather than redirecting or over stimulating
- Introducing toys and activities
- Stimulating language development through labeling and scaffolding
- Encouraging cooperation and responding to misbehavior
- Incorporating these strategies and supportive behaviors throughout the day and during routine activities such as mealtimes, dressing, and bathing, as well as at playtime
Throughout the program, there is also an emphasis on educating parents about typical behaviors to expect from children at different ages.