Lights, Language, and Learning!

Lights, Language, and Learning – Our family recently went to the Greensboro Science Center’s Winter Wonderlights! Eleanor’s favorite animal to visit at the Science Center are the penguins. She loves to imitate their waddle and thinks it is hilarious when they jump into the water. Since Winter Wonderlights is mostly outside, we didn’t get to see the actual penguins, but Eleanor loved the light-up dancing penguins!

At 18 months, she is talking constantly. Sometimes you can understand her, and sometimes it sounds like gibberish (although she is certain of what she is saying – ha!). While walking around the exhibits, Eleanor proudly pointed to and stated all the things she recognized, like “star” and “tree.” She also learned new things as we pointed them out to her. It’s amazing to watch her brain work as we explain something new. Sometimes she repeats the new word immediately and other times she’ll surprise us days later by seeing the same thing and naming it without being prompted. I can’t wait to participate in more holiday activities this year and share even more with her!

Learn more about the Basic – Talk, Sing, and Point

-Written by Lizzy and Colin Tahsuda

Moving to His Own Beat

Titus has mastered crawling, pulling up and we believe he will take his first steps anytime now. Being mobile is a new exploration stage; the floor is his best friend and provides us many opportunities to Explore Through Movement and Play.

Titus has always enjoyed music. He has his own playlist that we listen to daily! Titus loves clapping to the beat and making his own noise aka singing! The noise we love to hear the most is his giggles!

He has a music activity board that features sounds of drums, piano and guitar, can switch to three different languages and covers the alphabet and counting. The interactive feature and bright lights encourage Titus to make his own sounds and beats! He has smooth dancing bop!

Titus will be one next month! Not sure how time went by so quickly but we are excited and can’t wait to party, play and dance together!

Learn more about the Basic – Explore Through Movement and Play

by Terry and Candace Martin

UNCG Professor’s Research Offers Tips for Parents and Children

Megan Fields-Olivieri is Assistant Professor of Clinical Psychology at The University of North Carolina at Greensboro and a mother of two young children. Dr. Fields-Olivieri has specialized training in early childhood mental health, and her research focuses on child emotion, and how it influences both language development and parent/child communications. Since 80% of a child’s brain development occurs from birth to age 3, the work of Dr. Fields-Olivieri intersects with The Basics Guilford in two important ways. First, the Basics emphasize the importance of language development through concepts like Talk, Sing, Point or Read and Discuss Stories for example. Secondly, these concepts also zero in on parent strategies to Maximize Love and Manage Stress.

Because emotion is the language of a baby, emotion and language are interconnected communication systems. As children’s brains are developing with language skills, their emotional capacities to self-regulate are also developing, yet our culture doesn’t often consider the impact of emotion on language development (or vice versa). For example, emotions may directly impact how well the important ‘serve and return’ language exchange between caregivers and infants/toddlers operates.  

Dr. Fields-Olivieri described previous studies, conducted by other researchers, finding that toddlers that have more negative emotions or may be considered “difficult” tend to have worse language skills or develop their language skills more slowly. Curious about why this might be, Dr. Fields-Olivieri and her team have examined how toddlers’ emotions might influence- or be influenced by- parent-toddler verbal communication. They found that toddlers’ positive emotions seem to encourage parents to verbally communicate with their toddlers, whereas parents tend to be less responsive to negative emotions like crying or whining than they are to language attempts. However, parents’ verbal responses to negative emotions appear to help toddlers shift from communicating with negative emotion to communicating verbally. 

At the heart of this early childhood research happening right here in our community is work that may help parents understand how to better respond to a child’s negative emotions and to deal with their own stress. Dr. Fields-Olivieri wants parents to remember several strategies:

  • Remember that frequent, intense negative emotion expression is expected and developmentally appropriate in the toddler period. Think of it as a developmental milestone just like learning to walk or talk! 
  • The middle of a tantrum is not the time to teach your toddler about emotions or emotion regulation strategies– no one, especially toddlers, has the capacity to listen and learn well when they are very upset! 
  • What can you do in the moment, then?
    • First, take a moment to calm yourself down. Take a few deep breaths or use another strategy that is helpful for you.
    • Next, briefly acknowledge your child’s feeling or the situation that seems to have triggered that feeling (even if you think it’s silly!). Try something like “Wow, you’re feeling so sad about that” or “You really wanted the blue cup”.
    • Remember it is possible to acknowledge or validate your child’s negative emotions AND hold firm boundaries. You can say something like “It’s okay to feel mad. It is not okay to hit.”
    • Remember that it is not your job to “fix” your child’s negative emotions. Sometimes the best thing to do is to be a calm presence for your child, and ride out the emotional wave with them.                                 
  • Take advantage of calm moments (without a meltdown) to connect verbally with your child. This can include talking about emotions using books and stories, or talking about past or future events in their life that may cause negative emotions. 
  • Don’t be hard on yourself – remember that anytime you get your child to engage in a back and forth conversation, you will be building their language skills – don’t worry what you actually talk about!  
  • Remember that every child is unique and develops both emotional and language skills at different rates, so there is no “one size fits all” strategy. Be creative and flexible in communications with your child- and have fun!

Want to learn more about this research? Visit TALK Lab (

STEM Skills Start Early

Start Building STEM Skills Early

Construction paper and teddy bears are good for counting and sorting! How? Let me explain. My two-and-a-half-year-old son started being interested in learning his colors. We would start by identifying colors in his natural environment and the colors on his clothes. One day, he began playing with the teddy bear objects and asking their colors. This simple observation led to helping him visually discriminate between colors and learn the color names. I used the same colors of construction paper to match the teddy bears that he played with. I then laid down each piece of paper side by side on a table and let him decide where to place each teddy bear by looking at their colors.

As children are comparing by color, it is important to resist the urge as parents to do it for them or quickly correct. Encourage and celebrate them when they can match correctly, let them figure out when it is not correct, what is different? Your role is to facilitate. Ask questions such as “What color looks the same as the object?” This can help them visually process and self-correct if they get it wrong. Another role is to build their language. Math literacy skills are equally important is reading ability. They can learn key vocabulary words like “compare,” “same,” or “different.”

Even if you do not have teddy bear objects, any multi-colored item can be used in this simple activity. You can try using colored cereal, large beads, toy cars, blocks, or any other item that you have at home. Most of the time finding objects that you already have and using them to teach important skills is most convenient. Giving children experience with Count, Group, and Compare provides an important foundation for building lifelong STEM skills.

By Airreia Pierce | Visit Airreia’s website |  Follow her on Facebook


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