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Children 2–3-Year-Olds Learn Language During Care Situations

Children 2–3-Year-Olds Learn Language  During Care Situations

By Emmy Gay, from a lecture by Silvia Papp at the Pikler House

Care situations are not always appreciated enough in families. Sometimes, there isn’t even a dedicated place for them, with children being changed wherever is convenient. However, in daycare settings like the Pikler House, care situations are central activities, providing valuable opportunities for learning and development.

The Importance of Care Situations

During care routines, children learn a great deal about language and how to interact with the world. Around the age of one, children begin to show increased interest in their environment, often because they can now stand and walk, giving them a broader view of their surroundings. This developmental milestone is accompanied by a longer attention span and the ability to initiate contact by pointing.

Understanding Shifts in Attention

As children grow, their ability to focus and change the subject of attention improves. They start looking at the adult’s hands and actions less and turn their attention outward. This broadening of interests can make care situations more challenging, but it also provides an opportunity for deeper communication and relationship-building.

Maintaining Communication

When a child’s interests expand, maintaining communication during care situations requires adapting our approach. It’s essential to continue making these moments shared experiences, supporting the child’s development through a relationship-based approach. At this stage, children judge everything based on the adult’s reactions. Understanding this helps caregivers provide consistent and supportive responses.

The Role of Gestures and Words

Dialogue with young children involves both verbal and non-verbal communication. In the Pikler approach, gestures come first, followed by words. This choreography helps children understand and predict what will happen next, creating a sense of security and understanding. A healthy dialogue involves guiding each other’s attention back and forth, maintaining a rhythm where both parties initiate interaction.

Enhancing Language Development

Children learn nouns first and then start understanding verbs. During this phase, adults can help by complementing the child’s words and sounds, putting them into context, and adding information. For example, if a child roars like a tiger, the caregiver can respond with, “Yes, that’s a tiger. You have a tiger on your diaper.” This approach supports language development and helps children understand and use words meaningfully.

Respecting the Child’s Input

It’s also important for caregivers to respect and use the names and words that children create. By incorporating the child’s language into the conversation, caregivers validate their contributions and foster a sense of agency and confidence in communication.


Effective communication with 2–3-year-olds during care situations is essential for their development. By maintaining a gentle, compassionate tone and respecting the child’s input, caregivers can create enriching, shared experiences that support the child’s growth. The Pikler approach, with its emphasis on synchronized gestures and words, helps build a strong foundation for healthy development and meaningful relationships.

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