Supporting the Development of Self-Regulation in Young Children: Tips for Practitioners Working with Infants in Classroom Settings

Publication Date: March 18, 2019
Cover Infants Toxic Stress

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  • Published: 2019


The first year of life is a critical time for infants to begin developing secure attachments with their parents and caregivers (secure attachment is when children know they can depend on adults to respond sensitively to their needs). This helps babies learn that their world is a safe place and it is an important foundation for self-regulation development. When babies transition to childcare outside of the home, they need to form relationships with other caregivers and learn through experience that their needs will be met.


This resource provides tips to help caregivers use co-regulation to support early development of self-regulation skills in infants in childcare settings. This is one of four early childhood practitioner tip sheets. For each of four groups of early childhood practitioners (i.e., those working with infants in childcare settings; those working with toddlers in classroom settings; those working with preschool children in classroom settings; and those working in home settings), these tip sheets provide the following: a review of key concepts related to self-regulation; a listing of the skills developing in that age group; six co-regulation tips for caregivers to support the specific self-regulation skills developing at each age; and specific details within each of the six co-regulation tips. Caregivers can use the tips provided within each resource to support the specific self-regulation skills developing at each age. Most of the material is based on the reports and briefs in the Self-Regulation and Toxic Stress Series (/opre/research/project/ toxic-stress-and-self-regulation-reports) prepared for the Administration for Children and Families (ACF) by the Duke Center for Family Policy and the UNC Frank Porter Graham Child Development Institute.


  • Six sets of tips are provided for practitioners working with infants in childcare settings:
    1. Start with you.
    2. Establish a warm and responsive relationship with each baby.
    3. Create calm and structured childcare environments.
    4. Respond with warmth and structure during stressful moments.
    5. Work closely with parents.
    6. Create a sense of community.
  • Infants are sensitive to the emotions of adults and rely on caregivers to provide a calm and soothing presence, particularly during times of transition or distress.
  • Infants can utilize simple self-regulation skills such as self-soothing or turning their attention away from upsetting situations, usually toward their caregiver, to seek comfort.


Pahigiannis, K., Rosanbalm, K. and Murray, D. W. (2019). Supporting the Development of Self-Regulation in Young Children: Tips for Practitioners Working with Infants (birth to 1 year old) in Childcare Settings. OPRE Brief #2019-27. Washington, DC: Office of Planning, Research, and Evaluation, Administration for Children and Families, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.


The act of managing thoughts and feelings to enable goal-directed actions.
The supportive process between caring adults and children, youth, or young adults that fosters self-regulation development.
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