Play and Learning Strategies (PALS)

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 18 months. PALS Toddler consists of 12 sessions and is appropriate for parents of toddlers from about 18 months to 3 years. Used across the state of Texas, as well as in nearly 30 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.

Play and Learning Strategies Publications:

Landry, S. H., Smith, K.E., Swank, P.R., & Guttentag, C.L. (2008) Responsive parenting: The optimal timing of an intervention across early childhood. Developmental Psychology, 44 (5), 1335-1353.

Dieterich, S.E., Landry, S.H., Smith, K.E., Swank, P.R. & Hebert, H.M. (2006). Impact of community mentors on maternal behaviors and child outcomes. Journal of Early Intervention, 28, 111-124.

Guttentag, C.L., Pedrosa-Josic, C., Landry, S.H., Smith, K.E., & Swank, P.R (2006). Individual variability in parenting profiles and predictors of change: Effects of an intervention with disadvantaged mothers. Journal of Applied Developmental Psychology, 27, 349-369.

Landry, S.H., Smith, K.E., & Swank, P.R. (2006). Responsive parenting: Establishing early foundations for social, communication, and independent problem-solving skills. Developmental Psychology, 42(4), 627-642.

Smith, K.E., Landry, S.H., Swank, P.R. (2005). The influence of decreased parental resources on the efficacy of a responsive parenting intervention. Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, 73(4), 711-720.


Play and Learning Strategies (PALS) Training

PALS training is provided either at the Children's Learning Institute in Houston, Texas, or on-site at your location.

The PALS Infant and Toddler/Preschooler Program, which includes PALS manuals, toy bags, and supplementary materials, are available for purchase in conjunction with training and certification provided by Children's Learning Institute staff. Materials are available in both English and Spanish.

To purchase either or both PALS programs, and request training and certification, please contact CLI Solutions Group.