Play and Learning Strategies – Toddler/Preschool Program (PALS II)

About This Program

Target Population: Children 18 months to 4 years and their families

For parents/caregivers of children ages: 1 – 4

Program Overview

The PALS II curriculum was developed to facilitate parents’ mastery of specific skills for interacting with their young children, such as understand children’s signals, responding contingently, guiding children’s behavior, and using rich language. It is designed as a preventive intervention program to strengthen the bond between parent and child and to stimulate early language, cognitive, and social development via positive language input, use of language and activities to encourage children’s problem solving skills, and positive discipline strategies. There is also a Play and Learning Strategies - Infant Program (PALS I) which is rated in the Home Visiting for Child Well-Being topic area as well.

Program Goals

The goals of Play and Learning Strategies – Toddler/Preschool Program (PALS II) are:

  • Increase parents’ contingent responsiveness behaviors
  • Increase parents’ rich language input
  • Increase parents’ emotional/affective support
  • Increase parents’ ability to maintain child’s focus of attention
  • Increase the child’s language, cognitive, and social outcomes

Logic Model

The program representative did not provide information about a Logic Model for Play and Learning Strategies – Toddler/Preschool Program (PALS II).

Essential Components

The essential components of Play and Learning Strategies – Toddler/Preschool Program (PALS II) include:

  • One-on-one home visits between a trained home visitor and a parent
  • 14 weekly individual sessions in the family’s home
    • Sessions include topics such as the following:
      • How to understand young children’s signals
      • How to respond contingently to signals
      • How to use behavioral guidance strategies to encourage self-regulation
      • How to maintain child’s focus of attention
      • How to use language building strategies to build receptive and expressive language skills
    • Two additional sessions focus on how to use the PALS strategies throughout the day and within a single interaction
    • Two review sessions available where an additional caregiver is invited to attend to learn about strategies for him or her to use with the young child as well
  • 90-minute sessions typically
  • Video recording of parent and child interacting at the end of each session given to parent to allow them to practice newly learned PALS II strategy
  • Review of video playback of the parent-child interaction enables parent to reflect on their behaviors

Program Delivery

Parent/Caregiver Services

Play and Learning Strategies – Toddler/Preschool Program (PALS II) directly provides services to parents/caregivers and addresses the following:

  • Parent of a child 18 months to 4 years of age
Services Involve Family/Support Structures:

This program involves the family or other support systems in the individual's treatment: The child attends all sessions with the parent to allow the coach to train them to use new techniques.

Recommended Intensity:

Weekly 90-minute sessions

Recommended Duration:

14 weeks

Delivery Setting

This program is typically conducted in a(n):

  • Birth Family Home

Homework

Play and Learning Strategies – Toddler/Preschool Program (PALS II) includes a homework component:

Parents are asked to practice using the PALS II strategies with their children daily.

Languages

Play and Learning Strategies – Toddler/Preschool Program (PALS II) has materials available in a language other than English:

Spanish

For information on which materials are available in this language, please check on the program's website or contact the program representative (contact information is listed at the bottom of this page).

Resources Needed to Run Program

The typical resources for implementing the program are:

Video recording device, tripod, laptop/portable DVD player to play curriculum DVD, toy bag with developmentally appropriate toys for parent-child interaction

Manuals and Training

Prerequisite/Minimum Provider Qualifications

It is recommended that a trained PALS II home visitor has at least an associate degree or higher in early childhood (or related field) or work experience commensurate with education. PALS II home visitors are supervised by a person with at least a bachelor’s degree in early childhood education, or a related field, and have 3-5 years’ experience in parent education.

Manual Information

There is a manual that describes how to deliver this program.

Training Information

There is training available for this program.

Training Contact:
Training Type/Location:
  • Home visitors are trained by the Children’s Learning Institute at University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston either in Houston, TX or onsite.
  • The PALS II manual and DVD are used by home visitors while teaching the curriculum.
  • After training, home visitors submit videos of themselves facilitating a PALS II session for certification.
  • Once home visitors are certified in both Play and Learning Strategies - Infant Program (PALS I) and PALS II, they are called PALS Coaches.
Number of days/hours:

3 days for PALS II or 5 days for Play and Learning Strategies – Infant Program (PALS I) and PALS II

Implementation Information

Pre-Implementation Materials

There are no pre-implementation materials to measure organizational or provider readiness for Play and Learning Strategies – Toddler/Preschool Program (PALS II).

Formal Support for Implementation

There is no formal support available for implementation of Play and Learning Strategies – Toddler/Preschool Program (PALS II).

Fidelity Measures

There are fidelity measures for Play and Learning Strategies – Toddler/Preschool Program (PALS II) as listed below:

A checklist is used to rate and provide written feedback to home visitors during certification. The same checklist should be used at least once a month as a fidelity measure.

Implementation Guides or Manuals

There are implementation guides or manuals for Play and Learning Strategies – Toddler/Preschool Program (PALS II) as listed below:

A scripted manual is used by PALS II coaches to implement each session.

Research on How to Implement the Program

Research has not been conducted on how to implement Play and Learning Strategies – Toddler/Preschool Program (PALS II).

Relevant Published, Peer-Reviewed Research

Child Welfare Outcome: Child/Family Well-Being

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. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0013030

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 166

Population:

  • Age — Children: 24-28 months (2.0-2.33 years), Parents: 28-31 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Children: Not specified, Parents: 33.75% African Americans, 39.25% Hispanic, 24.5% Caucasian, and 2.5% Other
  • Gender — Children: 50% Female, Parents:100% Female
  • Status — Participants were from 3 hospitals serving lower income background populations.

Location/Institution: Greater Houston and Galveston, Texas

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
Note: This study uses a subset of the sample from Smith, Landry, & Swank (2005) [see Play and Learning Strategies – Infant Program (PALS I) CEBC entry]. This study examined the optimal timing (infancy, toddler–preschool, or both) for facilitating responsive parenting and the intervention effects on maternal behaviors and child social and communication skills for children who vary in biological risk. Families from the PALS I phase (who received the PALS I intervention during infancy) were rerandomized into either the Play and Learning Strategies – Toddler/Preschool Program (PALS II) or a Developmental Assessment Sessions condition, resulting in 4 groups (PALS I/PALS II, PALS I/DAS II, DAS I/PALS II, DAS I/DAS II). Measures utilized include the Peabody Picture Vocabulary Test—Third Edition (PPVT-III) and the Preschool Language Scale—3rd Edition. Results indicate that facilitation of maternal warmth occurred best with the PALS I intervention, while cognitive responsive behaviors were best supported with the PALS II intervention. Behaviors that required responsiveness to the child’s changing signals (contingent responsiveness, redirecting) required the intervention across both the early and later periods. Limitations include generalizability to parents from a broader economic range.

Length of postintervention follow-up: 3 months.

Landry, S. H., Smith, K. E., Swank, P. R., Zucker, T., Crawford, A. D., & Solari, E. F. (2012). The effects of a responsive parenting intervention on parent–child interactions during shared book reading. Developmental Psychology, 48(4), 969–986. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0026400

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 166

Population:

  • Age — Children: 24- 28 months (2.0 to 2.33 years), Parents: 28-31 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Children: Not specified, Parents: 33.75% African Americans, 39.25% Hispanic, 24.5% Caucasian, and 2.5% Other
  • Gender — Children: 50% Female, Parents: 100% Female
  • Status — Participants were from 3 hospitals serving lower income background populations.

Location/Institution: Greater Houston and Galveston, Texas

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
Note: This study uses a subset of the sample from Smith, Landry, & Swank (2005) [see Play and Learning Strategies - Infant Program (PALS I) CEBC entry].This study examined mother-child shared book reading behaviors before and after participation in a random-assignment responsive parenting intervention called Play and Learning Strategies (PALS) that occurred during infancy [now called Play and Learning Strategies - Infant Program (PALS I)], the toddler-preschool [now called Play and Learning Strategies - Toddler/Preschool Program (PALS II)] period, or both, as compared with a developmental assessment (DAS) intervention (DAS I and/or II). Mother-child pairs who had received either PALS I or DAS I were randomly assigned to the PALS II or DAS II condition. Measures included observational measures of maternal responsiveness and use of a broad range of language scaffolding behaviors. Results indicate all of the observed maternal behaviors were supported by PALS to show significantly stronger gains than for mothers participating in the attention control condition (DAS) across both developmental periods. However, many of the verbal scaffolding behaviors required both PALS I and PALS II to show greater gains. Also, as predicted, PALS facilitated shared reading practices for mothers of children born term as well as those born with very low birth weight (VLBW), and when there was a difference, it favored the mothers of children born VLBW. The children of mothers participating in PALS showed greater gains in their verbal responses and verbal initiative related to the book and interaction with their mothers in sharing interest in the book. Limitations include the lack of information concerning whether the effects sustain to later developmental periods, generalizability to other populations, and use of a very short session of book reading and small sample of books from which to choose.

Length of postintervention follow-up: 3 months.

Landry, S. H., Zucker, T. A., Williams, J. M., Merz, E. C., Guttentag, C . L., & Taylor, H. B. (2017). Improving school readiness of high-risk preschoolers: Combining high quality instructional strategies with responsive training for teachers and parents. Early Childhood Research Quarterly, 40, 38–51. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecresq.2016.12.001

Type of Study: Randomized controlled trial
Number of Participants: 623

Population:

  • Age — Teachers: Not specified, Parents: Not specified, Children: Mean=4.38 years
  • Race/Ethnicity — Teachers: 56.6% African American, 27.6% Latino, 11.8% Caucasian, and 2.6% Asian; Parents: 67.8% Latino, 25.8% African American, 2.6% Caucasian, and .7% Asian; Children: 69.5% Latino, 29.1% African American, and 1.2% Caucasian
  • Gender — Teachers: 94.7% Female, Parents: 98.4% Female, Children: 48.6% Female
  • Status — Preschoolers from socioeconomically disadvantaged families.

Location/Institution: Head Start centers in the Houston and Austin metro areas

Summary: (To include basic study design, measures, results, and notable limitations)
The purpose of this study was to evaluate whether the combination of two, one in Head Start classrooms (The Early Education Model, TEEM) and one in the home (Play and Learning Strategies (PALS)) resulted in enhanced effects on at-risk 3- to 5-year-old children’s school readiness skills when compared to either of these interventions alone. The study was conducted in 77 classrooms with teachers randomized to either the TEEM or No TEEM (i.e., control or business as usual, n=38) conditions. Six to eight children in each classroom were randomly assigned to either have their parents receive PALS or to a No PALS condition, resulting in four conditions: TEEM/PALS, TEEM/No PALS, No TEEM/PALS, and No TEEM/No PALS. Measures utilized include progress monitoring measures from the CIRCLE Screening Assessment and Progress Monitoring System, including the following subtests: (a) 60-s letter naming fluency, (b) 60-s vocabulary fluency, (c) untimed, 43-item phonological awareness screen comprised of seven tasks, (d) untimed, 27-item mathematics tasks, (e) 10 observational ratings of book and print awareness, (f) 11 observational ratings of early writing skills, and (g) seven observational ratings of social skills. Results indicate greater gains in the TEEM teachers’ language and literacy instructional practices and sensitivity compared to control teachers, but there were few significant findings for child cognitive outcomes. Parents receiving PALS, as compared to those without PALS, showed greater increases across play and book reading contexts in numerous responsive behaviors linked to the attachment and socio-cultural theories. Children whose parents received PALS versus those whose parents did not showed greater gains in direct measures of print knowledge and self-regulation and in social and language skills observed during interactions with their parent. Interactive effects of TEEM plus PALS were seen for increased engagement in shared book reading but not for other cognitive or social outcomes. Limitations include a high attrition rate of 30%, lack of follow-up, and a lack of explicit attention to fostering an enhanced home-school connection as part of the intervention.

Length of postintervention follow-up: None.

Additional References

No reference materials are currently available for Play and Learning Strategies – Toddler/Preschool Program (PALS II).

Contact Information

Ursula Johnson, PhD
Agency/Affiliation: The Children's Learning Institute at University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston
Website: www.childrenslearninginstitute.org/programs
Email:
Phone: (713) 500-3767
Fax: (713) 500-3705

Date Research Evidence Last Reviewed by CEBC: February 2021

Date Program Content Last Reviewed by Program Staff: October 2015

Date Program Originally Loaded onto CEBC: October 2015