Program Factsheet

Play and Learning Strategies

The Play and Learning Strategies (PALS) program teaches parents responsive parenting skills that are designed to strengthen the parent-child bond and promote early language, cognitive, and social development. The program is geared towards parents with infants (ages 1 to 12 months) or toddlers (ages 18 months to 3 years). The PALS program uses videotaped examples involving real mothers and children to demonstrate parenting skills, and parents are given opportunities for discussing and practicing the new skills under the guidance of a trained parent educator.


  • Family

Developmental Phases

  • Infancy and Toddlerhood

Related Constructs


Key Links

Children’s Learning Institute 7000 Fannin Suite, 2300 Houston, TX 77030 Phone: (713) 500-3709 Fax: (713) 500-3705

How it Operates

The PALS program is available in two different curriculums: the PALS Infant curriculum and the PALS Toddler curriculum. The PALS Infant curriculum includes 10 sessions and is suitable for parents of children ages 5 months to 1 year. The PALS Toddler curriculum includes 12 sessions and is suitable for parents of toddlers ages 18 months to 3 years. The program uses videos, guided practice, and parent educators to assist parents in learning and successfully using PALS parenting strategies. Topics covered include: attending to infant and toddler communication signals, responding appropriately to infants’ and toddlers’ positive and negative communications, supporting learning by maintaining infants’ and toddlers’ interest and attention, stimulating language development through labeling and scaffolding, encouraging cooperation, and responding to misbehavior. PALS parent educators help parents incorporate PALS parenting strategies in their normal daily routines, such as during meal times, bathing, and dressing. The program also provides parents with education about normative infant and early childhood behaviors.

Training Required

Training and certification in the PALS program is provided by the Children’s Learning Institute (CLI) and can be conducted on-site at participants’ locations or at CLI’s office in Houston, Texas. PALS resources are available for purchase in conjunction with PALS training and certification and include manuals, toy bags, and supplementary materials. Materials are available in both English and Spanish. Contact PALS program administrators (Cathy Guttentag; for current cost information or complete the PALS Training Information Form.

Sampling of Key References Supporting Evidence Base for the Program

  1. 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 ntervention, 28, 111-124.  

  2. 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.  

  3. 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, 627-642.  

  4. Landry, S. H., Smith, K.E., Swank, P.R., & Guttentag, C.L (2008). A responsive parenting intervention: The optimal timing across early childhood for impacting maternal behaviors and child outcomes, Developmental Psychology, 44, 1335-1353.  

  5. 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, 711-720.