Cultivating Positive Connections with Your Child

Parenting in the First 3 Years Podcast


#63: The Simple Interactions Tool:

Cultivating Positive Connections with Children

with Dr. Junlei Li


Positive interactions with children can have a great impact on a child’s learning and can help children feel valued and respected, build their self-esteem, confidence, and foster a love of learning.  

In the episode, Dr. Junlei Li, the program chair of Human Development and Education, shares what the Simple Interaction Tool is and how it can help individuals cultivate positive interactions with children. He emphasizes the importance of acknowledging and repairing problematic behavior and adopting a “deep and simple” approach to interactions with children. By being curious, creative, and playful in everyday moments, parents and caregivers can promote children’s growth and learning in enjoyable and meaningful ways. This episode underscores the importance of positive interactions with children and provide valuable guidance for parents and caregivers looking to support children’s development. 

The Simple Interaction Tool serves as a visual representation, highlighting the four dimensions of developmental interactions: Connection, Reciprocity, Inclusion, and Opportunity to Grow. Tune in to learn how this can benefit you and your child. 

Topics discussed:
  • Description of the Simple Interactions Tool
  • How to make reparation if a parent identifies that they’ve operated in level X
  • What’s meant by “deep and simple,” and how does that translate into everyday life as the parent of a baby and toddler
  • Explanation of “every mundane moment presents an opportunity for growth”
  • How can we help babies feel as if they have a sense of belonging?
  • Advice that Junlei would like to share with parents of very young children
About the Guest:

Junlei Li, Ph.D., is the Program Chair of Human Development and Education and the Saul Zaentz Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Education at Harvard Graduate School of Education. His research and practice focus on supporting the helpers – those who serve children and families on the frontlines of education and social services. Studying orphanages, child care, schools, and youth programs, he co-developed the “Simple Interactions” approach to help affirm what ordinary people do extraordinarily well with children in everyday moments. 

His work is significantly inspired by the pioneering work of Fred Rogers before and during the time he served as the Co-Director and Rita M. McGinley Chair for Early Learning and Children’s Media at the Fred Rogers Center.



Free Resources: 

The Simple Interactions Tool

Link to another interview about the history of the Simple Interactions work:

History of the Simple Interactions


Listen now!


In the 2023 season of Parenting in the First 3 Years, we’ll be bringing on parents just like you to share the story of their personal journey. Would you like to apply to be considered as a guest? Let’s talk about it! Simply email Ann McKitrick at

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